Important points to know for your Interview
1. Just Breathe
While waiting to be greeted by your interviewer, take a few moments to do some breathing. (Yes, like a pregnant woman in labor!) By doing this, you can redirect the troublesome emotion you’re experiencing (e.g., nervousness or fear) and be able to focus on something else (in this case, the amazing job that you’re hoping to land). Holistic health expert Andrew Weil, MD praises breathing exercises, saying, “Since breathing is something we can control and regulate, it is a useful tool for achieving a relaxed and clear state of mind.”
To do this most effectively, take a deep breath through your nose (really feel your stomach expand) and then slowly blow it out through your mouth. Repeat this three times, while concentrating on centering your thoughts. The best thing about this technique is that you can do it anywhere (and quite unnoticeably), so if you feel your nerves start to swell during the interview, simply take another breath.
2. Don’t Fidget
Nervous fidgeting is one of the most telltale signs that you’re nervous, so this is an incredibly important skill to master. My go-to trick is to keep my hands clasped together on the table or in my lap to avoid any subconscious table tapping, hair twirling, or otherwise noticeable squirming. I’m also a leg-shaker—but keeping my hands in my lap and applying a bit of pressure to my legs helps remind me to keep the shaking to a minimum.
If you think you don’t have any fidgety habits, you might want to think again—most people aren’t aware of their own nervous tendencies because they’re such an ingrained part of their natural behavior. To double check, try doing a few mock interviews with a friend who can call you out on any fidgeting. Once you know exactly what to avoid, you can practice controlling it.
3. Make Eye Contact
One of the best ways to fool a hiring manager into thinking you’re more confident than you feel is to keep steady, natural eye contact throughout the interview. Mary Griffin, a Human Resources Director for a national healthcare company says, “A key giveaway of a nervous Nellie is a lack of direct eye contact—looking down, looking away, and not looking the interviewer directly in the eyes. A more confident interviewee appears to be engaged with the interviewer.”
One way to remind yourself to make regular eye contact is to focus on a spot between the interviewer’s eyes. You can even imagine a colorful bulls-eye there—whatever it takes to keep your eyes from wandering too much.
On the flip side, you don’t want to stay so intensely focused on making eye contact that you end up sending out a creepy vibe! So remember to take natural breaks, like looking down at your resume every once in a while. It’s a balancing act, so just keep practicing until it feels comfortable.
4. Press Pause
Some of us (myself included!) tend to ramble when we’re nervous. This can be dangerous because once we start talking, it’s incredibly easy to veer off topic and say more than what’s needed—or worse, more than what’s appropriate.
To preempt any rambling, I try to answer each question with only one thought or idea at a time. For example, if you’re asked to describe a trait you disliked about a previous supervisor, you could say, “I found that her tendency to micromanage conflicted with my productivity.” Then stop. This will save you from unnecessary add-ons like “She was a total control freak whose inability to let me make my own decisions made me want to run down the hall screaming obscenities”—even if that may be the most honest answer.
The key to mastering this technique is to keep your tone sincere, so that even if your responses are brief, they don’t come off as curt or dismissive. It’s more about sticking to one main topic per question instead of going off a nervous tangent. And don’t worry—if the interviewer wants you to elaborate on a certain topic, she’ll ask.
5. Think Positively
Finally, calm your nerves by reminding yourself that you deserve to be there. Hey, you wouldn’t have been invited to interview if you weren’t being seriously considered as a candidate! Use this knowledge to your advantage to mentally pump yourself up before the interview. It can take the edge off enough to allow you to approach the situation with a burst of self-assurance and poise.
Most importantly, remember that while you certainly need to be calm, collected, and confident in order to score the job, an interview is not a life-or-death situation. Hiring managers are humans, too—and they’ll understand and forgive a few minor nervous blips.
6. Use Power Postures
We all know that our minds control our actions and our movements. But did you know you can actually use your body to trick your mind into feeling a certain way? Slouching or slumping and crossing your arms are all examples of closed off postures, and when we feel small, we tend to exhibit these poses. If you spend a little time opening yourself up and exhibiting the postures of the confident, you can build a sense of assurance just by your actions. Spend several minutes practicing “power poses,” or opening yourself up, spreading your arms, walking tall, and looking the part.
7. Practice Speaking Out Loud and Smiling
We often spend the hours before our interview at home alone going over our perfect answers for the questions we anticipate. We haven’t spoken out loud all day, and without noticing it, we feel holed up and nervous. Public speaking and enunciation are skills and we need to hone these skills in order to master them. Once the interview starts, it’s extremely difficult to correct our speaking problems because we may be too nervous or we just plain don’t notice them. Practice speaking your answers out loud so you can hear your voice and correct any nervous intonations, pitch problems, or pacing issues before you go to your interview.
And don’t forget to smile. Smiling is contagious, even for yourself. Smile often before your interview to get in the habit of doing so, and you’ll feel more comfortable offering a genuine smile while you’re greeted and when you’re being interviewed.
8. Leave Your Hang-ups at the Door
So you had your dream job interview the previous day, and now you’re at your backup job interview. If only you could know beforehand whether or not you’ll be offered the dream job, because then you wouldn’t have to keep interviewing. Yesterday you were at your best, but today doesn’t really matter.
Whatever you feel about the job you’re interviewing for, treat it like it’s your only priority. Bring enthusiasm with you to every interview you go on, because nothing is set in stone, and no matter how confident you are that you aced the dream job interview, you can never be sure until you’ve signed the contract. If you’re anything but excited about the position, it will show. And you never know, the backup job could end up being perfect.
9. Do One Extroverted Act Before Your Interview
Smile at a stranger. Start small talk with the barista. Chat with the receptionist or the people in the elevator in a friendly manner. Interviewers aren’t just looking for the person who has the perfect answer for every question, they’re also searching for someone who can fit the team dynamic. Employers strive to create a motivated, friendly environment with high company morale, and if you come across as someone who’s shut off and impersonal, no matter how well you answer the questions, you’re doing yourself a disservice by not letting your more lively personality show a little.
Always remember that the small talk that occurs at the beginning of the interview is equally important as the interview itself, so put yourself in a friendly mood by being an extrovert for a few minutes in the morning. (True story: a friend of mine was once so friendly to the people in the elevator after her interview, that one employee rode right back up to tell his boss to hire her immediately. Every action counts, even if your interviewer isn’t present.)
10. Understand and Have the Best Possible Answer to the Question “Why Do You Want This Job?”
Depending on how you answer, this could potentially be the most important question of the interview. It can make or break your prospect of landing the job, and if asked in the beginning of the interview, it can set the tone for the rest of the meeting. Knowing the answer to this question means knowing all about the company and the company’s mission, and it requires a deep understanding of your own career values and desires. It also addresses not only why you’re enthusiastic about the position, but how your specific skill set can be of use to the company.
If the interviewer doesn’t ask this, answer it anyway. When it’s your turn to ask questions or add something, say that you’d like to add what motivated you to apply for the position at that particular company, and why you were excited to be contacted for the interview. Talk about how you believe your values and ambitions are in line with the company’s, and why you feel passionate about the work they do. Think of this answer as your chance to impress and spend a lot of time researching and rehearsing what you’re going to say in this moment.