So you’ve produced a fantastic CV that has gotten you that all important job interview. Now there’s just one thing standing in your way – nerves!
For many of us, the nerves leading up to and during a job interview can make it one of the most stressful situations we’re likely to come across. After all, it’s probably the most important interview we’ll ever have. So it’s completely understandable to be a nervous wreck before and on the big day – and you’re not alone!
Keeping those interview nerves in check, and not allowing them to negatively affect your success in a job interview, is key to moving forward – and here’s how…
Banish interview nerves: practice makes perfect
Mock interviews with family/friends can help with job interview nerves
What are you actually afraid of? This is what you need to ask yourself before you read any further. Fear is what creates interview nerves in the first place, and understanding what it actually is that’s causing this fear is how you’ll make that first big step to overcoming them.
Some people fear speaking in front of strangers, whilst others fear being asked a question they don’t know the answer too. Typically these two are the most common issues leading up to a job interview, but now you know this you can look to make things easier on yourself by practicing in an interview environment.
So how do you go about this? A great way to practice a job interview is to create a mock interview with friends or family. Provide them with a list of questions that they can ask you, and make sure everyone involved takes it seriously.
One of the biggest issues you may find when practicing with friends or family is that the situation feels too relaxed and comfortable. You won’t obviously be able to completely recreate the exact atmosphere and setting of a real interview, but practicing will still make things much easier when it comes to the big day. Even if you’re struggling to find someone to take part, you can still practice in front of the mirror and give yourself some confidence before the day arrives.
Which brings us on to our next tip…
Preparation is everything
Write down a list of all the possible questions you think you might be asked during the interview, and make sure you cover all the obvious questions first. For example, you know you’re going to be asked about your previous job roles, so that’s a great place to start.
Once you’ve created a list, begin to write down a bullet point response below each one. You don’t have to write your answer out exactly as you would speak it – bullet points will be all that’s needed right now.
Creating a script is not typically the best way to go because when it comes to putting your answers into practice during a mock interview with family or friends, you’ll often find that your scripted responses sound exactly that – scripted! You want your answers to flow and sound natural, so unless you’re an actor and remembering things word for word comes easy to you, the best way is to recall the bullet points that you made for each question and then put them into your own words.
It’s certainly a good idea to practice in your head as well as out loud your responses to these questions, but don’t worry about whether or not it’s the same each time. Just practice the flow of your answer, ensuring you cover each point that you wrote down.
Do your research
Know the company you’ve applied to, and the role you’ve applied for
One of the biggest mistakes a potential candidate continues to make is to fail to conduct any research on the position they are applying for, or the company they’re applying to. Don’t assume that you know enough already just from the company’s name and the job description listed on the advert. Find out what the company does exactly. How many products do they sell each year? How successful have they been recently? What do you believe to be their next goal for the future? What do you think they will expect an employee to achieve in this role?
A great way of finding this information out is to check the company’s website. Look at the service or product they provide, and build up a picture in your mind of how they might operate. Another great way of finding out more information is to contact an employee and ask them.
You could also take this to the next level and call the actual hiring manager who would be taking part in the interview. Ask them directly what sort of person they are looking for and see if you can get a few tips on what to expect in the role. Be careful with this though, and don’t get overconfident with your questions. Only ask a couple of things, and ensure the conversation is short and to the point. Try to see if the manager is willing to open up about the role, or if they are clearly quite busy and don’t want to speak for too long. You want the manager to remember you for all the right reasons, and not as someone who is a little pushy. However, if you do this correctly, you’ll make them feel that you are someone who is clearly interested in the role and the company. You may be the only person that actually takes the time to call the company to find out more about the role – so already you’re ahead of the game!
Once you’ve conducted all the research you can, go back to your list of questions and bullet point responses and edit them. Ideally you are trying to incorporate some of the research into your answers. Interviewers love to hear what you’re going to bring to the role and the organisation, and having that knowledge of the position and the company already, you should find this a lot easier.
Don’t avoid the difficult questions
Be ready for the more challenging job interview questions
During the interview you are going to be asked some very difficult questions, and how you answer them will make or break your chances of success. Although you don’t know exactly what they are going to ask, there are some ‘run of the mill’ tough questions that are to be expected.
For example, you’ll typically get asked to name three strengths and three weaknesses. Obviously talking about your strengths will be easy, but not so much when it comes to your weaknesses. You can’t of course say that you don’t have any, because everyone does (and not recognising or admitting your weaknesses is a weakness in itself!) Be honest at this point in the interview, but without being damaging to your chances.
Make sure you provide genuine weaknesses with solutions. This could be how you’ve overcome them in the past, as well as what you are continuing to do right now to help develop your weaknesses into strengths. Be positive, and don’t shy away from answering honestly and sincerity, as this will be refreshing to the interviewer – bearing in mind that most people don’t!
Make a list of all the possible difficult questions you are likely to be asked, and write down a list of answers which can be used during your practice sessions as discussed above.
Plan your route
Planning the route to your interview can help ease some nerves
If you want to give yourself the very best possible chance of keeping those interview nerves at bay, then you have to make sure you know where the interview will take place, how long it will take to get there, and how you’re going to get there.
If you don’t plan this ahead of time you are risking running into problems which may leave you rushing around like crazy trying to get there – and this will of course only lead to more anxiety. The worst case scenario is that you’re late for the interview, and that means all your hard work has been wasted. You’ll probably be turned away the second you get there!
When it comes to being nervous on the day and giving a confident interview, planning your journey is an absolute must. The interview will be hard enough without adding more pressure to yourself on the day. So do whatever it takes to map out the route you’re going to take, the time you need to leave (plan to get there at least 30 mins before), and how you’re going to get there. Is there a train or bus you need to get on? What time does it leave?
A great way to ensure you know exactly where you’re going and how long it’s going to take is to find the company’s offices a week before the interview. Take into account however the time of day you are going, and how rush hour might effect this. If you are going to do a practice trip you need to try and match that exact same day and time to ensure it’s comparable.
Be friendly and confident
Before and after the interview, try to make break the ice with a friendly chat
One of the best ways to get over your interview nerves during an interview is to project confidence the second you walk in, being friendly and open. Interviewers may also be nervous about asking questions, especially if this isn’t something they’ve done many times before. Being happy, open and friendly makes it easier on everyone.
Walk in there and shake hands confidently, and ask everyone if they are having a good day. Don’t just sit down and go quiet, as this will only add tension to an already tense situation. The interviewer may make some initial small talk to help you relax, and this is your opportunity to talk a little before the interview begins.
Be engaging from the second you walk in there, and make sure you smile and make everyone at ease. We all know that first impressions are everything, so being friendly and chatty is a great way to kick things off.
Don’t rush to answer
Pausing to think is better than rushing and giving a poorly thought out answer
Take your time, and don’t rush to answer. Interviewers are not judging you on how quickly you respond. The quality of your answers is far more important, and rushing to respond or waffling on without really addressing the question won’t impress anyone.
Take a breath and think a little if you are facing a difficult question. That slight pause before you deliver a response might seem like an eternity to you, but it won’t to the interviewer. If you also have any doubts about the question being asked, then don’t hesitate to seek clarification. It could be that you misheard them, or just didn’t fully understand what was being asked – either way it doesn’t matter.
Be polite and ask for the question again if you have to. This would be a much better way to approach this situation than stumbling through your answer, which is very likely to be off topic anyway.
Above all else remember that the interviewer is only human, and they’ve been through this themselves to get to where they are sat now. They understand the interview nerves and the difficult questions, and will be understanding of your position.
Not yet secured that all important interview? Choose from our collection of free CV templates and boost your chances!
More help with job interviews
- Relaxation techniques to reduce stress (external site – opens in new window)
- What to wear to a job interview
- Job interview tips – your 101 guide
- Getting your body language right in job interviews