The Shy Student’s Guide to Interviews

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In my own little corner, in my own little chair…what, some people like Cinderella, geez. I can relate to this song, because there are days when I simply don’t want to interact with other human beings. Call me an introvert, socially awkward or a little hermit hiding away in her dorm with Youtube and comics for companionship, but there are times when socializing can be a challenge. Everyone, even the most social butterfly, can feel frazzled at the prospect of undergoing an interview for a possible job. Check out some helpful tips to break out of your shell and conquer that interview.

Be Prepared

“So tell me about yourself.” If you instantly get sweaty palms and start with “Oh…uh…um…BLARGH!” then that’s a clear sign you aren’t prepared. At all. University of Florida Career Ambassador Madison Keller recommended for anyone with a case of nerves to come in to the interview knowing what you have to say. Practice your answers repeatedly so that when the questions start you know what to say. Keller also suggested to make a bullet point list of your main points and key experiences before the interview begins. Practice makes perfect, so start jogging that mind to conjure up brag-worthy experiences that your interviewer will want to hear.

Boston College English major Ellis Mancini said, “A lot of questions are the same no matter what job you are looking for. I have had some version of the question ‘what are your strengths and weaknesses?’ in all my interviews. If you don’t have to struggle your way through every question, you feel a little better about yourself when you walk out.” Interviews overlap one another with similar questions, so brush up on your answers so you can impress the interviewer every time.

Rock the Mock Interview

What the heck is that? Mock interviews are basically practice interviews. If you’re concerned about any possible interview disasters (like you know, forgetting your own name), or you want to know which areas of interviewing you need to brush up on, visit your career resource center and ask if it offers mock interviews. UF Career Ambassador Tyler Jacobs recommended that you have a mock interview with someone you don’t know instead of a friend. It makes sense: A stranger is probably more willing to share an honest critique on your overall performance and a different perspective than your roommate who wants to stay on your good side in order to keep watching Netflix on your account.

Keep Things in Perspective

“Focus on the why instead of the what,” said Jacobs when referring to the importance of reflecting on your experience. Don’t just say that you jumped out of a flying plane with no parachute on your birthday. Tell the interviewer why that daredevil experience was such a memorable event in your life and how it affected you. Both Jacobs and Keller recommended practicing, repeating and reciting your experience before your interview. When the actual interview arrives you’ll feel comfortable enough to regale your interviewer with why you had such a blast jumping out of a plane thousands of feet above with nothing but a prayer and a heck of a good time.

Learn to Recover

The truth is, there’s a chance that despite all of your practicing and constant mock interviews, you still might mess up the interview. That’s okay, because one of the best ways to learn is through your mistakes. Jacobs said that if the interview has a conversational feel to it like that of two people getting to know one another, stop, correct yourself and move on. However, if the interview has a more professional tone to it and the interviewer won’t likely be pleased with a “JK! I meant to say this,” just keep going. This shows that you don’t panic easily under pressure, and hey, maybe the interviewer didn’t notice your mistake in the first place. If you made a huge, enormous mistake the size of Mt. Everest, or worse, the pimple that emerged from your forehead this morning, stop yourself and clarify your mistake. The interviewer will understand if you’re nervous and will appreciate your professional attitude when faced with a dilemma.

Don’t Treat your Interview Like Confession

“Never over apologize,” said UF Career Ambassador Kelsie McDonnell. We get it, everyone is fallible and prone to messing up. Own up to the mistake, but don’t beat yourself up over it. You lose the interest of the interviewer and maybe make him wonder if you have . . . issues after your 4,657th apology. Learn from your mistakes. Don’t beat your hand over your heart and scare your interviewer as you yell, “Mea culpa! Mea culpa! Mea maxima culpa!” Remember, you’re not here to confess all your sins to a complete stranger. Save that for a priest (and maybe a therapist, too).

Be real – and a little fake

Interviewers want to see you at your best, but some people take longer to open up and express themselves than others. Even if you’d rather do just about anything else, try to show some of your outgoing traits to the interviewer to better connect with him. But make sure you don’t go overboard, though. “I think there is a fine line between fake outgoing and momentarily shutting off shyness if that makes sense. I can tone down the shyness for the 15 to 30 minutes of an interview, though. At the same time you don’t want to be a fake extrovert because when you do get the job, you can’t sustain the fakeness,” said Mancini. The fact that you’re willing to come out of your shell shows the interviewer that you’re brave and can put yourself out there, but potential employers don’t want you to change into another person entirely. Be you, and the rest will come naturally.

Rocio Cosme is a sophomore majoring in English at University of Florida. She enjoys reading, writing, singing, crushing over fictional boys in her favorite books, and free hugs.

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