In many people’s minds, job interviews are right on par with public speaking and painful dental procedures in terms of the anxiety they provoke. The fear of being placed in the proverbial hot seat and having your expertise, experience, and personality thoroughly dissected by a perfect stranger (or strangers) is enough to reduce even the most unflappable job candidate to a pool of nervous perspiration. But a modest amount of advanced preparation can really calm your nerves and help you stand out among the crowd of candidates. Here’s how:
Research the organization
Come to the interview armed with knowledge of what the organization does, what its mission and goals are, and how it has contributed to its particular industry. After all, how can your interviewers decide you’re a good fit for their company if you don’t even have a basic understanding of what you’d be fitting into? It’s also helpful to do a little research on the people who will be conducting the interview so you at least know their titles and how they fit into the company hierarchy.
Prepare thoughtful answers to common questions
You can’t necessarily anticipate and prepare for every potential interview question, but some are almost certain to come up in one form or another. For example, you shouldn’t be caught off guard by questions like, “Why do you want to work for our company?” or “What makes you a good candidate for this job?” Also, keep in mind that certain questions almost always come with a “flip side.” For instance, if the interviewer asks you to list your three greatest strengths, you can expect him or her to follow up with, “Now, list your three greatest weaknesses.” Don’t be caught off guard by this.
Dress—and groom—for success
You only get one chance to make a positive first impression, so it’s wise to research the company’s dress code and dress at that level or, better yet, one step above it for the interview. Your grooming—hair, fingernails, oral hygiene, etc.—should be impeccable, and makeup and jewelry should be kept to a minimum. Also, try to avoid wearing strong-smelling lotions, colognes, or perfumes.
Plan to arrive approximately 10 minutes ahead of your scheduled interview. Come in late, even by a few minutes, and you can more or less rule out getting hired. From the hiring manager’s perspective, if you can’t bother to show up to the interview on time, you’ll likely have the same lackadaisical attitude toward regular work attendance.
Treat everyone with respect
Don’t forget that every interaction you have with employees of the company—whether by phone or in person—is part of the interview process. Virtually everyone you talk to or encounter during your visit will be assessing your character and how well you might fit into the company culture, so it’s very important to be pleasant, courteous, and respectful to everyone you interact with at every stage of the interview process.
Be aware of your body language
You can say all the right things in a job interview but still undermine your message through awkward body language and other nonverbal cues. Throughout the interview, try to maintain an upright, open posture and make good eye contact without appearing as if you’re staring down the interviewer. Also, try to avoid overly demonstrative gestures or unconscious nervous behaviors, such as tapping your fingers or twirling your pen.
Never slam your former employer
It’s okay to discuss difficult situations you may have encountered in your previous employment in the context of how you coped with and grew from them, but comments about past employers and coworkers should always be kept positive. Bashing your boss or coworkers gives the impression that you lack professionalism and discretion. Besides, it’s a very small world, and there’s always the possibility that the interviewer and your old boss know one another.
Don’t forget to ask questions
Many job candidates are so focused on making a good impression and giving all the right answers that they forget a job interview is supposed to be a two-way street. So, when asked if they have any questions for the interviewer, they draw a complete blank. Don’t miss this golden opportunity to demonstrate your interest in the organization. Come prepared with a handful of thoughtful questions, such as “What key characteristics are you looking for in the person who fills this position?” or “What do you see as the biggest challenges currently facing the company/department?”
Last, but certainly not least, be sure to exchange business cards with everyone involved in the interview process so you can promptly send them a note or email, thanking them for their time and restating your interest in the position.