The easiest way to beat nerves before an interview is to prepare, but how do you do that? Here are ten simple ways preparation can help you beat stress and interview better:
1. Review your resume, cover letter, and application
This may seem unnecessary, since all these documents are about your experience, but you might be nervous during your interview and forget a huge project you wanted to mention. Keep your memory fresh by looking at your documents the night or morning before your interview.
2. Review the job description and read about the company
Know what the job entails and the company’s mission statement, so that you can speak about them intelligently and ask the right questions. Employers do sometimes ask questions about their mission statements, so don’t miss an easy question because you didn’t do your homework. If there is anything about the job or the company you don’t understand, make a note to ask the employer.
3. Get a portfolio or professional-looking folder
There are a few reasons to do this. First, you will want to bring a printed copy of your resume, cover letter, and references. Sometimes employers misplace the copies you sent them or leave them in another room. You can save them time and show that you are prepared by having them with you.
Second, put some paper and a pen inside your portfolio. You can write down questions you want to ask in case you forget, and if your employer gives you any information, you can take a quick note or two.
Third, it gives you something to hold in the interview. That sounds weird, but if you are prone to fidget, it keeps your body language professional. It also prevents you from needing to figure out what to do with your hands. I know it’s silly, but when you get nervous, the easiest things become difficult.
4. Practice your handshake
Many professionals believe that handshakes say a lot about a person’s character, and at the very least, demonstrate courtesy. If this is your first interview, watch videos online about how to do it right and practice with a friend.
5. Try on your outfit before the interview
Make sure everything matches and fits you well. Check for stains and wrinkles, and practice tying your tie. Nothing is more stressful than trying to make it to an interview on time and remembering that you didn’t get the right socks to go with your dress shoes. You need to feel confident, and knowing you look professional can go a long way. You also get the added benefit of having your clothes laid out before the interview, so you aren’t rushing to look for the pieces of your outfit.
6. Decide on transportation and research your route to the location
You don’t want any nasty surprises when you learn that you missed the bus, because you didn’t check the schedule, or that there was construction on the route you planned to take to the office. If you’ve never been to the location of the interview, drive to it a day or two before your interview to make sure you know where you’re going, how long it takes to get there, and where to park. This will keep you on time for your interview and keep unplanned surprises to a minimum.
7. Practice answering basic interview questions
You may not know exactly what the employer will ask, but there are some questions you can usually bet will be. Here are some of the usual suspects:
- Tell me about yourself or describe yourself.
- What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses?
- What makes you a good candidate for this job? What do you think this job is? Why did you apply for this job?
Tips: This one is a test to make sure you understand the job, so this is a great time to demonstrate your knowledge of the position, as well as call attention to your best achievements. You can find more basic questions online.
8. Practice the real questions
Here’s a secret employers don’t want you to know: A quick internet search for your company’s name and the word interview may lead you to questions people have actually been asked when interviewing with this employer. This is especially true for large companies. You may not get the exact questions listed, but it gives you some ideas on what to prepare. If you can’t find your company online, you can search for large competitors in the same industry for ideas.
9. Prepare scenarios
As tempting as it is to script answers for each question, don’t. Sometimes employers rephrase questions that require you to answer differently than you may have prepared, or you might forget a phrase in your scripted answer and make yourself nervous. Instead of preparing specific answers to questions, you should think of five or six scenarios from your work and academic history that you think demonstrate your abilities and experience.
Think about large projects or times you made a big impact at work. You can then tailor these examples for any question you’re asked. Some companies actually ask situational questions, and they want to know about specific events, so you can also be prepared if this is the type of interview you do.
Tips: Think of specific instances. Don’t think about how you managed people all the time at your old job. Think about the time you managed one difficult employee. Make sure that you tell your employer about the situation, talk about what you did step-by-step, and the outcome, especially if it involves learning something. Make sure answers are about times when there was a lot at stake for you or your company.
10. Prepare your failures
Employers almost always ask about when something was challenging or didn’t go well. Prepare to answer questions about times you failed, but make sure you end with a positive spin. Maybe you didn’t meet your deadline on a project, but you learned more about managing your time effectively and applied the lesson to your next project. Everyone makes mistakes. Employers want to know that you were able to determine what went wrong, that you fixed it, and that you learned to prevent the same mistake in the future.