Do the words “job interview” increase your pulse and cause you to break out in a cold sweat? Many candidates view interviews as an anxiety-inducing necessary hurdle to overcome, rather than an opportunity to let your personality shine and showcase your skills.
Don’t let the idea of interviewing for a job hold you back. While interviews are a great tool for getting to know potential candidates, employers and recruiters understand that it’s only one piece of the hiring puzzle. So, if you struggle with interview anxiety, try these five preparation tips to nail your next interview.
5 preparation tips to battle interview jitters
1. Embrace your anxiety
Feeling nervous before a job interview is totally normal, but not dealing with your nerves beforehand can lead to presenting yourself in a way that doesn’t represent your best self.
Modern research has found that embracing and reframing stress is actually more important that reducing it. “Stress isn’t always harmful,” says psychologist Kelly McGonigal in an article for Stanford. “Once you appreciate that going through stress makes you better at it, it can be easier to face each new challenge.”
McGonigal recommends embracing three protective beliefs about your stress to help create a positive mindset:
- View your body’s stress response as helpful, view it as energy you can use
- View yourself as able to handle, and even learn and grow from, the stress in your life
- View stress as something that everyone deals with, and not your own unique detriment
By embracing your anxiety and reframing it in a positive way you will be better prepared to handle obscure questions you may not have rehearsed.
2. Practice mindfulness
Meditation and breathing exercises allow us to ground ourselves in the present and visualize our success. Many people choose not to practice meditation out of fear that they’re doing it incorrectly or have already decided it won’t work for them. If you’re going into the practice with that mentality you’ve already set yourself up for failure. So, is it really a surprise that it hasn’t worked in the past?
Instead, tell yourself that it will work (even if you don’t fully believe it) and start with a simple breathing exercise. There are also many free guided meditations available online specifically for preparing for job interviews, such as this one from InsightTimer.
“You don’t have to be a yogi to reap the benefits of meditation before a crucial interview,” says career-advice expert, Amanda Augustine. “Meditation can be as simple as closing your eyes for a minute, taking a few slow, deep breaths, and visualizing yourself crushing the interview.”
3. Know your audience
A well-prepared candidate is a confident candidate, and a confident candidate is a standout candidate. Beyond knowing the fast facts of the company you’re interviewing for, it’s good to also learn a little bit about who you’re interviewing with as well as getting a feel for how the organization presents itself to the public. Learning about and understanding these nuances will help you adapt your plan for presenting yourself in the most effective way.
Vicky Oliver, author of 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions, also suggests coming to the interview prepared with problems you can help the company solve, reasons why you would be a great addition to the company, and how your past experience and the company's current mission go hand-in-hand.
4. Take notes and practice
With the majority of interviews taking place virtually, there’s really no reason to not have a “cheat sheet” of notes nearby to help keep you focused and on track for your interview. Even if the interview is in person, it shows great initiative and care to bring prepared notes with you to the interview. Just ensure you’re only using them for support such as quick references and fact-checking, as opposed to a script.
Interviews really are like performances in a way — the ultimate business presentation. So be sure to keep your notes brief and rehearse what you want to say. Memorize your stories and timelines so you can outline what you did and when. To improve verbal pitches, prepare detailed write-ups for your two most significant accomplishments. Each of these should be two to three paragraphs or more depending on the role, and must contain action words such as, “implemented,” “development,” or “organized,” etc. One of these stories should be about an individual accomplishment, with the other focusing on a team accomplishment. Once these are ready practice, practice, practice. The more you practice, the less you’ll need to rely on your notes, but it might still feel good to have them nearby for an added layer of security.
5. Treat yourself
Prepare for self-care! Rewarding yourself after stressful situations isn’t selfish or frivolous, it’s just another tool to help you master your anxiety. New York Times best-selling author of The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin, says self-care is the secret of adulthood, “If I give more to myself, I can ask more from myself. Self-regard isn’t selfish.”
“Forming good habits can be draining,” Rubin says. “When we give ourselves treats we feel energized, cared for, and contented, which boosts our self-command — and self-command helps us maintain our healthy habits.”
One great example is get a manicure if you’re a nail biter. One look at those freshly pampered nails and you will no want to chew them, and you send a message to your interviewer you are detail oriented.
Agilus recruiters are a great resource
Working with a recruiter is a great way to help battle pre-interview jitters and set yourself up for success. While a recruiter isn’t your personal job-seeking assistant, they are able to help you with interview preparation, share some insights on the hiring manager, introduce you to new opportunities, and help you find the right fit for your next role.
At Agilus we care about understanding you and your Work+Life equation to help you make the most out of your career. Looking to work with the right recruiter? Check out our current job opportunities and apply today. For more interview preparation resources click here.