I’ve had some absolute shockers. But perhaps that’s actually what equips me to give advice… More of a do what I say, not what I do approach. Remember that it’s perfectly natural to feel anxious about job interviews, but it’s important that this fear doesn’t stand in your way when it comes to getting the job you really want.
The key to overcoming interview nerves is preparation. You may have heard that before, but let’s break that down a bit. Can you really prepare? Isn’t there always going to be an element of the unexpected? Can that actually help you feel more at ease when you’re in front of that panel? The simple answer is yes. The more prepared you are, the less rabbit-in-the-headlights you’re likely to be.
Your appearance. Don’t leave getting your interview outfit sorted until the morning of the big day. Make sure you have everything ironed, polished and ready to go days in advance so no last-minute panics occur. If you’re not sure what to wear, ask friends or family for advice. Make sure you are clean and well-groomed for your interview, and get dressed just before you leave if, like me, you’re a bit of a spiller. Coffee stains do nothing to accentuate a perfectly pressed white shirt.
Think about your body language. It’s hard to replicate this exactly without the nerves that are likely to strike on the day. I physically shake when I’m nervous, so I’m careful not to draw attention to my hands in an interview scenario. Sometimes I even sit on them to keep them out the way. Ideally, you should use your hands to make positive gestures in line with the points you are making, but don’t panic if, like me, you can’t. Think about eye contact, the direction you are leaning in and how much you smile and nod. Practise in front of the mirror if that doesn’t feel too weird and think about how you come across. Alternatively, enrol a helpful friend or relative to provide feedback (even this thought terrifies me!).
Find out everything you can about the company. You won’t need to run off all these facts one after the other during your interview, but you should be able to demonstrate a decent knowledge of its operations, performance levels and aims. Most companies include all this information on their websites. Take notes and learn the key points. If anything isn’t clear it’s fine to ask questions during your interview, but show that you have taken the time to find out about your prospective employer.
Prepare answers to the most common questions. If I had a penny for every time I was asked about my strengths and weaknesses I’d have about a pound by now. Some questions come up over and over again. Check through the other tips articles on Premier Jobsearch for the best ways to answer these common questions. In addition, think about scenario-based questions. There isn’t always a ‘right’ answer. All employers really want to know is that you are hard-working, innovative, honest and available. If you have to demonstrate this by giving examples of conflicts you’ve faced in the workplace or whatever other nonsense they might throw at you, remember this. Try to give specific examples if you can think of them, but your key aim is to show that you have the desired qualities.
Avoid sheer panic. Most of us have had moments where our minds have gone completely blank or our tongues have refused to respond to basic commands. If you feel yourself panicking over a particular question, buy some time by asking the interviewer to repeat it, or ask if you could think about it and come back to it at the end. Don’t completely give up if you feel as though you have messed up. It’s probably not as bad as you think and you can make up for it with other answers. And don’t rush. Take a moment to plan what you’re going to say and then speak it out as calmly and clearly as you can.
The chances are, your interviewers are nervous about interviewing you! And they will almost certainly identify with your nerves having got to where they are in their careers. Prepare well, do your best and remember to follow up after your interview.
We wish you all the best!
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Joy Tibbs is a freelance writer and editor who regularly contributes to Premier. Find out more at joyofediting.co.uk and find her on Twitter @joyous25