Congratulations! You landed the interview! Now what?
Trying to prepare for an interview can be intimidating, overwhelming, nerve-racking, and whatever other –ing adjective you can think of. However, your feelings about it are totally justified, because this could potentially be the start of a new chapter in your life. But, that doesn’t mean you need to freak out and lose focus either. Luckily, I have compiled a list of tips to keep you cool, calm, and collected so you can nail your interview.
1. Do your research
I cannot stress enough how important this is. Yes, you will be asked questions about your ability to do the job in question, but you will also be working for a company, organization, school, etc, and it’s important to learn everything you can about them before going in for your interview. Print the job description, or take notes on it; use it to come up with questions to ask them. Visit their website and click on every possible clickable thing on there. If anything seems significant to you, or stands out, write it down so you remember to mention it. Some employers like to ask what you know about their company, or why you want to work there, so having some background information on hand definitely helps. Always come up with at least two questions to ask them at the end. If you think of some during the interview, great, but have some back-up questions to ask too. Having questions for them shows you are genuinely interested in the position and you put effort into your preparation
2. Pick the right outfit.
This can be a little tricky. You want to be comfortable, so you don’t feel awkward or stiff sitting there, but look professional at the same time. As I mentioned in 7 Quick Tips for the Job Search, even if you read somewhere that a particular place has a “business casual” or casual dress code, always take it up another notch and dress professionally. If you’re on a budget and don’t have an actual suit, that’s okay. I personally have a few different jackets I wear with dress pants on interviews, and it still looks professional. Don’t wear sneakers. Just don’t. Also, don’t overload on cologne/perfume. It might seem insignificant, but some people are really sensitive to smells. And while you may love whatever scent you have, others may not agree.
3. Always bring a copy of your resume.
Chances are, whomever you’re interviewing with has a copy of your resume right in front of them, but some like to ask to see if you’re prepared. Yes, I know, it’s tricky and slightly devious, but it happens.
As silly as you might feel rehearsing answers in your bathroom mirror or in your car on the way there, I think it helps. By answering potential questions out loud, you can hear how it sounds and even get the awkward “uh’s” and “um’s” out of the way. Also, if you’re someone who blanks out when you’re nervous sometimes, practicing it ahead of time can really make it stick in your mind so you don’t forget.
5. Be polite to everyone you encounter.
Obviously, you would be polite and courteous to the people conducting the interview, but on interview days, your politeness should know no bounds. If you check in with a secretary or assistant, don’t just brush them off. These people are important, and will be even more so after you get the job. The director of my school counseling program also told us that sometimes your interviewer will sit in the front office or wherever it is you check in, and observe before they start the interview. That has never happened to me, and I’m not sure how often that actually occurs, but you never know. They could really like Undercover Boss.
6. Thank-you’s, they go a long way.
Always, always, always send a thank-you after the interview. Whether you send an e-mail or a handwritten note, it could set you apart from other candidates.
7. Remember to breathe; they’re just people.
A while back I went on an interview for a Guidance Counselor position, and I was so nervous, I walked right by the front desk and got half lost. When I finally made it to the right place, the security officer stopped me and said, “Relax, okay? They’re just people.” This totally blew my mind, and it’s completely true. The person/people interviewing you have been in your shoes; they know you’re nervous. If they are the ones making the hiring decisions, yes they are important, but they are truthfully, just people. They understand the effects nerves can have.
Interviews can be tough, but try to remember to relax a little. It’s part of the job search process, but it doesn’t have to be the most terrible. Try to be present in the moment and keep a clear mind. Obviously this list is not totally comprehensive, but hopefully it
still helps. Good luck, you’re going to nail it!