A job interview can be one of life’s most stressful moments.
It’s definitely the most stressful part of the employment search, and according to a study done by Harris Interactive on behalf of Everest College, 92% of adults stress over at least one aspect of the interviewing process.
A little anxiety can certainly be beneficial, but too much can be detrimental. Luckily, there are a few tried and true tricks to calming those nerves, all of which involve preparation.
Prior to the interview, it is imperative to do some research about the company.
What activities are carried out by the company, and what types of positions are available? And more importantly, how can you benefit the company by filling one of those openings? What are the company’s goals, and how will you help achieve those targets? What was the company’s past performance, and how could you add value to it?
Know the company’s mission and values, the top executives, its locations, its goods and services, its public perception, etc. And be prepared to use this information during your sit-down.
Additionally, it can be valuable to review the job posting and position requirements, particularly the keywords mentioned therein. Be prepared to use these as your own keywords in your resume and also as your talking points during the interview.
The third piece to pre-interview preparation is perhaps the most important: practice.
First, research commonly-asked interview questions. There are countless sources from which to pull lists of such questions, but many of them can be broken down into three categories: abilities, strengths and weaknesses, and work history.
One thing that is sure to set you apart from the crowd is having a compelling story to go along with your answer to each question. These stories should amplify your response and should explicitly demonstrate to the interviewer how you fit the company’s values, how you not only meet their needs but how you can positively impact their bottom line.
It can be very helpful to record some important notes/talking points for every job experience. `
For instance, the interviewer is likely to ask the question, “What are three strengths that you bring to the company?” The simple answer would be, “I am a team player, I am a good communicator, and I am innovative.” Though the traits presented may differ, the format of the answer is largely similar among other applicants.
To ensure you stand out from the crowd, tell a specific story about how you were a team player, how you exhibited strong communication skills, how you displayed innovation.
You may discuss the time that you collaborated on a successful advertising campaign, the time that you were asked to keynote a presentation at a convention, the time that you developed a strategy to save your company time and money.
In essence, you share information about a positive change you introduced and the results you delivered. Describing those particular instances instead of responding to the question with three simple words allows the interviewing team to directly see how you have exemplified such characteristics.
It will certainly prove helpful to brainstorm possible interview questions as well as your answers — supported by the aforementioned stories that support them.
Another way to prep is to review your resume and consider the strongest story to support each position you have previously held. For instance, what was your biggest accomplishment when you interned at the advertising firm? What was a difficult problem that you solved in your position as a data analyst? What was a stellar example of leadership you showed as an accountant?
Identifying strong skills and evidence that supports them prior to entering your interview will ensure better preparation and calmer nerves.
While storytelling and providing examples is a key component to a strong interview and something that will surely set you apart from other applicants, there is a caveat: be sure that these recollections are precise and concise.
Obviously, it is important to be truthful, factual, and honest regarding every aspect of your interview. Additionally, it is absolutely imperative to be concise.
When the interviewer asks you about your weaknesses, for example, you do not want to drone on and on and on about all of the ways in which you could improve.
Select one or two examples and provide a brief explanation as to each. Avoid telling a long, drawn-out story and instead focus on the most important details, those that will most effectively and efficiently convey the information you desire.
Consider how you would answer the following questions with stories of success from previous experiences:
- In your previous position, of what are you most proud?
- What is an important lesson you learned in your previous position?
- How do you perform well as both an individual contributor and as a team player?
- Describe your success working in a high-stress environment.
- How do you make decisions and/or solve problems?
- What are you most challenged by in your professional career?
- What are your strengths and/or weaknesses?
- What is your greatest success and/or failure?
- How do you handle conflict in the workplace?
- What were the strengths and/or weaknesses of your former boss?
- What kind of a boss are you?
Having responses that include precise and concise stories of specific experiences will positively impact how you are received by your interview team. All our successes, disappointments, and everything in between in our work life is a story worth noting down.
Interviewing for a new job can understandably be nerve-wracking, and while a small amount of anxiety is not only normal but beneficial, being better prepared will assuredly help assuage the majority of your worries, allowing you to have a less stressful and a more impressive experience.
In conclusion, for each experience be ready with a story which tells how you made a difference, and it is almost guaranteed that your conversation will be more engaging and your chances to land your dream job increase exponentially. All the best!