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  • Writer's pictureKristin Schuchman, Career Strategist

10 Surprising Things About Job Interviews

Updated: Mar 4, 2021

When gearing up for a high-stakes interview, it helps to remember that you do have some control over the situation. It doesn't have to feel like a march to the guillotine, and our attitude and willingness to prepare can go along way towards easing our anxiety.

Last year, I presented a Job Interview Workshop that offered strategies for both interview presentation and content. I outlined these 10 tips and grouped workshop participants into pairs to help one another prepare for the ubiquitous "Tell me about yourself" questions. Here are ten job interview tips to make the process less intimidating and even surprisingly enjoyable.

1. It’s okay to say, “I don’t know.” while it may not be wise to answer every question this way, you can actually convey positive traits like humility and conscientiousness if you are willing to admit you don’t know the answer to a highly technical, complex question. Do say, however, that you’re adept at finding the answers to questions you don’t know and explaining your findings to colleagues.

2. Your interviewer may be as nervous as you are. If you are a well-qualified candidate, it’s likely your prospective employer wants to impress you and project competence and professionalism. Sometimes just remembering this fact (or pretending it’s the case) can help banish our self-doubt.

3. Building rapport is half of it. Your main goal is to be make a connection with your interviewer. Do this by mirroring their behavior and posture. If they’re more formal in their demeanor and body language, follow their lead. If they seem more relaxed, you can strike a more casual tone and maybe even use humor to lighten the mood. Either way, remember to breathe, make eye contact and tell yourself, “I got this. They’ll be lucky to have me.”

4. You can overdress. Err on the side of conservatism in dress in most cases, but if interviewing with a creative or innovative organization, put some flair into your attire. Consult with a stylist like Kat Depner of Seven Styling for ideas on how to strike the right balance of professionalism and distinctiveness. (

5. To project more confidence, try to channel the most self-assured person you can think of. It sounds a little nutty, but it really can work. Think of someone with a sense of effortless cool like Angelina Jolie or George Clooney (or your Uncle Wilhelm) and for the duration of the interview pretend that you’re them. Like the “power pose” stance from the Amy Cuddy Ted Talk, this technique might work because it might raise your testosterone level temporarily to give you an extra boost of self-assurance.

6. It’s okay to pause, and say, “let me think about that.” If you get a question that’s a bit of curveball, take a minute to take a drink of water and answer the question in a calm, thoughtful manner. You’ll seem not only confident but also introspective and likable.

{Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash}

7. Bragging is easy. Most of us are socialized not to boast, but interviewing is one of the few circumstances where we’re expected to speak well of ourselves. If bragging makes you uncomfortable, you can just say, “People tell me they like to work with me, because...” or “My managers tend to delegate leadership tasks to me because they trust me to meet deadlines.” You’re still owning it without coming across as arrogant. (Check out Jen Sincero's You Are a Badass if you need inspiration.)

{Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash}

8. It’s matters less how you say things than what you say. This is as true of public speaking as interviewing. Work on your delivery as much as the content. Minimize the “uhs” and the “errs” by role playing and clarifying what you want to say. Avoid rote memorization though, which can make you sound stilted and stiff. Just know what you want to say in the aggregate, so your answers sound smooth and natural.

9. Your greatest weakness can sound like a strength if you word it right. Speak of a true weakness but make it clear that you’re working on this weakness and provide an example of a recent victory in overcoming the drawback.

{Photo by Andre Mouton on Unsplash}

10. The “tell me about yourself” questions requires preparation. Don’t try to riff this one. Give it the prep time it deserves and tailor it for each position. Make them see that you have advanced your knowledge and skills over time, met challenges with aplomb and that your experiences have been merely prelude to the role for which you are interviewing.



Kristin Schuchman, MSW is a career counselor based in Portland, Oregon who works with creative and mission-driven professionals. She writes resumes and coaches individuals seeking support for career indecision, interview prep, work re-entry, advancement, and work-life-balance. She offers a free 30-minute Zoom or phone session and presently works with clients remotely. Find out more at

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