By now you’ve probably heard about Mariah Carey’s unfortunate performance on New Year’s Eve. Some of the things that occurred reminded me of similar things that can happen if you are unprepared for an interview. And while you most likely won’t be interviewing in front of a million or more people, here are five takeaways that can help you be prepared for your live performance.
1. Know your material cold before the big day. It’s unconfirmed whether Mariah forgot the lyrics to her songs or just didn’t want to sing live, but either way, she came off as unprepared. Many job seekers choose to “wing” their interviews rather than rehearsing beforehand and often their interview performance suffers because of it. Craft an elevator pitch to communicate your value proposition and be prepared to give accomplishment-focused, metrics-driven examples of how you have helped the companies you’ve supported do things smarter, faster, or more efficiently. Just regurgitating your resume or speaking about general job responsibilities won’t cut it.
2. Test for any technical problems. Was there a technical malfunction during Mariah’s performance or did the singer just get caught in a lip synching fail? In any event, it always makes sense to test your equipment before any type of performance or presentation. If you are conducting an interview via Skype, make sure your background is not distracting, your lighting isn’t too bright or too dark, your sound is at an appropriate level, and you have a working mike. If you are interviewing in-person, map out and time your route to the office beforehand to ensure you are on time and check your wardrobe for any potential malfunctions (missing buttons, etc.).
3. Expect a few curveballs. Whenever you do anything live, there is always the chance that something will go wrong. The key is to recover quickly. While unfortunately this wasn’t the case for Mariah, you can anticipate certain challenges that may occur the day of the interview. The one people fear most is not knowing how to answer a particular interview question. I like to remind people that they are the most qualified person in the room to talk about themselves. If you get a question you are not quite sure how to answer, you can ask for clarification or say, “That is a great question; let me think about it for a moment.” Then you can draw upon one of your success stories that is most similar to the competency they are trying to understand if you have.
4. Be honest. I’m not convinced that all Mariah’s comments were true. Perhaps she was embarrassed and said certain things to cover up that embarrassment. Lying is never a good strategy. Especially during interviews. If you are asked if you have experience in an area you do not, be honest. You can follow up by showcasing something that is similar to the competency you are asked about or give an example of a time when you didn’t have experience in something, but were able to learn that skill quickly.
5. Be gracious. Following Mariah’s performance, her team blamed everyone but Mariah and even suggested that Dick Clark Productions compromised the performance. Even if your interview doesn’t go well, assume good intent. It’s unlikely that someone is trying to sabotage your interview performance by asking certain questions.