We all get nervous before a big interview! Your hands turn clammy, your heart starts thudding and the thoughts in your mind are going a mile a minute. This is me being interviewed on Varney & Co., however right before Varney launched his first question I was experiencing all of the above. It's not a fun feeling, to say the least, but if you take the time to prepare, you can quiet those nerves and walk into your next interview ready to deliver your best.
So, what are the best ways to prepare? For starters, it helps to have an interview partner. During my career coaching sessions, I often stress to my clients the importance of practicing with others before going on an interview. It's not enough to recite what you want to say in your head or in the mirror; you need another person to help with all of the details that you may not notice but someone else will.
For my clients, I'm often their interview partner, however I have found that most job hunters actually rely on a significant other, family member or close friend despite several drawbacks, such as too much emotional involvement and limited interviewer experience. Another drawback -- your partner may already know your strengths and weaknesses so they may not reflect the reactions of a real third party. If you're going to work with a close family member or friend, you'll need a guide from the outside to help you optimize your time, get the constructive feedback you need and prepare you until you feel ready to go into the interview and give your best.
I've been coaching career professionals since 1997 and have served as the interview prep partner hundreds of times, so I know what your partner needs to look for and how even someone who knows you well and is emotionally involved can constructively critique you and make you a more powerful interviewee.
Here are my tips to help train your training partner:
First Impressions Matter
Everyone knows a first impression is extremely important when it comes to interviewing. How you present yourself when walking in the door will last with the interviewer long after the interview is over. When working with your partner, do a role play of the entire situation from start to finish and have your partner assess you to make sure you're making a good impression. A few things your partner should be looking for: How is your eye contact? Do you have a firm handshake? How are you dressed and how do you walk into the room? Your partner should have you work on all of the above until everything has met your partner's high expectations.
Where's Your Resume, Portfolio and Pen?
It's surprising the number of people who don't have their resume, portfolio and pen on them during an interview. Always have these items, whether it's the first interview or the fifth.
Offer your resume to your prep partner as a guide for them to use in the beginning. In a real interview, the interviewer usually has a copy but it's always good to bring your own. In addition to your resume, make sure to bring several copies of your portfolio to leave with the interviewer(s), and lastly, bring a pen! It shows engagement and active listening when you have a pen and paper in hand. Have your interview partner check for these items during your preparation.
The Little Details That Matter
How is your voice when speaking -- hesitant and timid or strong and confident? Do you maintain eye contact throughout the interview? Where are your hands when speaking and how are you sitting in your chair? All of these seemingly little details may go unnoticed by those of us interviewing since they tend to be subconscious behaviors, but they will always be noticed by the interviewer. Have your partner create a checklist and go through the list one by one during the interview to make sure your voice inflections, eye contact and body movements all show someone who is more than capable of doing the job well.
What Questions Do You Have?
At the end of the interview, the interviewer will likely say something along the lines of "Do you have any questions for me?" The answer: yes. You should always, always have questions for the interviewer, and they should be good ones. Here are some examples for you and your partner to review so that you have an understanding of the caliber of questions that should be asked. Be strategic and use the opportunity to sell yourself throughout. Your partner should listen to ensure your questions encapsulate these goals.
With these tips, both you and your partner will be ready to thoroughly prepare you for any upcoming interview. You can also reach out to me for a 15-minute consultation if you're stuck or need to fill in any gaps. As many of my clients can attest, this process will ensure you walk into your next interview calm, confident and with the clarity you need to communicate effectively and land the job.