When I’m preparing for countless interviews, I know to be interview ready because one interview varies greatly from the other. Heading to a meeting with someone you’ve never met before is both intimidating and stressful. Despite your fears however, an upcoming job interview need not send you into a sweaty panic. Planning and organization are vital. Think about the type of job you’re interviewing for, the style that may be used, and your past work experiences. Equipping yourself with interview skills ahead of time will help you be more natural and relaxed during the meeting.
Once your interview is scheduled, be sure to confirm the time, date, and place you are meeting and plan on being early. You never know when you may run into traffic congestion or unexpected delays in your commute. In addition, respond to any email confirmations your potential employer sends promptly to alleviate any anxiety they may have. It is just common courtesy. Writing down a page of possible questions and answers will give you a leg up for the position over your competitors. Additionally, arriving early gives you time to check yourself in the mirror so you’re looking your best, take some deep breaths, and practice what you’d like to say about yourself during the interview. People ask questions to get to know you better and will be impressed when you answer clearly and enthusiastically.
One interview may be very casual compared to another more formal approach. I’ve attended interviews where we mostly talked about current events, what we enjoyed in our spare time, and about our leisure pursuits. I’ve also been to interviews where I sat before three different people in a boardroom, which can be very intimidating. The formal interview can involve a detailed analysis of your past work history, why you left each job, and what your main accomplishments were. I can’t stress enough how important it is to be prepared for all scenarios. There is nothing more unpleasant than stumbling to come up with an answer to an unexpected question, or worse, blanking out. But if you do, simply admit you are nervous and most people will appreciate your honesty and try to put you more at ease.
A popular interview pattern uses CAR: “What was the Circumstance”, “What were your Actions”, and “What were your Results”. Go over each previous job and recall one or two experiences. Write out a specific circumstance that occurred, action you took in that situation, and the results. Preferably, recall a positive experience, such as how you dealt calmly with a difficult customer or how you closed a challenging sale. Memorize and practice your answers. Be clear, concise, and specific. Communicate your experience effortlessly and you will impress your interviewer.
Additionally, focus on your past achievements and accomplishments and highlight them in your resume. These can include points such as the percentage you increased the company’s sales over one year or how you completed a task ahead of schedule. Many people also ask how you dealt with difficult customers to see how you react under tricky circumstances. Be sure to illustrate how you remain calm and professional in various situations. Indeed, mentioning your successes needn’t sound like bragging – it’s sharing how you strive to do the best job you can in any given situation.
Next, make sure your appearance is professional and clean. Keep accessories low key so as not to distract from the substance of what you are communicating. You don’t have to run out and charge up a brand-new outfit either. You can spend a few dollars on a nice business outfit from your local Value Village or thrift store. Avoid dousing yourself with heavy perfume or aftershave – lighter is better, and you don’t want to cause your interviewer a sneezing attack (awkward). Practice a strong, confident handshake—weak ones subliminally communicate a weak character. Maintaining eye contact as well conveys sincerity and confidence.
Equally important, come prepared with meaningful questions about the company. I have asked the person interviewing me how long they have been with the company and what they most enjoy about it. Not only does it show your interest in them, but it may open up further information about the position, whether or not the company is a good fit for you, and what their expectations are of their employees. Following up your interview with a short, pleasant thank you for the interview along with any questions you forgot to ask is a courtesy often overlooked by other candidates and one sure to win points for your thoughtfulness.
Last, remind yourself not to take anything personally. Sometimes you don’t get the position you have your heart set on because the person interviewing already decided they were hiring their friend’s relative ahead of time and is just following company procedure. I have been there. In any case, an interview is never a waste of time—you gain valuable insight from each one, and practice for the interview where you are offered the job of your dreams. With calm confidence and a little bit of preparation, your interview skills will prove invaluable to your future career development.