First things first; congratulations on the interview! Give yourself credit because you’re up against a lot of other people all competing for employment. So well done!
That credit your giving yourself is important because its external validation that you’ve done a good job responding to the employer’s needs. Employer’s need people who can be productive and add to the success of the organization, so just getting to the interview is a good sign that they like what they read.
Okay, so you’re nervous. There are two kinds of situations where nerves can have you feeling anxious . The first is where you haven’t prepared at all for the interview. Not only did you not prepare, your plan is to wake up and wing it, counting on your natural ability to charm and think on your feet. If this has worked in the past, it will likely work again. Wrong. Employer’s are better qualified than before, better trained and can size up these candidates quickly. Your nerves will go through the roof as you slowly become more and more exposed as having not invested any time at all in doing some basic homework. You’ll be nervous, and for good reason as you’ve brought this on yourself.
The second kind of nervous is the good kind; yes you read right…there is a good kind! This is nervous excitement! You’ve prepared yourself as best you could, read up on the job posting, their website, you may have talked to some employees and you really want this job. The possibility that you’re soon going to be hired for a job you can do well, doing work you’ll enjoy and in a situation you’ll be successful at is so motivating! So this nervous excitement as the interview draws closer is fantastic.
As someone who loves interviewing, I’d be more worried for you if you felt no nervousness at all – that would be a huge warning sign that you’re running on autopilot and aren’t as invested in the job or company to the extent you should be.
Now, what to do to help you get those nerves under control. First off, breathe… Stress is a physical thing, and a few deep breaths; in through the nose and out through the mouth will help you give your body oxygen when it needs it to relax. Now stand up for a moment. Seriously. Place your hands on your hips and spread your legs, with equal weight on both feet. You’re in the, ‘Superman’ pose. Head up and looking straight ahead, chest slightly out and hold this for two or three minutes. Do this before the interview – say in the washroom or reception area and you’ll feel confidence growing. Odd thing is, it works.
Now, first impressions are important so choose clothing you feel comfortable in that fit the job you’re applying to. Check them a few days before so they are clean, ironed and you’re ready. On the morning of the interview, shower, brush the teeth, do your hair (off the face as a general guideline for women) and give yourself enough time to get where you’re going anticipating delays.
It’s always good to bring multiple copies of your résumé (for you and for them), pre-determined questions you want answered, paper and pen for notes, the job posting and your references to offer at the end. Depending on the job, you might want any certificates or proof of licences and education requirements too.
Smile at the first meeting, offer a firm handshake and look the interviewer(s) in the eye as you do so. When you walk, don’t amble or shuffle along, walk with purpose and be aware of slouching shoulders.
As for answering questions, use the STAR format. Well, I endorse it at any rate. Essentially you answer by sketching out SITUATIONS you found yourself in so the get a framework for your answer, present the TASK or problem to overcome, move to the ACTION you took in rising to the challenge and finish with a positive RESULT that came about because of what you did.
This format is neat, tidy and concise. It will help you PROVE you’ve done what you claim you can do. I can’t stress enough how specific examples you give are essential to a successful interview. Without specific examples in your answers, you’re hoping they’ll believe you’ve got the experience and skills you state you do, and you’ll come up short.
The tone of your voice is important too. Nervous people often talk quicker and their voices are slightly higher. Slow your words down, pause every so often to emphasize certain things you believe are critical, and your voice suddenly gets more interesting, more meaning is attached to your words and the overall impact is a more attentive audience.
As the interview wraps up, ask for their business card. All the information you need to follow-up with a thank you note or phone call is on that card. Do send a card of thanks! Many don’t bother these days and that’s even more reason to do it. You stand out and that’s what you’re hoping to do.
The most important thing you can do is leave a lasting positive impression. Why hire you? What makes you the right fit? Answer this now, before you get to the interview. It’s not about what you want, but how hiring you is in the company’s best interests.