How to reduce pre-job interview nerves

Waiting for an interview - Shutterstock

We have all been there…Waiting to go into an interview and sitting in a reception area or waiting alone in a meeting room for the interviewer to arrive.  We may be nervous or excited, but we know the moment has come – The interview!

While this is often uncomfortable given the anticipation of being interviewed, it is actually a time you can use to your advantage to compose and ready yourself to perform at your best.

Prior to arriving at the interview

  • Preparation – Sounds obvious, but it is more than a quick skim of your resume the night before the interview.  You should be 100% knowledgeable about all content in your resume from responsibilities, to achievements and professional development to name a few and have prepared Situation – Actions – Result responses against the requirements of the job.
  • Who are you meeting?  If it is not volunteered, ask!  You will be able to do some research on those interviewing you and to see if you have LinkedIn connections in common (who you can speak to ahead of the interview).
  • Presentation – Dress for the role and aligned with the dress standards of the business.  If you are unsure, ask.
  • Location – Not familiar with the location of the interview?  Use Google Maps or better still drive out to the location the weekend before to confirm the location of the office and available parking.  You don’t want to leave this too late, risk running late and/or arriving to the interview in a stressed state.
  • Arrival – Don’t arrive in Reception any earlier than around 15 minutes before the scheduled interview time.  Arriving an hour before is not generally viewed positively, but rather comes across as desperate and even a little odd…

Waiting in reception

  • Be polite to the Receptionist – Hiring managers and HR will get feedback from them!  You would be surprised how often people reserve their ‘nice persona’ for the interviewer only…
  • They like you! Reflect on the fact that the organisation likes your resume and sees that you have the right background to do the job – Well done!  You deserve to be here!  You have likely beaten out dozens or hundreds of other applicants to get to interview.
  • Empathy – Know that most interviewers are empathetic to your situation because they have also been interviewees (and if asked will certainly tell you it is more comfortable being on their side of the desk!).  The best interviewers will put you at your ease knowing you may be a little anxious.
  • Interviewers want you to be successful – Interviewers are hoping you are the right person for the job so you are starting from a good place.  Yes, you will have to convince them further during the interview, but you are viewed positively from the get go, so it is basically up to you to maintain or reinforce this perception.
  • While waiting – Don’t slouch in your seat, pace the waiting room or make noisy calls on your mobile phone.  Sit comfortably and await the arrival of the interviewer.  Take in your surroundings.  How is the office furnished?  Can you hear happy noises in the background (or unanswered phones and a grim silence)?  Did the Receptionist greet you professionally?  Do people smile and nod at you as they pass?  You will receive many cues about the organisation simply by having your radar up.  It’s also a good distraction technique to take your mind off the interview!

Here comes the interviewer!

  • Stand up, smile and have eye contact with a firm handshake…This is the first impression the interviewer has of you so make it count.  Your professional dress and friendly engaging demeanor will stand you in good stead.
  • As the interviewer takes you to the interview room they will prompt some small talk about the weather, traffic, how far you have traveled amongst other things. Go with the flow.  Relax.

In the interview room

  • Introductions – You will be introduced to other panel members so make a point of remembering names as you acknowledge them with a handshake and eye contact.
  • The interview begins – The small talk may continue for a few moments while but at some point the head of the panel will say something like: “Thanks for coming in today.  Myself and the panel members are looking forward to exploring your background and asking questions about your experience and skills.  We’ll also tell you a little about the job and our company and leave some time for questions you may have. However, before we do that, why don’t you tell us a little about yourself…”.  Keep the good first impression going by nailing this first question.  Don’t give a precis of your resume and don’t talk about how many kids you have and your love of wind-surfing.  Respond by saying who you are professionally (e.g. An experienced Finance Director), what industries and companies you have worked for;  sharing your expertise (or skills related to your profession) and strengths  as an employee or manager.

Good luck!  You are off to a great start and have created an excellent first impression that will serve you well for the rest of the interview.

If you need any assistance around job search in the areas of resume preparation, LinkedIn profile development, interview skills training or fear-free networking, contact Paul Di Michiel at The Career Medic by clicking on this link.

The Career Medic – Taking the worry out of job search for the over 40s

How do managers prepare for an interview?

Nervous intervieweeIn short?  Not much…and this gives you a tremendous advantage.

Now, this is not because they don’t want to – most managers want to do the right thing – it is simply because other activities take priority.  If there’s the choice between preparing for a meeting with the CEO, a client or checking budget or sales figures for accuracy will always take priority over an interview.  What this means is that you have a significant advantage heading into the interview…

I often do a role-play when training clients in interview techniques.  This involves me being the manager who is getting prepared to conduct an interview.  In this scenario, I am finishing a meeting, picking up a ‘resume’ off the printer and leafing through it while I’m walking towards the interview room and then introducing myself to the candidate.  I give the veneer of being in control (prepared) and ready to run the interview, but in fact, I’ve practiced my speed reading on the resume, trying to pick up a few things I can ask . Unless I am fortunate enough to have a very long walk to the interview room and a photographic memory, I probably don’t take in a lot or given the interview the preparation it deserves.  I do this role-play not to mock or denigrate interviewers, but instead to demonstrate the point that most interviewers don’t – or often can’t – devote a lot of time to interview preparation.

What happens in this scenario and how can you use it to your advantage?

1. The interviewer uses ‘throwaway questions’ – Questions such as ‘Tell me about yourself’, or ‘What do you see yourself doing in ‘x’ years’ or ‘What was  your proudest achievement in that role?’ are fairly typical and don’t require a lot of thought or preparation.  In this scenario, you absolutely want to be prepared for the ‘Tell me about yourself’ question which normally pops up early in the interview.  Don’t recite your resume and don’t talk about your hobbies or personal circumstances, instead, give a brief 30 second ‘sales pitch’ focusing on your profession, industries & companies you have worked in, expertise in your vocation and strengths as an employee or leader.  It stands to reason that the unprepared interviewer will love what you say, not just because it is delivered in a metered and professional way, but more so because you have given them prompts for more questions to ask (e.g. ‘You mentioned that one of your strengths is managing priorities…Can you give me a recent example of when you have had to effectively manage your time for a good outcome?’). Think of it like you are helping the interviewer!

2. ‘Gut feel’– I would love a dollar for every time I’ve heard something like ‘I can’t put my finger on it, but there is something that doesn’t quite gel about [candidate’s name]’.  While you can’t control the interviewer and questions they ask, you can control what they hear, hence a good opening pitch (above), using structured responses to behavioural questions (Situation, Actions, Result), creating a good rapport, remembering interviewers names, eye-contact with all panel members, showing an interest in the company and asking intelligent questions among other things will all help to allay gut feel and give you every opportunity to progress in the selection process.

If you would like to improve your interview skills, arrange a face-to-face or telephone interview skills coaching session with Paul Di Michiel, The Career Medic by clicking here.  You can also find out about the other services provided by The Career Medic here or by visiting www.thecareermedic.com 

The Career Medic – Taking the worry out of job search for the over 40s