Congratulations, you’ve passed the stage of resumes and cover letters and made it to the interview. Interviewing creates an odd cocktail of exciting and terrifying emotions during this stage of applying for a job or internship. It provides a wonderful opportunity to pitch yourself one on one with your possible future employer. Simultaneously pitching yourself and grasping the company often feels like navigating through a landmine, but don’t dismay.
Learn the tips and tricks from experts in career advising on how to find the confidence to master any interview.
1. Research What the Company Needs
Research the company beyond the confines of a quick Google search to really get to know the structure that makes the company. “This includes LinkedIn, the company’s website, YouTube videos of their leaders speaking at recent events/tradeshows and reading featured content/whitepapers on the website,” said Principle Consultant at Force Management Courtney Wright. Once you grasp how the company truly operates, you can deduce the areas where they might need your help. You don’t want to be in the position where you’ve spent time pitching yourself to a company that isn’t buying what you’re selling. “You don’t want to end up selling dog food to someone that owns a cat,” said Assistant Director for Career Leadership Academy at the University of Iowa Elise Perea. Dive deep into the information that strikes your interest so you feel prepared and excited for the interview.
2. Practice in an Interview Setting
It’s difficult to plan out the interview in your mind without going into a panic. Working through the interview will help but mock interviews are the best way to grasp what you need to work on before the interview. “Practice may not make perfect, but it makes it possible,” said Perea. Put on your interview outfit, and place yourself in an uncomfortable setting to make the unfamiliar feel familiar. “Practicing needs to be [with] more than a friend or family member,” said Perea. Getting the most objective response will help you expand in areas you may not have known you needed practice in. Schools often provide mock interviews for students, as well as plenty of options online available for your preparation needs.
3. Ask Questions
Did you leave the straightener on? Are you smiling too much? You may catch your mind wandering while the interviewer speaks. but you can recover through questions. Use the point when the interviewer asks if you have any questions to your advantage. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions—questions indicate that you’re interested and that you’ve prepared. It also shows a willingness to admit that you don’t know everything, which you don’t when interviewing for a role,” said Wright. Asking questions does not make you appear less intelligent. If you aren’t completely sure how the company gets their funding ask in a way that shows you’ve done your research but would like to know more. “You can be confident and curious at the same time. Set up your own questions for answers you would like to present,” said University of Iowa Graduate Teaching Assistant Bryn Lovitt. If the interviewer hasn’t given you the opportunity to show off your best knowledge through their questions, ask questions that will prompt topics you are confident in.
4. Know Your Answers
The way you choose to answer questions reflects how much time you put into researching the company. When the interviewer asks an unexpected question and you feel on the brink of panic, take a pause. It’s better to take your time and respond after a moment of reflection than to stumble through a quick response. “Employers note how well students have prepared and done their research about the organization ahead of time. Also, if they are confident in their answers and proved the best examples available to them from their experiences related to the questions they are being asked,” said University of Iowa Senior Director of Operations at the Career Center Angi McKie. If you truly don’t have an answer to the question or don’t know what they meant, ask them to rephrase or repeat the question. Think through your word choice as you prepare your answers as well. “Use language that amps up your experience. Use words like facilitate and manage to evoke proof of your experience,” said Lovitt. Showing engagement through your responses says you care and want to know more. Prove that you are the best candidate for the job through thorough, reflective and honest responses that engage the conversation further than the question’s face value. When pushing beyond the question’s surface shows you care and are able to grasp the deeper meaning.
5. Active Preparation Before an Interview
Afraid your stomach will growl during your lunchtime interview? Nervous you’ll end up driving the opposite direction of where you’re meant to meet? Sticking to a routine and doing daily activities that are familiar to you will help relieve you of some stress. Prepare as much as you can before the interview. Plan your outfit. If it’s an in-person interview drive to the office. If you’re meeting online do a practice call, and time out a schedule so you feel more in control. “Prepare ahead of time by knowing exactly what you will wear, what you need to take with you, and how to get to your interview. This takes some of the stress out of the actual interview day,” said Mckie. Certain practices work best the day before and the day of the interview. The day of the interview do a bit of self-care. “Ensure I’m well hydrated, remind myself that I’ve prepared as much as I can, and know that if it doesn’t work out, there is another opportunity that is a better fit for me in the future,” said Wright. Doing simple things that are a part of your daily routine can take the pressure off certain tasks so you can focus on actual interview. “Any way you can reduce the unknown will help,” said Perea. Going over everything will help you feel more organized and ready to present yourself in your best light.
6. It’s a Conversation
To alleviate the tension of feeling interrogated remember that, as much as it is an interview, it’s still a conversation. “Go into the interview ready to observe, ask questions, share what you bring to the table and listen to what they are saying they need. It’s a conversation, that’s all,” said Academic Advisor Kate Torno. They are human too, as obvious as this may sound; it’s easy to forget. It goes along with the concept of picturing everyone in his or her underwear when you have stage fright. Humanize the other person, because at the end of the day you’re both trying to make a connection.
7. Building Confidence
Boost your confidence by letting go of tension. The night before, get together with friends and people that make you feel good. The day of, wear an outfit that encourages you to stand tall, do up your hair and put on a scent that reminds you of a good memory. “I suggest people find a pump-up song and use the power pose while listening to the pump-up song. You feel funny, but it will release tension. I always put on Aretha Franklin,” said Perea. Stand with purpose using the power pose, a posture resembling that of a super hero to feel your presence take claim over the room.
8. Know Yourself
So, tell me about yourself. A simple question that more often than not is the start to a job interview. Easy right? Shockingly, in the moment, this is the question that most people get chocked up on. You don’t want to overshare but want to express self-confidence—but not too much—while also limiting your response to two to three sentences. The best way to ease nerves and prevent yourself from stumbling through a response is to preplan your answer. Construct two to three sentences that show confidence in who you are. Tell them about where you grew up, your major and a particular skill you feel proud of. Tell them a story rather than giving them a list. For example, share how you used to beg your parents every week to take you to the local bookstore for the latest magazines on the shelf. How you stuck with your love of reading and writing which led you to major in English. Sum up a little tale of yourself in a creative way that insures you remain in their mind.
9. Match yourself with the Company
Most companies have a brief description about themselves on their websites that uses terms like ambitious, organized or friendly. These are things to take note of while researching because, when it comes time to pitch yourself to the company, you can use these as your framework. If the website mentions a team environment, recount how you’ve played on a sports team all your life and know how to get everyone involved. If it says organized, share how you managed to take on eighteen semester hours while volunteering at the hospital and working for your local newspaper. Present your skills that match their description with examples. You know what they value so shape yourself around those to impress them.
10. Power Shift
Take control of the interview. Although it may seem like the pressure of every interviewee in history has come crashing to your shoulders, don’t forget that the interviewer also must pitch themselves. “Remember that the interview should be a two-way process—while the company is determining if the candidate is a good fit for them, the candidate should be evaluating the company just as significantly,” said Wright. You have committed a lot of time to get to this point and you know you’re valuable to any company. Take note of what they’re doing to impress you. “Create a shift in power dynamic. Know that if they rejected you, you probably rejected them first,” said Perea. You know you put in the time with research, application and commitment so don’t be afraid to ask yourself if this opportunity is worth it. If it is, don’t hold back; ultimately you’re in control of how the interview will go.