Do you have a big interview coming up, for a job or a new client or something else altogether? It can be pretty scary, but there are ways to conquer your interview anxiety. These tips may help.
• Do your homework. If you're trying to land a job or a prospective client, learn everything you can about the company or person. Check out their social media profiles (you can bet the HR director has already checked yours). How big is the company? Is it a subsidiary of a larger company? Privately held or listed on the stock market? How many employees does it have? What is its mission and vision? The more you know, the more confidence you will have.
• Work your connections. Do you know anyone who already works for the company, as an employee or a vendor? If so, talk to them to get an insider's take. What's company culture? Does it value innovation and risk-taking? Is it all about teamwork? Are employees recognized for their contributions? Does it pay its bills on time? Is it a good company to work for? Be sure to ask for any advice they may have regarding your approach.
• Figure out your response to common questions. There are almost always the tried-and-tired questions of your strengths and weaknesses. The "weaknesses" question can be a real minefield. You can position your weakness as a strength - as in "My biggest weakness is getting so involved in my work that I lose track of time" - but there is inherent danger in that as well. To me, that implies you miss deadlines.
More interviewers are using behavioral interview questions, such as, "Tell me about a time you gave it your all and failed." Find a practice partner and do a few run-throughs. There are no right or wrong answers to these types of questions; the interviewer is just trying to get a feel for how you react in certain situations.
• Prime your brain. Use visualization. It works for world-class athletes, why not you? Imagine a successful interview and experience what it feels like with all your senses. Victory is yours!
• Scope out the interview site in advance. How long does it take to get there? (Be sure to adjust for rush hour, if necessary.) Where will you park, if you're driving? Where will you need to be for the interview itself?
• Bolster your self-confidence. If you've made it to the interview stage, obviously you've got something that the company wants to explore further. That's significant. Don't lose sight, in your anxiety, of what you have to offer. Take several copies of your resumes to distribute, if necessary, and keep one for yourself to remind you of your accomplishments in case you mind blanks out during the interview.
• Dress for the job you want. You may be interviewing at a tech company that is famous for its jeans-and-hoodies dress code, but wearing business clothing shows that you are serious about the job. Make sure what you're wearing fits well and makes you feel like you could conquer the world.
• Pump yourself up. The night before, moderate your alcohol intake and get enough sleep. Exercise the morning of. If you have a playlist of music that always gives you energy, dial it up. If your interview is in the morning, be sure to have breakfast for an energy boost. If it's in the afternoon, eat a light lunch that won't slow down your mental processes.
• Arrive early. Better to be early than late. If you're more than 15 minutes early, do some deep-breathing exercises, take a short walk, review what you'll say, give yourself a pep talk and so on.
• Ask your own questions. See this opportunity as a conversation, instead of a Q&A whose final score will either make or break you. Ask questions - something like, "What's it like to work here? What's the best thing about this company?"
• Questions you don't answer. Most prospective employers know better than to ask questions about your age, religion and other federally prohibited questions. If you're asked what you earned in your last job, say, "It's confidential."
• Comments you don't make. Most of us know not to ever badmouth a previous employer, but saying "We had a personality conflict" is the same thing as "I don't follow direction" or "I can't get along with authority." Zip it.
If you left your last job under less-than-ideal circumstances, come up with your response as to why before you sit for the interview. It may be something like, "I was looking for a chance to grow my skill set" or "I'm interested in a company that offers a solid career track." Don't lie, but don't be afraid to present it in the best possible light.
• Silence can be your best friend. Your nerves may want you to blurt out the first thing that comes to mind. Bite your tongue. If you need a moment, say, "That's a good question. Let me think on that." It shows you're thoughtful and paying attention. If you don't know the answer, say, "I don't know."
What's your best advice for someone who suffers from interview anxiety? Please share in the comments.