Interviewing can be one of the most nerve-racking experiences you face during the job search process. This week I have two – one over the phone and the second is in San Francisco. When I get nervous my hands get clammy – which is awful when you have to shake the interviewers hand. I also get quiet. Depending on how nervous I am my quietness may start a day or so before the actual interview.
Quieting myself allows me to better focus. With this chaotic and stress-filled world we live in, being quiet can be difficult, but is an important exercise in controlling your stress and having a successful interview.
10 Tips for a Better Interview
1.) Turn off the excess – for most people their days are filled with multiple electronic devices turned on and running a variety applications, the TV or radio is on (or both). And people talking around us. In order to quiet down amid the chaos, it isn’t necessarily about being alone in a dark room. It can mean putting aside or turning off an distractions and only having on what is necessary. At first, the limited noise can be a distraction in itself, but will help you to focus on what is most important.
2.) Review the job description – It is easy to read through the job description and know that you would be great at it. It is another thing to be in the middle of the interview and not be able to communicate how you have already accomplished those tasks in your current position or previous experience. In order to be adequately prepared for the interview write down each point and write a corresponding action you have taken that fulfills that position.
3.) Smile – this is HUGE! An interviewer knows you are going to be nervous, it is expected. And if you aren’t and come across to cocky, well, that can be just as bad as not having an answer to an important question. Even if you are one the phone, the interviewer can hear the smile in your voice. Also, a smile can help you to relax and not be so serious. Employers want someone who can connect and fit in with the company culture. Smiling is a way of connecting.
4.) Take a moment to breathe – Whether you step into the restroom a few minutes before you check in to gather your thoughts, or take a few moments before your phone rings, it is important to breathe deeply several times. This will help to calm your nerves and slow your heart rate; it also helps to introduce more oxygen into your blood, helping you to think clearer.
5.) Being cordial is imperative – always say good morning/afternoon, say their name (however they introduced themselves to you – first name, Mr. Ms. or Dr.), ask how they are, and at the end thank them for their time. These simple steps are important for leaving a good impression. It communicates respect and that you care.
6.) Come prepared with several (intelligent) questions to ask your interviewer – I often ask about growth within the company, continuing education, and travel opportunities. Never ask about time off or vacation in the first interview. If there is only one interview, when they offer you the position, ask about benefits then. The interview is NOT about finding out about what you are going to get; it is for learning about the position and what role you may play. A second interview is a more appropriate place for this question, as well as salary.
7.) Talk it out – talking about the company aloud or role playing with a friend will help you to better vocalize your internal thoughts. Speaking well is key to a good interview. Just today I felt like an idiot because I couldn’t remember the name of something I speaking about. Hopefully, the interviewer is forgiving and doesn’t hold it against me. However, with the intense job market, the littlest thing can be the deciding factor between you and another candidate. That little slip may prevent me from moving to the next level int he interview process.
8.) Follow-up – At the interview ask when you should expect to hear one way or another. If that time passes and you have not heard anything, contact them – either by phone or email – and let them know that you are following up on the interview. If they have not decided, thank them and ask if they know when they might have an answer, and then follow-up again. If they declined to pursue your application any further, thank them for their time and ask for feedback. This will give you an idea of how you can better prepare for future interviews and where you may need to improve.
9.) Research – nothing will prepare you more than learning as much as you can about the company. This includes checking out their website, following them on Twitter and Facebook and any other social sites they may have. READ THEIR BLOG! This will give you valuable information about the company. The more you know about them the better.
10.) As always, dress professionally – When you are walking into an interview and you don’t know what the corporate community is like, dress in a suit – nothing too fancy, tight, low-cut (for men nothing too baggy), or casual. It is okay to incorporate a splash of color, but don’t over do it. This is probably the only piece advice that will be different depending on the company. A fashion or design company is going to value trendiness and flamboyance more than a traditional company. So, dress as close to what you imagine the company to be like, but NEVER wear shorts or sandals. And, I always say, “it is better to be over dressed than under dressed.”