A lot is at stake during a job interview, which is exactly why you have to try to take the pressure off, so you won't be tongue-tied from stress about the outcome. Practice mock interviews with family and friends in the days leading up to the real thing -- this will reduce the likelihood of being asked a question that you don't already have some idea of how to answer.
You’ll need less time to think in an interview if you think about potential questions and impressive answers beforehand. Common interview questions include “Where do you see yourself in five years?” “Why do you want to work for this company?” “How do you see yourself fitting in with this organization?” “Tell me about a time when you failed?” “Tell me about a time when you succeeded?” “Tell me about a time you were a leader?” and so on. Research your potential employer thoroughly -- investigate their products, services and industry reputation, as well as their mission statement and company philosophy. Find out exactly how your potential role fits within the company structure. Prepare personal and professional anecdotes that demonstrate your ability to take initiative, overcome obstacles and resolve conflict.
No Filler Words
If you need time to think, resist the temptation to fill the silence with “filler” words and phrases such as, “Umm,” “Ahh,” “Like,” “So,” or “You know what I mean?” Spewing nonsensical terms will make you look ill-prepared, nervous and inarticulate. On the other hand, pausing to think and choosing your words carefully will make you seem thoughtful and well-spoken. Before your interview, practice speaking for one minute on various topics without using any filler words. Gradually work your way up to three minutes.
Speak On It
If you don’t know the answer to a question and you need time to think, say so. Say, “That’s a really good question. I need a moment to think about that,” and then take your moment. While you’re thinking, maintain composed, confident body language. Don’t drum your fingers or tap your toes. Keep still and erect, leaning slightly forward. Keep a slight smile on your lips.
If your pause has gone on for an awkward length of time and you still can’t think of an answer, relax. You’re probably freaking out a little bit, which is why the words won’t come. Take some of the pressure off by imagining that you have the job already, and you’re only answering a question from an interested colleague. If the answer still doesn’t come, smile and ask whether you can come back to it at the end of the interview.
Oubria Tronshaw specializes in topics related to parenting and business. She received a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Chicago State University. She currently teaches English at Harper Community College in the Chicago area.