There’s no denying that interviews are intimidating, I remember when I was new to the process and would end up shaking uncontrollably because I was so nervous and afraid of giving off a bad impression that unfortunately, that’s typically what happened anyway. Thankfully, practice makes perfect. And while interviewing may never be a 100% pleasurable experience – there are ways you can prepare to help take away some of the anxiety.
1 | Do your homework
Research the company you’re interviewing with by reading the “About Us” page on their website and get an idea of their history and growth in your area. Look up their social media pages so you’ll get a better feel for the company’s culture and if there were any community events they were recently a part of. Knowing these items will give you some excellent talking points and will help you figure out a couple of questions to ask them. Compare it to dating, you’re more comfortable going out with someone you’re familiar with, rather than jumping in without knowing any background information.
Most importantly, make sure you know where the interview is located and figure out the best route to get there ahead of time. If you are running late, you’ll be more stressed out and nobody wants to hear any excuses.
2 | You don’t have to go in empty handed
There is a common myth that you can’t bring anything with you to an interview, which just isn’t accurate. Now it’s true you don’t want to appear unprofessional and should avoid spiral notebooks, loose papers, food, and beverages…but I always encourage students to bring a padfolio with them that contains a legal pad inside, along with a pen, and extra copies of your resume and references. If you’re interviewing for a position that requires a portfolio of past work, you will want to bring clean, professional copies that you can leave behind.
And don’t be afraid to use the padfolio once you bring it. After introductions, ask if it’s OK if you write down the interviewer’s names so you can keep track of them. Have 3-5 questions about the company (which you’ve gathered by doing #1) already written down so you don’t feel pressured to keep them memorized. Don’t worry about writing their answers down as you’ll want to keep the style more conversational than interrogative, but I found even just holding the pen while talking helps me channel my nervous energy, cuts down on fidgeting, and keeps me from touching my face.
3 | Focus on your answers rather than their questions
Unless you’ve got a crystal ball, you’re never going to know all of the questions an interviewer might ask you. So rather than worry about things you don’t know, focus instead on what you want to say. A simple way to do this is by keeping a success journal – or a collection of your accomplishments. The goal is to have 10-15 different entries that you can practice talking about in story form. Remember in elementary school when you learned the components of a story – the setting, the plot, the conflict, and the resolution? It’s the same idea when you’re giving your interview answers, only you’re now the star of the story each time. Once you get the hang of talking about your accomplishments, you’ll be able to cater your answers to almost any question that’s asked.
4 | Pretend you have the upper hand
There’s truth in the saying “fake it til’ you make it” and it’ll help you in an interview. That is not to encourage you to lie, but rather try pretending you already have the job in question and you’re simply letting everyone in the room know why you’re such a good fit. A warning, there is a fine line between confidence and arrogance. Being arrogant means you’re acting better than everyone else and will come off as entitled. Being confident means you’re aware of the skills you bring to the table and you truly believe you’re the best fit for the job. If you don’t believe in yourself, you’re going to have a hard time convincing anyone else.
5 | Sleep, Eat, Exercise
I don’t know about you, but on the days that I exercise I always end up feeling better about myself. It’s the same if I’ve made a healthy choice for a meal or if I managed to get 8 hours of sleep. I feel rejuvenated and like I can take on the world. All the more reason to do these things on the day (or night before) an interview. You’ll start the interview off already feeling accomplished – even if it was the first time you’ve ever stepped on a treadmill.
Coming into an interview energized will translate into excitement, and your interviewers will attribute it to enthusiasm for the position.
Remember, your interview is what you make it. While there are no guarantees, you won’t regret being as prepared as possible and giving it your best shot.