Sonia, a former Adult Education Tutor, shares Interview preparation guidance she gives to family and friends. It has yielded great results!
Let's Get This Straight . . .
. . . right here at the outset. Please be aware that this page is not going to provide some instant effortless magic formula that will skyrocket interview confidence right off the scale. The fact is you're going to have to put in some effort with the 7+ recommendations below, but don't let that put you off because it's all very doable and very worth it—so here it goes.
Feeling and Exuding Confidence
This is only half the battle. No doubt on paper you appear to be well suited to the position the employer is looking to fill and that's why they want to meet you, so do be open to seeing that as a confidence boost right there!
However, if you're unconvinced that you have at least as good a chance as any of the other candidates, the good news is there are lots you can action to turn this on its head. Whilst what follows is not an exhaustive list, it does detail seven essentials that can certainly boost your confidence and chances of success. At the very least, carrying them out will ensure you can come away from your interview knowing you have done your best and represented yourself well.
It would be such a pity to let nerves or a lack of positivity or confidence get in the way of continuing in the process, so why not do yourself a massive favour and make the effort to take the following seven-plus points on board.
1. Groundwork Fundamentals
It definitely pays to research the organisation, it's history, current and future plans and, having ascertained the names of those who will be conducting your interview, check those individuals out on the company website/LinkedIn. Feeling and appearing informed can increase your confidence as well as impress your prospective employer, letting them know that you are enthusiastic to work for them and have done your homework, so to speak.
Being aware of what’s in the news generally is also important. Of course, you’ll want to be focused on preparation, but don’t be so busy with your preparation and with getting ready on the day of the interview that you omit to, at least, listen to the news headlines.
Particularly if your interview progresses to coffee afterward, you want to be able to participate in conversations about current affairs as well as polite small-talk generally. In fact even as you ascend in the lift/elevator to go to the interview room you may well be engaged in non-business related conversation and you don’t want to be the only person who doesn’t know about some heavy news item.
All that said, be careful not to be drawn into making overly revealing derogatory remarks or indeed singing the praises of some politician, religion or celebrity. You may well vehemently detest or ardently approve of a particular public person or policy but unless you deem it a crucial element to you being offered or taking up the position, best keep these thoughts to yourself. In most interview scenarios, keeping pretty neutral on current affairs is the safest and most professional option.
2. Wear It Well
First impressions count and most likely before you've had a chance to utter a single word. Like it or not, they'll be sizing you up based on your appearance. So, well in advance, decide what to wear from head to toe including accessories such as jewellery, shoes and baggage. Everything will need to be appropriate to the role/dress code of your prospective employer and, importantly, your attire should help you to feel comfortable and confident in addition to looking smart. If you’re in any doubt, always err on the side of being too smartly dressed rather than too casual.
And what if it's your second interview? Aim to wear something distinct from the first one. For example, a different coloured shirt, tie and/or suit—or if you wore a jacket and skirt suit to the first one, how about a jacket and dress the second time around.
In fact, the second time around, it's even more important to ensure what you wear is comfortable as well as smart because it may well be a more lengthy, intensive and thorough session than the first one. Just think about it—the last thing you need when you’re trying to concentrate and make a good impression is to be distracted by the discomfort of pinching shoes or a tight waistband which is threatening to cut you in half!
3. Ask Me Another One
Now, this is a hefty one! According to the role you are applying for, anticipate and research what standard, difficult, general and specific questions will be put to you and prepare your answers with examples and results to back them up. Again, really do your homework with this one as the objective is to be as fully prepared as you can possibly be.
If it's a second interview be aware that some questions might be repeated from the first one—in which case be ready to build on the answers you gave previously with alternative examples wherever possible. And remember, if you have different people on the panel second time around, expect them to compare notes with the original interviewers and be sure to be consistent in your responses—they try and trip you up, so to speak.
No doubt you will be invited to pose some questions of your own at the end of the interview so you'll need to prepare these as well. It's your chance to find out more about, and size up, the role and the employer plus, when you use the Writer's Question Introduction Strategy for formulating end of interview questions, it's a great opportunity to sell yourself as well!
In addition to verbal questions and answers, you may need to do an assessment test or task, or indeed you may need to jump through some other hoop so to speak. You'll need to be ready for these too, so find out as much as you can about what will be expected from you on the day and prepare accordingly.
Now if at this point you're thinking "with all this to do, there goes my evening!" you're probably right. To execute this point thoroughly does take a sizeable chunk of time, but having made the effort to anticipate questions and thorough formulate answers with pointed examples, etc, deservedly your confidence will be moving in the right direction.
4. Rehearsal Time
While it needn't necessarily be a full dress rehearsal, you can reap great rewards by acting it out—i.e., have a Question and Answer roleplay session for the questions you anticipated under the previous heading. If you have a learned friend with some time on their hands who can help by playing the part of the interviewer, then make good use of him or her.
If you can record the Q&A session, so much the better as then you can listen back to it/have a friend listen back to it, and suss out what you can improve upon.
If you've enlisted the help of a friend, let them know that, within the bounds of acute constructive criticism, you want them to be brutally honest with you! Likewise, you'll need to be at your most detached and objective when assessing your own performance.
All that said, you don't want to focus solely on negatives—give yourself a huge pat on the back and celebrate what went right too. What did you do well which you can do more of? Assessing the good, the bad and the ugly of your rehearsal allows you to put another well-earned notch on your confidence booster belt.
5. Bring It
Have a checklist prepared so that you leave home with everything you need on the day of the interview. For each individual, the list will vary, but by way of example:
- the name of the person you need to ask for at reception
- telephone numbers/mobile/cell phone
- spare copies of your Resume/CV
- a note of some highly impressive questions you plan to ask at the end of the interview
- contact details for your referees
- pen and notepad
- the job description
- travel pass/tickets
- mints and some water
Prepare your checklist well in advance and plan your journey to allow plenty of time to get there some 15 minutes early. This will give you time to visit the bathroom, fix your hair if it's been a windy or wet journey, etc. Do take note of local travel reports as you prepare so that if necessary you can leave that bit earlier than planned in the event of any traffic disruption.
With the above in hand, it sets you up to arrive feeling stress-free rather than frazzled and anxious. Arriving late will not elevate your confidence at all but if something you have no control over does get in the way of you arriving on time, they'll appreciate you phoning in as soon as you are able to let them know. Apologise profusely and acknowledge to yourself that you've done all you can do in the circumstances and try not to let this overwhelm you—easier said than done, but more on this later.
What might seem like inessential small talk on the way to the meeting room can indeed contribute towards building rapport—a key ingredient in the interview process.
6. Setting the Scene
Developing some rapport and small talk as early as possible at an interview is easier said than done based on your personality type, but it's absolutely worth it as it can make for a more comfortable and ultimately more fruitful interaction.
Be aware that for many interviewers/employers an applicant's communication style and ease of interaction can play a big part in their gauging whether or not you are suited to the organisation, so don't be tempted to skip over this point.
NB: it doesn't hurt to rehearse rapport and pleasantry—and you can do this throughout your day with just about anyone you care to!
7. Now Look Here
Of course, you don't want to stare your interviewer out, but non-verbal communication, which includes eye contact, is another important consideration. No matter how nervous you are, don't be tempted to effectively shun your interviewer by looking at the floor or staring into space all or most of the time.
Good eye contact conveys self-esteem and it's only polite to look to the person you are speaking to—but with little breaks/looks away from time to time so that it doesn't become too intense.
If there are several people on the panel, look to the person who is asking the question as they ask it and as you begin your answer, but for good measure, be sure to make eye contact with the other members of the panel as you continue your answer.
And don't forget, a relaxed, friendly smile and firm handshake at the start of your meeting will also ease the interaction.
8. Turn the Interview Table
Have you ever been curious as to what it's like from the other side of the interview desk? The Writer of this page was curious too and found the book above to be very explicit and helpful. Right from the horse's mouth, the book's author, an experienced interviewer, reveals what every candidate needs to know.
9. Have a Confident Outlook
By being well prepared and presented, you'll more likely come across as a competent, friendly, professional and, yes, confident candidate and significantly enhance your chances of landing that job.
An applicant's mindset plays a big part in their interview performance and so another great addition to your interview preparation is to have a related mantra or positive statement. Now wait—even if you're not necessarily into what some call "that positive thinking malarkey", please do stay with this notion for a second.
Your interim positive statement could simply be "I am in the process of preparing thoroughly for my interview" and no you don't have to say it out loud (unless of course, you choose to!).
Thinking it over and over in your head with increasing conviction is what's called for here.
Why you may ask. Quite simply because you don't want to allow lack of self-confidence, anxiety, overwhelm or unconscious self-sabotage to negate all that hard work you are doing to prepare yourself. So when these confidence knocking emotions rise up in your head, you can knock them back down by hammering them repeatedly with the mantra repetitions.
10. Believe in Both the Interim and the Upgrade
On the day itself, you should be in a position to upgrade your positive statement to something akin to "I am confident and capable of acing this interview" and actually believe it. And believing in this positive statement is certainly attainable if indeed you have prepared thoroughly along the lines of the seven recommendations above.
In the main, mantras and positive affirmations are much more effective if your actions support them so an "interim" mantra, coupled with diligent preparation, is very likely to give your interview confidence a very significant boost.
Think about it, if you're doing/have done the hard graft of thorough interview preparation, why on earth shouldn't you believe both the interim and the upgraded positive statement/mantra.
So, any time you begin to feel anxious, jittery, overwhelmed, inferior, scared or in any way lacking in confidence:
- take some slow deep breaths
- bring a little smile to your lips, and
- repeat that mantra, over and over and over again.
You can do this at home, on the train, in the reception area, in the lift/elevator, and/or in the interview room itself. Do it wherever you are when anxiety starts to loom and it'll help to take your mindset to a positive place which will help you achieve your objective of acing that interview.
11. Give Your Confidence a Helping Hand
Let's be clear though, just repeating a mantra won't make all negative thoughts associated with interview anxiety completely disappear from your thinking forevermore. Again to be clear, if you still get negative thoughts you haven’t failed on this point at all. It’s perfectly normal to feel anxious about something that’s important to you.
So don’t beat yourself up. Instead, again, give your confidence the helping hand it deserves as follows.
- As and when any unhelpful negative thoughts pop into your head, help yourself stop a possible self-fulfilling prophecy scenario by consciously and immediately countering such thoughts with lots and lots of resolute repetitions of your interim or upgraded positive statement, affirmation or mantra.
Really, you just have to go ahead and try this—after all, you've got nothing to lose.
Of course, it has to be said that there's no guarantee that if someone does all of the above they will definitely get the job.
What is definite however is that having taken on board these seven plus recommendations they can come away from the interview with the knowledge that they have done the very best they can do at this time regardless of the outcome—and that's surely another confidence boost.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2017 Sonia Sylart