Stop Stressing Out!

So you impressed a potential employer with your resume and landed an interview. Congratulations! You’re one step closer to getting the job that you want. Now comes a new challenge: acing the interview. For many, undergoing an interview can be both intimidating and nerve-wracking. It’s not hard to see why; giving a good impression and convincing someone that you’re the best candidate for the job in 30 minutes or less is a huge task. Knowing what to wear, how to act, what to say – all of these factors can be stressful even for the seasoned interviewer.

Thankfully, there are ways to reduce stress before an interview and ensure that you do the best job possible. The key to giving a successful interview is preparation; preparation; preparation. Whether your interview is tomorrow or in two weeks, make sure you prepare for it. Being prepared doesn’t simply mean memorizing the answers to a bunch of questions. In order to give a good impression, you will need to build rapport with the interviewer. You can do this by smiling, making eye contact, speaking clearly and succintly, giving the other person’s name before answers (“Well Anthony, I believe that I will be great at handling a 10-person staff because…”), and validation (Using a phrase from their question in your answer: “My greatest weakness would have to be my desire to be a perfectionist…”).

The following are some tips on how to prepare for an interview:

1) Find out as much information about the company as you can prior to the interview.

What qualifications or skills do they look for in potential employees? How big is the company? What is a typical day like? What’s the average salary? Some good places to look for this information are the company’s website, brochure, or best of all, from someone who actually works there. If you have the opportunity, get in touch with a current employee and ask them a couple of questions – or if you’re feeling especially ambitious, ask them for some tips on getting past the interview. You never know how handy these little tidbits of information might be.

The bottom line is, a company wants to know that you took the time to do some research prior to interviewing with them. During the actual interview, make sure you don’t ask any questions that could have easily been answered had you glanced at their website or brochure. This will undoubtedly leave a bad impression and decrease your chances of landing the job.

2) Brainstorm possible questions that might come up during the actual interview.

Some frequently asked questions are:

Why do you think you’re the best candidate for the job?

Here is where your previous research will definitely come in handy. You should have a fairly good idea of the kind of qualifications/skills the company wants in their employees. The key is to show how your own experiences fits this model; give specific examples to get the point across that you would be an asset to your employer.

Example: The position you’re interviewing for is a managerial one and you’ve worked as a bank manager for the past five years. What qualities did you possses that made it possible for you to do this job well? How did these qualities develop during your time there? Address these in your answer.

What is your biggest weakness? Never, under any circumstances, say that you have no weaknesses. Everyone has weaknesses; it’s part of being human. If you claim otherwise you will come off as cocky or ingenuine. Here, you want to give a specific weakness, followed by an example of how you overcame it. The best examples should be work-related.

Example: I tend to be overenthusiastic and take on too many responsibilities at once and often feel myself getting overwhelmed. However, over time I’ve managed to better delegate tasks and work with others to ensure that the work is completed quickly and successfully.

Tell me about yourself. This might be one of the most challenging questions to answer during an interview, in part because it is so broad and you may have no idea what the interviewer wants to hear. This is where your previous brainstorming will help you. In a minute or less, briefly give an introduction of yourself and address: your best qualifications/skills and why you think they make you suitable for this job.

3) Practice, practice, practice.

The best way to practice for an interview is to have someone else interview you. Set up a mock interview with a friend or career counselor and have them play the part of the interviewer. Have the settings be as close to your actual interview settings as possible – time it and have your friend make up the questions himself so that the interview remains spontaneous. You need to be able to think on your feet and answer questions thoroughly and succintly. Have your friend give your feedback afterwards and pay special attention to the things you need to improve.

It’s important to remember that communication is not just about what you say, but your body language, intonation of voice, and how you say certain things.

Some things to take note of are:

  • Do you have any nervous ticks that you’re unaware of? (I.e., twitching, fumbling with papers, saying “um” a lot, stammering, etc.)
  • Do you maintain constant eye contact with the interviewer?
  • Do you ramble on or give (often cliche) answers that are too brief and don’t address the specific question?
  • What do you do with your hands? Are they constantly moving and distracting the interviewer from what you’re saying?
  • Do you talk too softly or too loudly?

The Day of the Interview

Remember, it’s okay to feel a little nervous and stressed during the actual interview. This simply means that you’re taking the opportunity seriously, which will show during the interview. However, don’t let your nerves get the best of you and ruin your chances. Unless you flat-out lied on your resume, chances are that the employer saw something about you that they liked and would like to explore further. They wouldn’t have called you in for an interview otherwise.

What to Wear:

Ladies: Wear a pencil skirt with a nice blouse and a blazer or a dark suit. If you decide to wear make-up, apply it lightly and in neutral colors. When in doubt, always err on the side of conservative. The most important thing should be to look professional at all times. Hint: If you decide to wear heels, keep them in your purse until you reach your destination to save your feet unnecessary pain. Bring a brush with you and pop into the bathroom for a quick brush-up before your interview begins.

Guys: A suit is always a good idea; nothing too flashy or unconventional. If you’re worried that you might be overdressed, wearing a pair of black slacks, a dress shirt and tie, and nice black shoes will also work. Make sure to shave and keep your appearance neat and tidy. Take out/cover up any noticeable tattoos/piercings.

Last-Minute Tips

1) It’s a good idea to show up early to an interview, but be careful not to be too early. Give yourself about 10-15 minutes of leeway and make sure that you have the address and phone number of the place you’re interviewing at in case of any last-minute emergencies.

2) Bring extra copies of your resume and any relevant work samples, just in case. It might be worth it to invest in a small portfolio or briefcase to hold these important documents.

3) When you meet your interviewer for the first time, don’t hesitate to walk over, introduce yourself, and give them a firm handshake. (Practice your handshake with a friend beforehand.) This is a sign of confidence and shows that you’re prepared. Don’t forget to smile.

4) At the end of many interviews, the interviewer may ask if you have any questions for him or the company. Prior to the interview, jot down some potential questions to ask during this time (keep them relevant, of course). Asking good questions is a sign that you’ve done your homework and researched both the company and the job.

5) At the end of the interview, thank your interviewer (or interviewers, if there are more than one of them) and shake their hand before leaving. Within the next 24 hours, send them a thank-you e-mail or write a quick thank-you card that you can drop in the mail on the same day. This is your last chance to make a good impression. In the e-mail or card, thank them for their time, and close with one last statement on why you are the best candidate for the job.

Example: “Dear: ___. Thank you for taking the time to meet with me. Your company sounds like it is heading in a formidable direction in developing innovative computer software and I believe that my previous experience as an aerospace engineer will make me a good fit for this company. I look forward to hearing back from you. Sincerely…”

6) Keep your nerves under control! Don’t fidget, talk too fast, talk too much, or forget your interviewer’s name. The most important thing is to try your best and be yourself.

Good luck and have a great interview!