Many job seekers struggle with the concept of the interview structure. It often appears to be an intimidating question-and-answer session where the candidate is constantly on the defensive, having to answer questions in a rapid fire manner.
However, while the interviewer gets to dictate the general cadence of the interview by the questions being asked, you as the candidate can greatly affect the overall tone, tempo and flow of the interview.
If you are comfortable having a one-on-one conversation with others, yet uncomfortable with the typical structure of the interview, take time before the interview to adjust your interview mindset. Instead of simply preparing to answer the myriad of questions that you know will be coming (yes, you still need to do your interview prep), plan to turn the interview into a conversation.
How? By simply talking with the interviewer as you would any other human being. Take the interview out of its typically formal setting and treat the interviewer as you would any other person asking questions about you.
Think about it. If you are at a party or social mixer and you meet someone new, what do you typically talk about? After the initial social icebreakers, you start asking the other person questions. Questions about who they are, their experiences, their stories. And they do the same with you. And when you really hit it off with someone, that back-and-forth exchange begins to flow as a conversation, delving deeper and probing into details you might not otherwise say or hear. The deeper the answers, the better the conversation. Until you walk away thinking, "Wow, I really connected with that person!"
If that sounds comfortable to you, then do the same thing with the interview. The only difference is that you are primarily on the receiving end of the questions. But remember how you feel when the other person dives deep. That's where you make the connection. That's where the other person suddenly becomes real. So that's where you want to go in your interview. Tell stories, give examples, make yourself come across as a real person. Don't just spout typical interview lines like: "I'm a passionate person." Instead, tell a story about something you did that shows your passion. Give an example. Be passionate in your response. Show your enthusiasm, your interest, your real and true passion by your answer. Build the interview into a conversation with your deep dive.
And yes, toward the end of the interview, you will have your opportunity to ask questions as well. Seek to continue the conversation and further build the connection: "How long have you worked for ____?" "What are some of the things you enjoy about working for _____?" "What are some of your key learnings in your first year with _____?" You are setting up the interviewer to tell you what they love about their job and their employer. Keep in mind that the interviewer was selected by their employer not only for their interviewing skills, but also because they will represent the employer well. By closing out the interview conversation with questions that will allow the interviewer to deep dive as well, you have helped to further build your personal connection with the interview.
So if the concept of interviewing has you intimidated, you may want to change your mindset to working toward making your interview a conversation instead.