You’ve handed in a stellar cover letter and resume, you’ve waited in agonizing suspense, until you found out you landed a job interview! But then, the nervousness starts bubbling in again.
“How do I showcase my skills and experience without stumbling over my words and forgetting everything I want to say? How do I impress my potential employer without sounding braggy?”
Don’t worry, I’ve dealt with the same fears and I’m here to give you some tips.
Research the Company
Research the company, industry, and your role in detail! You don’t want to be caught off guard by a simple question that pokes a giant hole in your credibility. Even if you don’t get the chance to show off your freshly gained knowledge during the interview, being knowledgeable about the organization will enable you to ask a great question at the end (more on that later), making you seem conscientious and detail-oriented.
And be enthusiastic about the company! No one wants to hire someone who seems disinterested, no matter how smart and experienced they may be.
Research the Interviewer
A sneaky tip is to look up your interviewer beforehand. Figure out how to pronounce their name, and see if you can glean some info about them from their company bio. If you’re huge cat lovers, jackpot! If you can smoothly bring up shared interests during the course of the conversation, you’ll bond a little and lower your nervousness (and probably increase your chances of landing the job!)
Be Prepared In-Person or Online
Arrive 15 minutes early and freshen up in the bathroom (check that your clothing and makeup is neat). Drink some water so your dry throat doesn’t make you croak when saying hi — not the most confidence-boosting start!
Greet the interviewer with a confident handshake. But take your cues from them: some people might prefer a polite nod in the age of COVID.
If it’s an online interview, open Zoom to test your camera and microphone 10 minutes in advance. Take a few deep breaths and try to relax. I usually click the Join Meeting button 30 seconds before the interview start time, in case it suddenly lags.
To feel more confident, prepare some answers to some of these most common interview questions. But don’t rely on rote memorization, people can always tell. Instead, plan out the gist of what you want to say, and hit all your bullet points in a conversational tone.
- Why do you want to work here?
- What are your strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
- What has been your biggest challenge?
Don’t answer interview questions with a simple yes or no, or a single dry sentence.
This advice should be familiar from high school English classes: show, not tell. Don’t say “I’m good at leadership,” tell a story that demonstrates a time you showed that characteristic, like when you reassured a despondent teammate and reassigned tasks to match their strengths.
When they ask about your greatest weakness, be honest. Not so honest that they’re concerned for you, or something irrelevant like always forgetting to feed your fish and killing them accidentally.
Be honest, but also include how you’re overcoming it. For example, I’m forgetful and have time blindness, but I immediately add every task or event to my calendar or reminder app.
Don’t say “I guess I’m too much of a perfectionist!” Nobody likes hearing that. If it’s true that you have crippling perfectionism, say something like “I tend to get too bogged down in small details.”
Your Secret Weapon
“Let me think about that for a second.”
Don’t feel pressured to start talking immediately after a question is asked. Taking a few moments to think about your answer enables you to pick the best anecdote, and not stumble over your words. Or worse, talk in incoherent circles.
Don’t ramble too much; keep your answers within one minute so listeners don’t lose track of your main idea. Try timing yourself with practice answers to the questions above.
“Do You Have Any Questions?”
Always have 2-3 questions prepared in advance. This shows that you’ve thought about the company and demonstrates your interest. Don’t ask about salary or benefits; that’s for a later stage of the hiring process. Ask about company culture, job responsibilities, and other things that you’d want to know about the employer.
Thank You Note
ALWAYS remember to send a thank-you email within 48 hours of the interview (ideally within 24 hours). Mention something specific that impressed you, and take the chance to reiterate your interest in the position.
Good luck, and always be confident!
Like Maddy from Euphoria says, “90% of life is confidence, and the thing about confidence is that no one knows if it’s real or not.”