Job interviews are never easy. It's probably safe to say that most of us have been overrun by a mix of emotions before a big interview, where a combination of excitement, nerves, and panic kick in all at once. All of these feelings are completely normal, but it's important not to let them get to you. Some solid preparation ahead of time works wonders on nerves. Here are my go-to tips to not only help you feel more comfortable and confident, but they're sure to make a great impression with the interviewer as well.
1. Do NOT be late...but don't be too early, either
We all know how important a first impression is, and arriving late to an interview could ruin your chances before you've even started.
Planning is key to prevent this from happening. If you're taking public transport, such as the bus or train, make sure to keep an eye on the current schedules early on in the day so you can accommodate for any potential delays. The same goes if you're planning to drive in, as you'll need to prepare for dealing with potentially bad traffic and/or finding a car park. Leave early enough to accommodate for such delays, even if it means arriving to the interview location much earlier than the scheduled time, but be prepared to keep yourself occupied while you wait.
On that note, even if you arrive early, do NOT sign in at reception more than five minutes ahead of your scheduled time. This might sound counterintuitive, based on the idea that arriving early shows how keen you are, but in reality, alerting your interviewer of your arrival any earlier may interrupt them from what they're working on and may be misinterpreted as a lack of respect for their time.
Similarly, if you're interviewing remotely, build some time into your schedule ahead of time so you can check that your interview connection link works, as well as your camera and microphone.
I have had many candidates call me last minute saying they are running late for the interview, and it's never a good look. While we can't control everything, being early enough to accommodate for such delays, even if it means killing some time at a coffee shop nearby prior to your meeting, can make a big impact as it shows you are proactive, thoughtful, and responsible. Even in the worst case scenario true emergencies, this extra time allows you to respectfully give your interviewer ample notice for a schedule change.
2. Show up looking (and smelling) your best
Another way to make a great first impression is to arrive to your interview looking sharp and smelling fresh as a daisy. Consider this the adult equivalent of picture day at school.
How you arrive to an interview is how you'll be remembered when they're making their final decision on who to hire. The level of formality will depend on the company culture and type of role you are interviewing for, so be sure to clarify expectations with your recruiter or HR representative if you're unsure. My advice is to set out your outfit the night before, get a full night's rest, and take a shower the morning of, so you can focus on the important things the day of the interview.
Another factor that many don't consider is the weather. Living in New Zealand, you need to be prepared for anything, whether it's Auckland's high humidity and "four seasons in a day" or Windy Wellington at it again. Check the weather the morning of and keep all the essentials handy for when you leave the house - like an umbrella, rain jacket, hair brush, deodorant, etc. - so you can freshen up just before if needed.
3. Do your homework
Researching the company should be one of the first things you do, if not when you first apply for a job, then definitely once you've been invited to interview. In addition to looking at the basic ‘about us’ section of the company website, I also recommend checking out Google to find relevant news articles on what they're currently up to. LinkedIn is also a great resource and should also be used *discretely* in incognito mode as a means of finding out more about who you'll be meeting.
Seek to understand the company history, what products and services they offer, what their culture is like, as well as the more general industry they are a part of and their competitors. If you find something that excites you, make a note to bring it up in the interview, as you'll undoubtedly be asked questions about why you're interested in working there or what you know about the organisation. If you've done your homework, these sorts of questions can be seen as opportunities to show your enthusiasm for the role and organisation, rather than ploys designed to trip you up. It's hard to fake sincere excitement, so view this step as a way to get pumped about the opportunity so this feeling shines through in your discussion.
That being said, properly doing your homework also gives you the added benefit of seeing how the company measures up to your own values and drivers so you can ensure you're making the right decision. It's really a win-win!
4. Speak in terms of the company's interests, not your own
You don't need me to tell you how competitive jobs are these days, but it is crucial that you understand what you're up against. Most jobs will normally have multiple applicants interviewing for one position, so making sure you stand out from the rest is vital.
How do you do that? A good starting point is to do as much research on the job and its requirements as possible so you fully understand what they're looking for and what outcomes they hope to achieve by hiring this position.
Next, you'll need to reflect on your personal skills and experience and identify the highlights that most powerfully speak to the job requirements, with the ultimate goal of conveying why you and only you are best suited to the role. It's important to remember that organisations are looking out for their own interests, so they want to know specifically what you can do to help them solve their problems and accomplish their goals. Make sure to speak about your experience in terms of their interests rather than your own.
5. Don't be afraid to toot your own horn
Ultimately, these selective bits of skills and experiences are your selling points. No one wants to be seen as arrogant, but if there was ever a time to toot your own horn, a job interview is it. Don't be afraid to emphasize your key achievements, soft skills you're particularly proud of, specialized education or training, etc. in the interview.
Talking about personal strengths doesn't come naturally to most people, but if you're able to frame these personal strengths as tools that the company can utilize to achieve their goals, it may take away some of the awkwardness. It will also allow you to put your best foot forward, while showing humility, a team-oriented mindset, and an understanding of how you can contribute to the collective good of the organisation.
6. Express yourself with positive body language
Nailing an interview is about more than just what you are saying. Displaying great body language gives off confidence and the sense that you want to be there. This can be displayed in a few ways such as smiling; a firm handshake when walking in and leaving; open and upright posture; maintaining good eye contact throughout the conversation; and the appropriate use of emphatic hand gestures when communicating your points. Subtly mirroring your interviewer's body language has also been shown to elicit positive responses, as it subconsciously shows camaraderie and a sympathetic mindset.
Think about it this way - imagine yourself as the interviewer. It's a much more positive experience when you're interviewing someone who is being friendly, personable, professional, enthusiastic, and who has an overall good attitude.
7. Practice makes perfect
So we've admitted that talking about your strengths can be difficult and awkward, but this is an obstacle that can be overcome with some practice. The best way to do this is through role play with a friend or family member, as it is the most realistic, allows you to practice your body language, and is also a way to receive constructive feedback so you can improve your responses. Otherwise, practicing your responses while looking in the mirror is a good back up option.
We cannot predict what exact interview questions they will ask, but there are plenty of common interview questions that you can find online, such as:
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Why are you leaving your current role?
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Tell us about a time you overcame a challenge in the workplace?
Make sure when you are going over these questions that you are coming up with concise and direct answers, backed up by strong examples. This will help you to avoid rambling on in the interview. For some of the more complicated behavioural questions, the popular STAR technique is an effective and powerful way to format your responses.
8. Have questions ready for your interviewer
The infamous, inevitable “Do you have any questions?” This is an easy one to brush off, but it should be given more importance than that. This is your final chance to shine and show that you've not only prepared for this meeting, but that you've been listening to what the interviewer has shared with you. Enquiring further also shows that you're genuinely enthusiastic and interested in the role and the company.
There are plenty of questions you could ask, depending on what has already been covered off in the interview, such as more of an in-depth look at the role responsibilities day-to day, a bit more about the working environment and culture, what they'd like this person to accomplish within their first 90 days in the role, how they would describe their ideal candidate for this position...the list goes on. This is another opportunity for you to do some digging first hand to see if this is a good fit for you, too, not just the interviewers.
9. Re-familiarise yourself with your application documents (CV, cover letter, LinkedIn profile, etc)
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Prior to interviewing, you'll want to make sure you are clued up on everything that was mentioned on your application, as these documents are the only point of reference the interviewer has on who you are, what you've done throughout your career and when. It's important to ensure that all dates, role titles, responsibilities, projects, etc. match up with what you're saying so as to maintain your credibility and make the process as seamless as possible for the interviewer.
Bringing a copy of your CV and cover letter to your interview is also a nice gesture, as it shows you're fully prepared and onto it.
Job interviews can be very stressful and nerve wracking, but by preparing and doing your research for an interview, you can be confident you're interviewing as your best self.
I hope these interview tips have been helpful for you and I look forward to hearing all the success stories!
Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash