There are few things more nerve-racking than an interview for a job that you really want. What if you freeze up? What if you stumble over your words? What if you forget to bring up one of your key accomplishments? It’s not uncommon for scenarios like these to play out in your head the night, or even the week, before the interview — but you don’t have to be plagued with this anxiety forever.
We’ve turned to a handful of career experts to hear their best interview tips so that you can feel calm and confident going into your interview. Read on below, and get ready to smash that interview!
1. Do Your Homework
The key to success before any interview is preparation — and that means looking up important information about the company beforehand.
“Research the position, company and interviewers ahead of time. Understand the organisation’s mission, vision and values; its products and services; its recent news and current initiatives. Google the company and peruse its website. Read its press releases and white papers. See what former employees said on Glassdoor. Look up the interviewers on LinkedIn. Speak to friends and colleagues at the company,” recommends Christopher Lee, founder of consulting firm Purpose Redeemed. “These days, there are many ways to learn about employers, so there’s no excuse not to do your due diligence.”
2. Practice (Out Loud!)
No excuses — rehearsing answers to potential interview questions beforehand is by far the best way to get the jitters out and focus on what you really want to communicate.
“Ample preparation is a vastly understated interview hack that will set you apart from the competition,” says Jaime Chapman, founder & CEO of Begin Within. “To practice, create a 30-second response to the inevitable interview question: ‘Tell me about yourself.’ Also, sort the top 15 – 20 asked interview questions into categories such as: Job Specific Technical Skills, Problem Solving, Leadership Skills, Teamwork, etc. and formulate at least one story for each category.”
3. Share Your Story
As Chapman mentions, nearly every interview you’ll ever have will start out with “Tell me about yourself” — so it pays to make sure that you have a succinct, compelling answer that sets you apart from the rest of the competition.
“Who are you? Where have you been, and where are you trying to go? How does the current role fit into that story? Often job seekers, in interviews as on their resumes, present themselves as a collection of disparate skills, degrees and prior experience — that is, without much forethought of how the pieces fit together. That is a mistake,” Lee says. “Instead, connect the dots for those interviewing you. Likewise, what are your own values and interests, and how do they align with the organisation’s? The better you know yourself, the better you can determine whether this is the right move, and the better you can articulate why you’re the perfect candidate.”
4. Provide Evidence & Data
Many times, candidates will talk about their strengths — innovation, critical thinking, communication — without backing it up with proof, leaving employers wondering whether it’s just lip service. So when mentioning highlights like these, always make sure you provide supporting anecdotes and metrics.
“It’s one thing to mention your leadership skills; it’s completely different to mention your leadership skills and then discuss how you led a team of 35 individuals in developing a three-year strategic plan,” says Dr. Heather Rothbauer-Wanish, owner of Feather Communications, a company that helps jobseekers with CVs and cover letters. “Be specific and provide quantitative information when possible.”
For example, consider providing a percentage or dollar amount that you helped your company earn or save.
5. Mirror the Interviewer’s Style
“Mirroring is the practice of adopting another person’s behaviours, mannerisms and ways of speaking,” says Henna Pryor, Recruiting Director & Career Strategist at Kforce. Often employed by salespeople, this technique is also powerful in an interview.
“This is a proven way to establish the strongest rapport possible in an interview setting, as it subconsciously helps those in the conversation connect through similarities in body language and tone,” Pryor adds. “If you are a naturally loud, extroverted person who walks into an interview with a booming hello and a strong handshake, and the person who is meeting you is a shy, physical-touch-averse, nervous interviewer, what you have unintentionally done is made that person even more uncomfortable… take cues from the person interviewing you and try to match their style and meet in the middle.”
6. Prepare a Few Questions
Employers frequently leave time at the end of interviews for candidates to ask a few questions. They don’t do this just to be nice, though — they will also assess you based on the quality of questions you ask. So don’t just go with a simple query like “How many holidays would I get?” Choose something more substantive that shows how thoughtful you are.
“The questions a candidate asks in an interview demonstrate interest, commitment, analytic ability and experience,” says Chris Sotomayor, Consultant with Point Road Group. “Be ready to probe for the style of information and reporting your hiring manager will prefer, as well as establish clear priorities for the first 30, 60 and 180 days into your role. Always clarify what success will look like, and how it will be measured.”
7. Ask if They Have Any Hesitations
Another great question to ask? “Candidates should try to close the conversation with a question like ‘Do you have any reservations about me or my ability to perform this role?’” suggests James Saunders, workplace recruitment specialist at Talent Locker.
This question allows you to assuage any lingering doubts the employer might have about your candidacy, as well as provide you with one last opportunity to share why you’re the right person for the job.
8. Say Thanks
Don’t forget what you learned in primary school — manners matter! After every interview, you should always thank the person you spoke with for taking the time to chat with you.
“Make sure you email or write a personal thank-you note to everyone you interviewed with,” says Joe Kotlinski, partner at talent acquisition firm WinterWyman. “Don’t just jot down a few sentences and hit send (especially from your mobile device while sitting in their parking lot!). This communication is an example of your writing and attention to detail. A thank-you littered with typos and grammatical mistakes can kill your chances for the job. Also, be sure to personalise it for each person you met with — sending a group note, or the same copy to everyone is a big no no.”