Job interviews can be a stressful and daunting prospect, but they really needn’t be.
No matter how many you have gone through in your career, selling yourself and your skills to new people can be a challenge.
That said, there are ways to make interviews feel less stressful. Putting in some extra effort to your preparation beforehand and the right techniques on the day can go a long way to securing your dream job.
Allow us to show you how to make yourself the most desirable candidate.
Before your interview
If you’ve failed to do any preparation prior to your interview, your interviewer will be able to tell.
Don’t think you’ll be able to blag your way into getting the job as it can be pretty obvious when candidates haven’t done any research into the role or the company.
Plus, the better prepared you are for the interview, the more relaxed you’ll feel on the day.
Research the company and the interviewer
Failing to do adequate research can cost you big time when it comes to interviews.
Most companies are likely to open by asking you what you know about them, so make sure you have a strong understanding of what they do, how they do it and who their competitors are.
Even if they don’t directly ask you, you should try to demonstrate what you know by working what your research has uncovered into your answers.
You should be able to find a lot of the information you’ll need on the company’s website and social media pages. Although you should also dig a bit deeper and search for anything that’s been published about them from an outside source such as a newspaper or magazine as this will give you a broader picture of the company and their position within their industry.
It’s also good form to know who it is that’s going to be interviewing you. If it’s not listed in the invitation you can call ahead and ask. Many candidates do this so don’t worry that it’s uncommon or will make you seem pushy - it confirms your interest in the role and the company.
Once you know who’s interviewing you, check if there’s a ‘Meet the Team’ page on the company website to find out more about their current role and background.
If you can’t find such a page, try looking up the company on LinkedIn to see if they’re listed as an employee. At the very least you’ll be able to put a face to the name which can help alleviate any anxiety that might build up about being interviewed by a stranger.
Practice STAR examples
Preparing for questions in advance is key to your performance on the day.
This isn’t about memorising generic answers to common questions. It’s about practising the best way to showcase your skills and how they align with the job description.
First, read over the job advert and make a list of all the required skills that you know you can demonstrate.
Next, think of a genuine example that you can use to prove to your interviewer that you’ve got the skills they need.
A good way to do this is to use the STAR method:
Situation: Give your interviewer the context for your story by outlining where you were and why you were there.
Task: Describe to your interviewer the task that you were undertaking and if you met any challenges.
Action: Explain the actions which you took to complete the task and how you dealt with the challenges that arose.
Results: Lastly, tell your interviewer what the outcome was - this should demonstrate your skills, achievements and what you learned from the situation.
Try not to recount these examples verbatim in your interview as you’ll need to adapt them to suit the exact wording of the question and you don’t want to sound robotic!
The main purpose of practising these is to give yourself a few go-to examples to have to hand, putting you at ease and avoiding the dreaded mind blank.
Draft an elevator pitch
An elevator pitch is a handy card to have up your sleeve if you’re ever asked to ‘sell’ yourself in an interview.
It’s basically just a quick synopsis of who you are and your experience to date. The idea behind the name is that you should be able to present it in the time it takes for a brief elevator journey - so keep yours about 30-60 seconds long.
Share your skills and current experience level, but don’t be afraid to throw in your ambitions for the future as well as what makes you passionate about your work.
Remember to tailor your pitch to the role and the company that you’re interviewing for and practice as much as you can till you get a good natural delivery.
Rehearse with a friend
Ask a friend or family member to do a mock interview with you so you can see if there are any areas you need to work on.
Ask them to give you honest feedback as best they can. Even if they’re not an expert in your industry, they’ll be able to let you know if you seem confident in your answers and look comfortable in your delivery.
Obviously, you’ll automatically feel more relaxed with someone you know, but it’s still a good technique to give you some practice and settle your nerves.
If you’re a current or recent student of a university or college, it might be worth your while chatting to their careers guidance staff as they may be able to arrange a mock interview with an expert career advisor for you.
Plan your journey well in advance
Turning up late to an interview never makes a good impression, even if it’s not entirely your fault, so it’s best to have a few options for how you’re going to get there.
Take into account the time of day you’ll be travelling in as this can affect how busy the roads and public transport will be. If it’s an area you’re entirely unfamiliar with it might be worth doing a test run.
Aim to arrive about 5 to 10 minutes before your interview time. This will give you a bit of time to allow for minor delays and ensures you have time to use the bathroom, check your outfit is still sharp and calm any last-minute nerves.
Choose the right outfit
Whether you like it or not, what you wear to your interview is a huge part of the first impression you make on your interviewer and planning your outfit is an important part of your preparation.
We’d say it’s better to opt for smart business wear, even if you know the company you’re interviewing for has a casual dress policy.
It might be an old-fashioned concept, but the majority of companies will still feel that the candidate wearing business dress is more serious about the role than the one wearing jeans and a t-shirt.
Business wear doesn’t have to be uncomfortable, restricting or super formal. There are plenty of options out there so spend a bit of time figuring out what you feel comfortable in.
If you’re comfortable in what you’re wearing, you’ll look more confident as you won’t be fidgeting with the hem of a skirt or the knot of a tie.
Once you’ve chosen, have your interview clothes ready and laid out the night before and avoid rushing about looking for a rogue shoe on the morning of your interview!
On the day
Now that all your preparation is done, you can spend the night before your interview getting your outfit ready, packing your bag, and having a relaxing evening.
Get a good night’s sleep and eat a healthy meal before you leave to avoid any embarrassing rumbling tummy noises.
Follow our top tips and stay calm and confident throughout the day of your interview.
Have everything you need to hand
Make sure you have everything you might possibly need by packing your bag the night before and giving it a double-check in the morning.
You should pack:
- Extra copies of your CV
- Pens and notepad
- A print out of the job description
- A note of the questions you want to ask (your research will help with these)
- Your portfolio (if it’s a creative role)
- Tissues (don’t get caught out by a sudden sneeze!)
Watch your body language
Your body language can sometimes say just as much about you as your words.
You want to look confident, professional and above all like you’re interested in both the job and what your interviewer has to say.
Try not to slouch or cross your arms as this will give out the wrong signals. Avoid fidgeting with things like your jewellery or pens, it can make you look overly nervous and distract from what you’re saying.
If you’re worried about the ‘right’ body language to aim for, here’s a quick checklist:
- Sit up with your chin lifted
- Smile (as naturally as you can)
- Make eye contact with your interviewer
- Relax your shoulders so they don’t look tense
- Use your hands when you talk if you feel comfortable doing so, but be careful not to go too big with your gestures
Towards the end of every job interview, you’ll be asked if you have any questions.
If you say no, it can give the impression that you’re disinterested in the role or that you haven’t properly prepared.
Have at least three questions noted down before your interview and take note of anything that you want to ask that comes up during it.
If you need a little inspiration, here are some good questions to get you started:
- Can you tell me more about the day-to-day responsibilities of the role?
- Are there opportunities for training and progression within the role/company?
- Where do you think the company is headed in the next five years?
- Can you describe the culture of the organisation?
- Can you tell me more about the team I would be working in?
Of course, if any of your pre-prepared questions are answered in the course of your interview, don’t ask them at the end - it will just make you look like you weren’t listening!
The exception to this would be if you need further clarification, in which case you’d simply ask them to expand on what they previously said.
Keep your nerves in check
Even if you’ve done all the preparation you can possibly do, you can still be hit with nerves and anxiety on the day.
This is a natural reaction to have as job interviews can feel like artificial situations where you have to ‘perform’ as yourself, but remember, even the most experienced actors can suffer from stage fright.
It’s not about whether or not you get nervous, it’s all about how you control the situation and keep those nerves in check.
If you know you’re prone to anxiety, you should try to arrange the interview for early in the morning so you won’t spend your whole day dwelling on what’s to come.
Arriving slightly early will help so you can take in your surroundings and relax with calm and controlled breathing. Try to keep smiling throughout your interview as this can mask your jitters and make you appear confident (even if you're not feeling it!)
Focus on what your interviewer is saying and make notes if you feel your thoughts drifting. When we’re nervous we tend to speak faster so take slow breaths through your nose to lower your heart rate, as this will help you keep the pace of your speech measured.
Never put yourself down for being nervous as critical thoughts will only make things worse. You might find that coming up with a few short mantras to go over in your head while you wait can help banish your self-doubt.
Remember interviews are a two-way process and not all of the pressure is on you. Yes, you might really want to show you’re the top candidate for the job, but it’s also up to the interviewer to convince you that their company is the right fit for you.
After the interview
You should always follow-up your interview with a note or email that says thank you for the opportunity to interview and reinforces your interest in the role.
Try to personalise this by including a reference to something you discussed in the interview or perhaps a particular interest that your interviewer may have shared with you. This stops the note from sounding too generic and shows that you’ve paid close attention to what was discussed.
Send your note out within 24 hours of your interview and sit back to await your feedback.
Don’t be tempered to badger them with questions about when they’ll make a decision - respect that they need to take time to consider all the options. Repeatedly asking for updates will make you seem impatient and may hurt your chances of getting hired.