How often has self-doubt gotten in the way of us trying something new, or accomplishing something challenging? Probably more than we would like to admit. What if instead of seeing unfamiliar territory as scary, or daunting, we could see it as an amazing adventure? Embracing the thrill of not-knowing can fill your life with a sense of curiosity, excitement, exploration, and discovery.
“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. Do the thing you think you cannot do.” - Eleanor Roosevelt
If you have been invited for a job interview, congratulations on making it to the next step! You don’t have to wrestle with the computer anymore wishing you could just talk to someone; you get to interact with a real human! After the initial excitement of securing an interview wears off though, nervousness and anxiety are usually the culprits that come around knocking. Rather than succumbing to fear, understand that with a simple shift in perspective, an interview becomes an opportunity to be seized. In reality, interviewing is an incredibly rich learning experience, no matter the outcome. Meeting with a hiring manager is your chance to gain insight into what the job entails, what it’s really like to work there, and how you can contribute to the company’s growth.
Take the time to prepare for your interview so you can carry a sense of courage, confidence, and curiosity with you. Projecting confidence in an interview will demonstrate that you’re qualified for the position, you’re passionate about the opportunity, and that you can think on your feet.
Here are a few tips and techniques to set yourself up for interview success:
- Punctuality is key. Plug the interview location address into mapping software to get an idea of how long the commute will be. Leave with enough time to account for traffic and arrive at least 15 minutes early. Some people like to drive by the meeting place the evening before to get a better sense of traffic patterns in the area. Remember to ask about parking so you’ll know if you have to find a spot in an outside lot or at a meter. This can save a lot of headaches and will ensure that you arrive on time and feeling calm.
- The dress code for most interviews is professional business attire. If you’re a smoker, make sure your clothes aren’t carrying the smell of cigarettes. Keep jewelry, cologne or perfume minimal and make sure to be well groomed and clean shaven.
- Give a firm handshake. The handshake is considered the formal business greeting in the United States and is very important when making a first impression. Stand and greet each person you are introduced to with eye-contact and a firm, but not overly aggressive hand-shake. Think about using the same grip you would use when opening a door handle. Shake from your elbow instead of your shoulder/upper arm. Try practicing with a friend or family member until you get it just right.
- Be sure to be knowledgeable about the organization and what they do. I heard this feedback from hiring managers time and time again when I worked as an executive recruiter – if candidates don’t research the company, they don’t progress to the next round. Think about it - if you are oblivious to what the company does it communicates that you're not eager to contribute to and grow the company's success. Engage your spirit of inquiry, jump on the internet and investigate. Reference an article you read about the organization, or a trend that is impacting the industry during the interview. Hiring managers love to see that you’ve done your research and that you are familiar with their products or services. They want to see that you are already thinking about how they work and how you’ll fit in.
- Be aware of your body language. Fight the urge to fidget with a pen or your portfolio and keep your hands folded in your lap. When you start answering a question, one trick you can use to help you feel more at ease is to sit up straight and lean in an inch or two. This will signal to your body that you’re feeling self-assured and will communicate to your interviewer that you’re interested.
- Prepare to discuss your work experience and how you plan to apply that experience specifically to the role you are interviewing for. Have dates of employment, duties, responsibilities, and accomplishments fresh in your mind. Interviewers will ask about specific situations that you have been in and how you have handled them. Answer these questions using the STAR format: Situation, Task, Action taken, and Result. Reflect on the successes you have had in your career, visualize the actions you took and how you were able to be highly effective, and list them out using this format. Read your answers out loud to yourself and others, if possible,so you can see how it sounds and refine your responses even further.
- Get to the point. A great way to build trust with the interviewer is to give straight answers. Don’t ramble, and stay away from saying “uh”, “um” or “like” as much as possible.
- Don’t bash previous or current employers. If the interviewer asks why you left or why you’re looking to leave your position, frame your response in a positive way. You could say that your opportunities for growth are limited or you are looking to gain supervisory experience. Keep in mind that your response should be in line with the position you are interviewing for.
- Stay away from asking about vacation days or benefits. This is something you can negotiate at the end of the interview process if the company has extended an offer. The first interview is an opportunity to show what you can do for the company, not the other way around. Always place emphasis on the value of the opportunity rather than the material compensation.
- Wrap up with conviction. As the interview comes to a close, the interviewer will most likely ask, “Do you have any questions for me?” Show your enthusiasm and ask questions that show a genuine interest in the organization and its operations. Have 5-7 questions written out and rehearse them so they come to your mind easily. Dig deeper into one aspect of the job to illustrate that you were actively listening during the conversation. Before you leave, make sure to tell them you want the job (if that is really the case), that are ready to embrace the responsibilities, and clarify any reasons why they wouldn’t hire you. You can do that by stating something similar to, “Thank you very much for your time today. From what we have discussed I am interested in pursuing this opportunity further and feel that I can make a positive contribution. Before we wrap up, do you have any other questions or concerns regarding my background or abilities that I can clarify for you?”This way, you can squash any doubts they might have about you before you leave the room. Finally, make sure to get the interviewers business card to write him or her a personalized thank you note following the interview. Pay close attention to your spelling and grammar and make sure to send it within 24 hours of your meeting.
Whether you’re breaking into a new field, reentering the workforce, or you’re an interview veteran, confidence is critical during an interview. Before walking into the meeting room, try to identify any mental patterns that might be telling you that you are not enough or that you are not qualified for this position. The more you believe that you are the best fit for the job, the more your interviewer will feel it too. Imagine if the situation was the other way around and you were interviewing someone for your company. Would you want to hire someone that only seemed half-convinced that he or she deserved the job? Of course not! Keep that in mind while you are preparing for the interview. Be the person that the employer needs! While it's essential to project confidence and conviction throughout the interview, it's also important to be humble. Do not over exaggerate your experience or come across as arrogant - hiring managers will see through this, and it will ultimately hold you back.
If you find yourself getting nervous, try to crack a smile. Research has shown that your brain releases dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin when you smile. These feel-good neurotransmitters help your body relax and can also contribute to lowering your blood pressure and heart rate.
Gain rapport with the interviewer by asking questions. Remember that an interview is a two-way street and is an opportunity to get a peek behind the curtain to see if this position is right for you. This is an adventure – a discovery session!
As always, I am here to help. Please contact me or leave a comment if you have any questions about this process or if you would like to see posts on any particular subject in the future. If you like what you read today, don't forget to subscribe to this blog below!