Over the years, I’ve been on both sides of the desk in interviews. A lot of interviews. When I first graduated from college and was an entry-level candidate, I went on my share of interviews and faced more than my share of interview anxiety. Now, as a Director of Marketing for a Global Fortune 500 organization, I’ve interviewed my share of candidates. These interviews have helped me realize a few things – anxiety in an interview is to be expected; some people are just naturally better at interviewing than others (and that’s ok!); too much anxiety, or poorly expressed anxiety, can ruin an interview; and finally, anxiety can be overcome, or at least hidden, with a little bit of help. As an interviewee, if you practice and remember these few tips, chances are your next interview may be a little easier than your last.
Prepare for Your Interview
This may seem obvious (and you may feel like you’re already prepared for your interview). But, what does it mean to be prepared? Since we’re talking about anxiety here, I’m referring to mental preparation. It helps to remember that your interviewer is human and was once in your shoes, too. Don’t let intimidation get the best of you. Research your interviewer on social channels, if possible, before the interview. This will help you see the interviewer as more of a person, as you gain an understanding of his or her interests. This will also help you treat the interview like a conversation, not like a one-sided interrogation. Research the prospective company too – you’re going to be anxious if you can’t follow what the interviewer is saying or asking because you didn’t do your homework. Read the job description carefully. If you didn’t receive one for whatever reason, ask for one. Check out the prospective employer thoroughly, including their website(s), social channels, press releases, advertisements, career postings on job boards, etc.
Dress the Part
I’m surprised by what I’ve seen interviewees wear. From dirty, faded jeans to nicely tailored suits, I’ve seen it all. As an interviewer, personally, I feel as though you can never really be overdressed for an interview. I don’t necessarily expect everyone to wear a suit, but if you’re interviewing for a professional position, it can’t hurt. You certainly want to be more professionally dressed than your interviewer, so it may help to scope out the prospective place of employment before your interview. There’s no need to do anything creepy, but a quick drive-by of the building or a stroll through the lobby (if it’s a large office), can help you get a feel for dress code and corporate culture.
Practice, Practice, Practice
This goes hand-in-hand with preparation, but it’s something that has helped me in the past and can help alleviate some first-time interviewing nervousness. It may seem awkward, but practice interviewing with friends, family or associates (especially if you have any that hold a similar position to the one for which you’re interviewing.) As awkward or silly as it may seem, this will help you feel more natural having a conversation about yourself and your accomplishments, which is not a natural, easy conversation for most people.
Take advantage of staffing companies and their offerings. Meeting with a local staffing company, like Accounting Principals, can accomplish a couple of things. First, you’re going to interview, likely, with one of their recruiters. This will give you some valuable practice interviewing with someone who sits through interviews every day. A good recruiter will give you feedback that will help you when you interview with an employer, even as it relates to a specific employer. Second, a staffing company may help you find a job opportunity!
I’m a morning person, and if I had to go on an interview at 2:00 pm, I wouldn’t be nearly as peppy as I was at 8:00 am. To avoid feeling groggy or to avoid letting your anxiety overcome you, do something before the interview that energizes you. It might be ten minutes of exercise, listening to your favorite music, eating a healthy snack, making a phone call to an upbeat family member or friend, or having a little caffeine. Whatever the case, make sure you feel like yourself and that you’re on top of your game. For me, when I’m interviewing candidates, positivity and peppiness shine.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
It’s easy to dwell upon or beat yourself up over your first impression – your attire (especially if you’re wearing a suit and your interviewer comes to meet you in sneakers and jeans), your handshake, the answers you’ve rehearsed in your head, or whatever else weighs you down as you’re heading for that office or conference room. Instead, focus on the moment. Make small talk. Try to feel as comfortable as you can in those first ten minutes because they really set the stage for the rest of the interview. This is where that preparation and practice comes in to play; make sure the “tell me a little about yourself” question doesn’t throw you for a loop.
During the interview, it’s also easy to get hung up on a question or questions you may have for the interviewer. You think to yourself, “Do I dare ask that? I don’t want to look like an idiot.” Ask the questions! Remember, an interview is meant to be a conversation, and an interviewer will often use industry or even company-specific acronyms or jargon. The interviewer doesn’t necessarily expect you to know those; he or she likely is just speaking how they would to a colleague. Personally, I don’t think an interview is going very well if the person I’m interviewing hasn’t asked a single question – and especially when there are no questions after I ask, “Do you have any questions for me?”
Now that you have these tips, you too can crush interview anxiety! Good luck & happy interviewing!
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