12 Job Interview Tips To Help You Prepare With Confidence
It’s normal to feel anxious when preparing for a round of interviews - especially if you’re interested in and excited about the position.
I recently had a client find out that the structure of her interviews was going to be big groups instead of one on one and in-person instead of remote - and they were scheduled over the course of a super long day. She was understandably feeling a little nervous and called because she wanted to feel more prepared.
The Outer Game
This is where most people start. And sure enough, when I asked my client what she’d done to prepare, her list was all about the outer game. She had a stylist coming over to help create a fabulous outfit. She had booked in at the salon, bought a new foundation, chosen some new jewelry, etc.
Make no mistake, these steps are all important. A first impression happens in seconds and it’s lasting. Plus, we’re more confident and at ease when we feel happy with our look.
Studies cited in Scientific American show that business attire or a professional look can also increase abstract thinking and help you negotiate a more profitable deal.
The Inner Game
The side we often forget about or don’t know how to address is the inner game, which begins with practicing questions (we share seven things to avoid when answering interview questions over here). In this case, my client had done her homework and discovered she was walking into behavioral interviews, which were new to her. We decided a mock interview would help her feel more prepared.
If you don’t have a career coach or transition resources, we suggest asking someone on your support team (perhaps from your personal board of directors) to meet you on Zoom to go through questions or practice the interview. Share what you hope to accomplish and what kind of feedback you’re looking for. You can even record the session and rewatch it to make additional observations.
We know it can be excruciating to watch yourself but try to start with the positives and note what you did well. Then pick one thing at a time to work on. Slow and steady wins the race.
Learn As Much As You Can About The Interview
Knowing what to expect can help calm your nerves and give you time to prepare. We suggest asking the recruiter (whether internal or external) what the interview will entail. They’ll likely share how long it will be, how it will take place, and who will be there.
You could also ask a follow-up question about the culture, appropriate attire, or what types of questions you can expect. This demonstrates to the recruiting team that you’re interested and you prepare for interviews like you’d prepare to attend or lead your own meeting.
Map It Out
Choose several different questions and map out your answers for each one. We suggest coming up with a headline and three brief supporting points for each one.
Then, depending on the question, you could add:
What the impact was.
What you learned from the situation.
Acknowledge your emotions. Sometimes, it might feel easier to push aside your emotions and “power through,” but checking in with ourselves gives us the opportunity to shift the way we’re feeling.
If you’re feeling nervous, anxious, or excited (or all three!), try using a technique called box breathing (Navy Seals swear by it!).
- Inhale for a slow count of 4.
- Then hold your breath for 4.
- Next, exhale for a slow count of 4.
- Finally, hold your breath for 4.
- And repeat.
You should feel your body calming down after just a few rounds.
Reframe Your Thinking
Some people like to imagine the audience naked; we prefer to think of the people across the table as simply friends we haven’t met yet, but however you approach it - your thoughts matter! And positive thinking can go a long way toward feeling confident during the interview.
If your competition seems particularly impressive, or you don’t have all the qualifications they’re looking for, try shifting your thinking to include the possibility that you are the right fit.
Many times, we’ve seen instant chemistry between a candidate and someone in the hiring process. If you’re a great fit culturally, they may be willing to forego the experience and bring you in to learn on the job. Or they may keep you in mind for future opportunities or add you to the pool for another open role.
Connect, Connect, Connect
People want to work with someone they like, and the interview process can be a great place to build relationships. These interviews are designed for people to get to know you and see if you would fit into the team, company, and culture.
Would you work well with possible clients? Are you trustworthy, competent, and credible? It’s important to be yourself. After all, you want this to be a good fit too. Starting a job with false expectations is sure to be a disaster.
Consider Your Body Language
Use non-verbal communication to show that you’re actively listening (nod, tilt your head, lean forward a bit). Summarize or check for understanding if you’re unsure about what’s being asked. Use phrases such as, “What I think I hear your saying is…” or “Do you feel a more recent example might also be helpful?”
Use eye contact, smile, and avoid fidgeting. Practice a relaxed, straight posture (not too stiff and not too slouchy).
If it’s natural for you to speak with your hands, do so - stifling an ingrained habit like this can lead to fidgeting. You may want to practice in front of a mirror to see things from the other person’s perspective.
If you’re prone to fidgeting, try resting your hand on the desk in front of you, folded over one another on your lap, or gently interlaced.
And, if you notice the interviewer is making eye contact or mirroring your movements (a nod, a head tilt, leaning forward a bit), you can assume things are going well.
Get A Foot In The Door
So often, a job isn’t exactly what we’re looking for - by choosing not to apply, we might miss out on a good opportunity. For example, perhaps it’s listed as a director and you were hoping for the next level up or the role didn’t include direct reports.
Our suggestion is to start the conversation. See if the company or team is a good fit. Share your qualifications. Build that relationship, and then, way before the offer, share what you’re looking for.
For example, mention you’re interviewing at a different level or were hoping to (notice the language here). Or you could share that target compensations for other opportunities you are considering are significantly higher.
They’ve been given a chance to know and love you, and chances are they might be willing to meet you halfway. Many executives we know designed their own roles during the interview process.
It’s A Two-Way Street
Consider that you’re interviewing them as much as they’re interviewing you. That doesn’t mean you should be cocky. And we’re not suggesting you go in and take over the interview. Simply approach the interview as a conversation. And it doesn’t hurt to go in with a few thoughtful questions of your own.
Showcase Your Achievements
People want to hire candidates who get things done! For years, résumés included roles, responsibilities, and skills. However, at this point, it’s much more important to outline what you did and achieved.
At higher levels of the organization, your résumé should focus on your leadership, strategy, talent management and development, change management, and thought leadership.
While at earlier levels focusing on the impact you’ve made, situations where you went above and beyond, worked collaboratively, cross-functionally, or took on higher-level work are important to showcase.
Your Résumé Is Your Cheat Sheet
Your résumé should be targeted to the role you’re interviewing for and should serve as your cheat sheet. The idea is that when you’re asked a question, you’ll be able to glance at your résumé and refer to a situation, an obstacle you faced, an action you took, and the result.
If you’re interviewing via Zoom, you can even have sample answers to general interview questions listed, making it easy for you to respond quickly.
We know preparing for an interview can feel a bit overwhelming and intimidating. We hope the tips in this article will help you prepare with confidence.
If you’re interested in career coaching or need someone to help you prepare for your next big interview, please reach out to us; we’d love to support you.