The resume, the recommendations, the essays, and the interview; it all adds up to a crazy whirlwind of stress, excitement, and waiting.
I am writing this fresh out of an interview. A million thoughts are running through my mind and I may need to take a nap before I can move on with my life. As stressful as applying for a job is, the interview is the most nerve-racking part. You only get one shot to make an impression that says, "Hey there! I am passionate and ready for whatever you can throw at me".
Preparing for essentially a presentation in which you have no idea what you will be presenting is arduous. But there are a couple things you can do to make sure that you ace your next interview.
1. Wear one thing that makes you stand out.
Everyone knows that during a professional interview you should dress your best. But I find that wearing one unique article of clothing or accessory can help you stick out. I remember one time interviewing for an internship at a hotel and I came wearing a huge skirt covered in watercolor flowers. It wasn't over the top but it was just enough to catch my interviewer's eye. Anything from a colorful bow tie to a special necklace or pin can really compliment your look. But make sure not to be too excessive, you want to be professional and avoid distracting your interviewers.
2. Take time to breathe.
Feeling nervous can make you talk fast and speed through all the questions. But, if the interviewers are unable to catch your responses, it will be like they never happened. So beforehand take some time to breathe, maybe meditate and calm your nerves.
3. Give a firm handshake.
A strong first impression can be conveyed through a firm handshake. Do not just give your hand to your interviewer, this is the very first exchange you will be making, so make sure your grip is solid. I noticed that after improving my own handshake, people respected me more in conversations. It is a matter of telling that person whether you are dismissive or worth listening to. And you are worth listening to.
The first thing you should do when you enter the room is give an awesome handshake and tell them your name, this will be a great start.
4. If you can, make small talk.
No matter how extroverted you are, sitting in front of interviewers can be intimidating. The best way for you to feel comfortable with your interviewers is getting to know them. Ask them questions and make sure you know their names. Everyone loves to talk about themselves, so use that. If you can, throw in a few fun facts about yourself as well. This will help them warm up to you.
5. Take your time when answering questions.
Just because your interview may be timed, or the silence feels a little awkward, pause before you answer a question. You do not need to respond to every question immediately, it takes time to fabricate quality thoughts. So before answering think about what you are going to say and organize your thoughts in a way that will help you deliver compelling responses.
6. Be specific in your answers and give examples.
When you are being asked questions on the spot it is difficult to construct perfect thoughts that have a start and end. A good strategy for answering interview questions is by using the S.T.A.R. method (situation, task, action, result). Present a situation, the task that was at hand, the action you took to solve the situation and a result of your experience. Following this tactic can help you organize your ideas in a way that will prevent jargon. If you forget about this strategy, just make sure you are pulling specific examples from your past to back up your answers. This will add personal charm to any answer that could otherwise sound generic.
7. Have fun!
The best part of the interview is that you can be yourself. You are no longer marginalized to a resume and 600-word essay, you are just you. Show the interviewers your charisma and convey to them that you are not only passionate but excited to be applying. Your interviewers are probably talking to people all day in these structured conversations. So throw them a curveball and let loose a little. They are people too, and people love personality.
8. After the interview is done, ask questions.
When interviewers ask you if you have any questions, they genuinely want you to have some. So come to your interview prepared with a few queries. This can strongly convey your interest in the position. And, it will show the interviewers that you are already prepared to take the job.
9. Remember, you miss all the shots you don't take.
This is a motto I live by and can be applied to most things, especially interviews. You may feel nervous about the whole thing and even if you are unsure how you did, the point is that you tried. The only thing you can do is give it your best shot and know that if you had not attempted the job you would have missed the opportunity anyways. So don't be afraid to give this interview your all, you have nothing to lose.
10. Practice makes perfect.
Ultimately, no matter how much people tell you to "just be yourself," it will be difficult. Interviews are these rare conversations you have where you are sitting in the hot seat and all the questions being thrown at you almost feel random. The only way you can get better at juggling this is practice. I'm not talking about practicing interviews in the comforts of your home. I am talking about going out there and taking advantage of every interview you give. The more interviews you go to, the more you will improve executing them. So do not be afraid of failing, just go in there, smile and do your best.