If you’re anything like me, you also hate job interviews. They are such a necessary part of growing up but it’s something that can be very nerve-wracking and intimidating.
And while the age-old advice of “it gets easier the more you do it” is true; I think it should be modified, to “it gets easier the more you do it, but it’s going to be painful, stressful and probably pretty embarrassing along the way.”
I’ve been on countless job interviews and while it’s gotten easier, most times I’m so nervous that I feel like throwing up before the interview. I’ve struggled with so many challenges during interviews. For me, the worse ones are panel interviews. I’m usually okay if there’s only one person in the room, but when there are 2 or 3 people are staring at you for an answer and you aren’t sure what to say, it’s intimidating.
However, throughout my mistakes (and thankfully I’ve never actually thrown up), I’ve learned 3 tricks to help me go into any interview more prepared.
1. Arrive Early & Get Comfortable
Everyone knows that it’s important to arrive early, but it’s important not to arrive too early. I used to be a receptionist and sometimes interview candidates would arrive 20-30 minutes early and the manager would still be interviewing the previous candidate. While being early is certainly a great thing, it’s actually kind of awkward while the manager is still busy because they have very restrictive meeting times.
I also don’t think this a very good use of time. Sure, it shows the organization that you can be early for work, but most of the time, the hiring manager will not even notice anyways because they are in another interview. And being 10 mins early accomplishes the same impression as being 30 mins early; it means you are coming prepared.
To calm my nerves, I still arrive early, but I better use that time. If my schedule allows me to be an hour early, I will arrive and find a local coffee shop to review my notes. Then I will walk around the general area of the building to familiarize myself with the environment. I usually walk into the reception office about 5-10 minutes prior to an interview. That way, I have enough time to show that I can be early, and also feel much more comfortable instead of only knowing the entrance and room.
Exploring the office surroundings also gives me a good idea of what it would be like to work around this area. Are there places to grab lunch and coffee? What’s the general environment like? Is it formal or casual?
This is really helpful in assessing the work environment that you will potentially be entering and seeing if it’s right for you.
2. Stay Hydrated and Eat Something
I’ve learned throughout the years to always bring a bottle of water with you. Usually, the employer will ask if you would like a glass of water, but it’s important to bring your own too. Again, it’s just one more thing that you are familiar with so you are less nervous.
It’s important to also snack before an interview. Ideally have a meal the hour before so you have time to digest, but also keep an easily accessible snack like a granola bar. Sometimes, the interview prior goes over because they are behind schedule, or other times the manager is running late from a meeting. There are a million reasons why an interview may be delayed and I don’t know about you, but I’m not very talkative when I’m hungry. That’s why it’s also important to bring water and a snack in case your interview is delayed. It’ll ensure you are comfortable and well prepared for changes.
Lastly, this is a bonus point but consider also bringing a book. If your interview is delayed or while you are waiting, I think reading a book (or even making notes in your notebook) gives a far better impression than scrolling through your phone. I completely understand that you might not necessarily be on Facebook or could potentially be researching more about the company, but it still does not give the best first impression.
Especially with millennials, we get a reputation for being on our phones too much. While I don’t think that’s necessarily a fair generalization of millennials, I do think it’s important not to have a potential employer first see you scrolling through your phone.
3. Create A Situation Cheat Sheet
My biggest obstacle when it comes to interviews has by far blanking out when I’m asked a question. I feel like I’m usually pretty prepared for interviews. I research the organization; I look up and practice interview questions, but all the preparation goes out the window when I get nervous. I blank out and then forget everything.
Learning to control my nerves is something I’m continually working on. However, I’ve learned to offset these nerves by creating a cheat sheet which has also become my Interview Questions Study Guide. This study guide is essentially a list of all my accomplishments and examples of situations in my professional life that I have encountered.
For example, if an interviewer asks “Can you name a time when you went above and beyond in a role?” I will pull off a situation have a list of times off my cheat sheet list of examples.
This isn’t a list I bring in with me to the interview; rather it’s a list I update in my Google Drive. You might be asking what is the point in keeping a list like this is?
Well, I find that when I am invited to interview with a company, I have to do all this work to prepare and remember examples of my past work experience. And to be honest a lot of times I forget about all the situations I’ve been or my accomplishments because it’s not something you remember in everyday life.
Keeping a running list of my accomplishments (even when I’m not looking to leave my job) ensures that I always have an arsenal of excellent examples I can talk about. Just because I can’t remember one specific situation, doesn’t mean there’s not a dozen others on my list that I can pull from.
Ensuring I have a variety of answers for any questions that could be asked allows me to be more prepared when I blank out. I found that the problem with solely answering interview practice questions was that I only practiced one answer. And when I couldn’t think of that one specific answer to the question I had practiced, then I stalled. But having a number of situations that could answer the question allows me to have more leeway in case I do blank on that one answer.
Interviews are really scary and often intimating processes. However, it’s not the more you do them that makes you better, it’s the more prepared you are. What are your tips for a successful interview? I would love to hear them below!