Its interview season and I am always surprised each year how many students diligently fill out job and internship application but take no steps to prepare for interviews. Everyone needs practice, and feedback from me can help you see your strengths and areas of improvement. If you have completed any applications lately, do your interview prep now to avoid a last minute scramble to get to the career center before a scheduled interview.
Preparation is one of the best ways to ease your interview nerves or anxiety. Remember, if you feel nervous about the interview, not only is that very common, but it also means you care about the outcome and impression you make. That’s not a bad thing, own it.
Example: “Thanks for meeting with me today, but forgive my nerves! I am very interested in this position and impressed with your organization, and its important to me that I make a good impression and show the value I can offer your team. Despite my preparation I am anxious because this opportunity is at the top of my dream job list.”
Prepare your stories ahead of time by using the STAR method (Situation + Tasks + Action = Result). Look over your resume and LinkedIn profile to pull from your academic, work, volunteer, campus and other experiences so you have a good variety of stories fresh in your mind. This is one of the best ways to be a memorable interviewer because your stories will be unique and help the interviewer truly get to know you. Too often I see students try to give “right” answers, which end up being incredibly common and canned responses. You are a stronger interviewee when you help the interviewers get to know your personality, decision making process and concrete examples that demonstrate your skills.
I see nerves come out in lots of ways: sweaty hands, blushing or blotchy chest/neck, stutters, talking too fast or too quiet, swiveling in your chair, shaking your leg, lack of eye contact and hair fiddling. Be aware of what your “tell’ is and make an effort to reduce (likely not eliminate) the symptom. Again, these are all very common and interviewers won’t even blink to see them as long as they are minimally displayed.
Want to distract an employer from your nerves? Come dressed in sharp looking and well fitted interview attire, led with an confident handshake, prepare a impressive opening answer, and prepare several questions that demonstrate your research and sincere interest in the company.
Lastly, do your best to avoid an abundance of filler words like umm, yeah, so, you know, etc. My least favorite is “like” and over using this word during an interview is sure to cast you in a bad light. Review but don’t memorize common interview questions and responses so you don’t rely on filler words while you wrack your brain for information. Putting interview answers in your short term memory makes it easier to pull from and you won’t have to rely on pauses that tend to lead to lots of filler words when you talk.
Interviewing will get easier with practice, it is worth the time and energy to prepare, and interviewing is a life long skill you will use during your entire career. This part can be a challenge but it has a huge pay off!