Is a job change on your mind? If so, and you’re acting on it, you’ll soon be attending job interviews. No matter how qualified you might be for a role, an employer can’t hire you without going through certain steps first. The job interview is one of those steps—and an important one, for both the employer and for you.
For you, the interview plays a vital role in the selection process because it has the potential to help you stand out from the other applicants who are also vying for that same job. For that reason, preparation is key. Although job interviews essentially have the same purpose, no matter the job, each interview (and interviewer) is different. Knowing the basics about interviewing well is important—the better prepared you are for that particular interview, the more likely you will be to present yourself well and succeed in the interview.
However, interviewing is hard and can be stressful for even the most qualified job candidates. According to Alison Doyle, a renowned career expert, “Job interviews can be tough, even if you have gone on a lot of them. The high level of anxiety around interviewing can make life difficult, and even sabotage your chances of landing a job.”
Preparation is one sure way to lower your anxiety about a job interview so you’ll perform better during the actual interview. The seven tips below should help.
1. Do Your Homework
Learn about the company you’ll be interviewing with. Go beyond the job description to understand the company and the nature of its business. Visit the company’s website and their social media pages. If it’s a publicly traded company, see how well they are doing financially. Understand who their competitors are and how they might stack up. Determine who their customers are. You can also use Google to find out what people say about the company and Google News to see if the company has made headlines. While you’re checking out the company on LinkedIn, you can also see if any of your connections are present or ex-employees of the company and ask them for information.
This isn’t to say that the interviewer will quiz you about your knowledge of the company. But the more you know going into the interview, the less anxious you’ll be.
2. Practice, Practice, and Practice
Practicing ahead of time will lower your anxiety level because you will be calm when answering when you’ve thought through your answers and said them out loud. You can’t know the exact questions you’ll be asked ahead of time, but you can make some assumptions or use Monster’s list of 100 top interview questions to prepare. You can also look for practice questions specific to the job you’re pursuing. When practicing, remember that your answers should be concise, factual and to the point, backed by examples and specific enough to highlight your skillsets.
You can also prepare (and practice) your own set of questions for the interviewer. It is highly recommended that you have at least one or two questions for the interviewer because this shows that you are interested in the company and you have put some thought into preparing for your interview. Don Goodman, a certified career coach, says he wouldn’t hire job candidates who didn’t ask questions: “The last thing I would ask when completing the interview was, ‘Do you have any questions for me?’ If they did not have questions, they were eliminated.”
3. Research the Interviewer
At higher levels, you might know the names of the interviewers or panel members ahead of time. If so, try to learn something about them. Look at their LinkedIn profiles (keeping in mind they will know that you did so unless you’re browsing in private mode) and gather knowledge about their work profile, skillsets, job experience and more. This information is not required, but it might help you to understand why certain questions are being asked and how to answer them during the actual interview.
4. Focus on Your Appearance
In addition to practicing and doing research, decide on your interview outfit and make sure it’s ready ahead of time. Does that suit need to go to the cleaners? Does the skirt need ironing? See if the shoes need polishing and make sure the nylons are free of runs or snags. (Better yet, buy a second pair of nylons just in case.) Pay attention to small details like your briefcase or purse too and make sure everything about you is clean and presentable. That old saying is true: You never get a second chance to make a first impression. In addition, you will feel more confident and less anxious when all of this prep work is done ahead of time and you know you look your best.
5. Plan Your Commute to Get There Early
Your job interview might be days away but now is the time to think through how you’ll get there so you know what time to leave. Start by planning your journey in advance with the intention of arriving 10 minutes early. If you are going to use public transportation, figure out the routes and how long the journey will take. If you’re using a ride share service like Uber, find out if you’ll be traveling during peak hours, which can mean it will take longer to get there. If you’re driving yourself, determine where the parking is and how long it will take you to walk from the parking garage to the building. Also think about time of day, traffic, and weather so you can allow for more time or pack accordingly (as in bringing a change of shoes if the weather will be wet, etc.) No matter how you’re getting there, allow for extra time just in case! If something happens, you’re covered. If nothing happens and you’re early, you have time to visit the washroom to freshen up and take a deep breath.
6. Exhibit Positive Body Language
All of the tips above should help you to lower your anxiety level prior to the interview, but you will probably still be a little nervous. Focus on having a positive and confident body language and you won’t come across as nervous but self-assured. Greet the interviewer in a warm but friendly manner. Try to build a good rapport with the interviewer and address them by their name. Stand and sit straight throughout the interview. Maintain eye contact and use active listening techniques such as asking questions that summarize what was said. Try not to interrupt and avoid filling space with us and ahs when you need time to formulate an answer. Practicing ahead of time will help with that.
7. Get a Good Night’s Sleep!
You might be too nervous to sleep well the night before an important job interview, but set yourself up for the best night possible because the more rested you are, the calmer you will be. Do all of your preparation ahead of time so nothing is put off until morning. Plan to go to bed early. Do whatever helps you to go to sleep, whether that’s drinking an herbal tea or reading a book. Try to avoid your laptop or smartphone because research shows screen time at bedtime leads to trouble sleeping and lower quality sleep.
Finally, give yourself one last confidence boost by showing up with extra copies of your resume and a notepad and pen for taking notes to show you’re engaged. It’s a job interview, meaning it will be stressful, but you can lower the stress and anxiety by being prepared and therefore confident. Doing your homework, looking your best, and arriving early and well-rested should all help. And then? Then you might just land that dream job!