How To Shine At The Interview (Even When You're Super Nervous!)

Be confident and land that job.

You’ve had your resume professionally prepared, and put in a handful of applications online.  After some back and forth by email, and a short phone screen, you get the invitation.  You’ve been asked to come in for a face-to-face interview!

You should be thrilled about this.  It’s been three months since you got laid off work and the job market has been slow.

Still, your palms are sweaty, and suddenly you have butterflies in your stomach. It’s been years since you’ve had an interview and you have no idea where to start.

You don’t have to let your nervousness ruin your chances of landing the job.  Here are some effective ways to excel at the interview and show the interviewers what you’ve got:

1.       Self-reflect

Sometimes the hardest questions can be the ones about yourself, like what are your interests, values, goals, preferred ways of working, and ideal work environment. Take the time to think these items through, not just to ace the interview, but to ensure that this job is a good match for you.  Remember that you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you.  Be clear about what you want.

And, at the same time, adopt a practical mindset. If you don’t get this job, there will be other opportunities, perhaps one that is an even a better fit for you. You will be far more self-aware and ready for when that time comes.

2.       Study the organization

Find out as much as you can about the company. You can get a lot of clues about the culture from the corporate website, executive bios, and career pages. 

Google organization to see what's been in the news.  Sites like Glassdoor can be helpful to give you a sense of the leadership and potential hotspots.  Find out if anyone in your network works there or knows someone there; there is nothing like a first-hand account. 

Once you’ve done your digging, consider what questions you’d like to ask the interviewers during the process.  Recruiters and hiring managers are always impressed when candidates take the time to learn about the products and services offered, the values, and most significant business goals.

 3.       Anticipate questions and craft your responses

Be sure to set aside a few hours for this next exercise: writing out the questions you think you’ll be asked, along with your best possible answers. Take your cues from the job posting, particularly the qualification section, and you can’t go wrong. 

Most interview questions are behaviourally based. That means that you’ll need to think about situations in the past in which you demonstrated specific behaviours, such as problem solving or adaptability. 

Be prepared to answer the questions in a fair amount of detail, including information such as the context, who was involved, what actions you took, what were you thinking and feeling at the time, what the outcome was, and what you learned from the experience.

And don’t forget to write out your responses to what I call “challenge questions.” These are items that stress you out the most. When I work with clients on these questions, such as “Why did you leave your last job?” there is a real turning point for them. I give them activities to reframe their situation in an accurate but more positive light. When they nail this, their confidence soars. 

4.       Rehearse

Practice makes perfect. And to avoid potential jitters, you must have your responses down pat. Read your answers out loud or even record or videotape yourself. Get a friend, mentor, or coach to help you out and give you honest feedback so that your best performance will be in front of the hiring panel. 

5.       Visualize the outcome you want

It’s no accident that Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Michael Phelps, and Muhammad Ali performed so well. They all used visualization before every event. Jack Nicklaus is widely known to have said: “I never hit a shot, not even in practice, without having a very sharp in-focus picture of it in my head.”

The same visualization techniques used in sports psychology apply here as well. Never step into a room without having pictured the entire interview from your arrival to your departure. Close your eyes and imagine walking up to the receptionist with conviction to announce yourself, calmly waiting in the reception to be called, firmly shaking the hiring manager’s hand wearing a genuinely warm smile. Note how you feel. 

Now, envision yourself seamlessly answering every question posed to you. Finally, imagine giving your closing statement about why the job appeals to you so much and what you look forward to bringing to it. 

You’re done. You’ve shaken hands again, and now you’re heading home, enthusiastic about the opportunity and proud of how well you handled the interview.

6.       Dress for success

There’s an adage “dress for the job you want,” and it is true. 

You can get a sense from the company website about the dress code, but it’s always better to slightly overdress than show up underdressed.  In general, stay away from anything distracting, such as low necklines, short hemlines, bright colours, or big jewelry. 

Classic and comfortable works best for most organizations. But the bottom line is that you have to feel good wearing it. Ask a friend or your partner for colour and outfit suggestions that flatter you.

7.       Get centered

Before you walk into the building, take a few minutes to get grounded. Sit in your car, on a bench, or in a coffee shop and feel your feet on the floor. Put your hand on your stomach and take a deep breath. Count to four and then exhale slowly. Take about 10 breaths and let your thoughts come and go freely. 

Then, pump up your self-talk. You can do this! You’re ready!

Finally, you’ve heard the phrase “fake it, until you make it?” That’s not to say you need to be inauthentic; you merely need to hold your head high, smile, and act as if you are confident.  Then, you will be. 

Even if you’re over-the-top nervous now, you can present yourself as a competent, self-assured professional. It takes some preparation on your part, but stick with it, and you’ll shine at the interview as well as in your new job.

Lisa Petsinis is a Career and Life Coach. Contact her on her website today and get ready to land your dream job.