Sweaty palms, weak knees, shaky hands – yep, you’re about to walk into a job interview and, of course, you’re nervous.
Everyone is nervous before a job interview. You wouldn’t be human if you weren’t!
After all, you don’t know the interview panel, you don’t know what questions will be asked, you don’t know exactly what they are looking for from you, everyone will be staring at you throughout the interview….who wouldn’t have the jitters?
As a Hiring Manager, I expect most applicants to be nervous. And believe it or not, I don’t mark you down for this. The real test of how I think you’re performing during the interview is how you get these jitters under control (and yes, I realize nothing will take them away completely assuming you have at least some self-awareness).
So just how do you get your nervousness under control? Regardless of the company or position for which you’re interviewing, the key is preparation.
There are three areas that I’ve seen many candidates mishandle and as a result perform poorly, even when they were highly qualified for the job. Make sure you address these areas and you will become a more confident – and successful- candidate.
One: Make Sure You’re Well-Acquainted With Yourself
I’m sure this sounds odd. Isn’t everyone well acquainted with themselves?
By this, I mean making sure that you have memorized virtually everything in your resume, with an emphasis on specific examples of your accomplishments as they relate to the job for which you’re interviewing.
It never ceases to amaze me when I purposely ask a candidate a specific question about themselves that could be answered right from their resume and then watch them fumble around for an answer. While it’s true that I will have read your resume and don’t really need to ask the question, I want to see how well you know your own resume and if you can apply it to my question in an articulate manner.
You can’t do this unless you are thoroughly – and I mean thoroughly – familiar with your resume.
This means you must do some practice. The best way is to review the job posting and make a note of the specific requirements that are listed. Pretend that each requirement will be asked as a question and practice stating how your skills, experience, and accomplishments support each requirement.
Do this until you are comfortable that you can directly tie each requirement to something in your experience and accomplishments.
Here’s an example. Let’s say that one of the requirements is for “five years of marketing experience”. Your answer might be something like this: “I have seven years of direct marketing and sales experience with ABC Company and during my tenure sales increased 43% in my territories.”
You can bet that many, if not all, of the job requirements in the job posting will come up somewhere in the interview. Prepare an answer like this for each requirement and you will already be ahead of 98% of the other candidates for that job.
Two: Produce Your Personal Sales Commercial
Your personal sales commercial is a 30 – 60 second tightly worded recap of your job experience as well as some key accomplishments. This is sometimes called an “Elevator Story” because you should be able to give it in the time it takes for an elevator ride.
You need this because it’s very common for an interview to begin with a question like “Tell us about yourself” or something similar. In fact, you should hope you get this question right upfront because it’s your chance to present your “commercial” about yourself.
It should be a very tight recap of the areas of your employment history, skills, and major accomplishments as they relate to that position.
DANGER! DANGER! Do not do what I’ve seen many people do, which is talk about your personal life or hobbies.
What the Hiring Manager is interested in (at least in the first interview) is whether or not you have the experience and skill sets to be the best person for the job, not what your golf handicap is and how many children you have.
I’ve seen many candidates stumble with this and come across as inarticulate and awkward, most likely because they haven’t prepared properly. You should write your commercial in advance, making sure it includes your most relevant accomplishments and experience.
Then read it out loud and time it. It should be greater than 30 seconds but less than 60 seconds. I know 60 seconds doesn’t sound like a long time, but it can seem like an eternity in a job interview!
You should read your commercial several times but it isn’t necessary to memorize it word for word. You need to get to the point where you can cover all the important parts comfortably and without hesitation. You’ll be ready for the interview when you can do this confidently and smoothly.
Three: Know The Company
The number one most important thing to do before any interview is to thoroughly research the company at which you’ll be interviewing.
We’ve been in the Internet age for a long time now and there is no longer any excuse for not researching the company as soon as you know you’ll be interviewed.
Believe it or not, I still interview candidates that ask me what my company does! This tells me they did very little to prepare for the interview and haven’t approached their job search in a professional manner.
Researching the company will enable you to weave facts about the company into your interview answers, something that most candidates don’t do. Let’s look at an example, using the sales position mentioned earlier in this post.
If you find out that sales are down in the territory covered by that position, you can mention that you know sales have been a problem and then talk about how you increased sales in your last job. This is a powerful way to answer any interview question and yet I seldom hear it.
Doing good research also enables you to prepare some specific questions about that company’s goals and objectives. You can then speak intelligently and in terms specific to that company when you’re asked if you have any questions.
This is an absolutely golden opportunity to shine and it’s missed by most candidates. I usually get one or two general questions that could apply to any company, or worse yet no questions at all.
So, when I get an intelligent question or two that directly relates to my company, this is a candidate I remember and will likely put in the “schedule a second interview” stack
Plus, you’ll be working a long time (hopefully) for that company if you get the job, so doesn’t it make sense to know as much about it as you can before you accept the job?
Pay attention to these three areas and make an honest effort to address them before any interview. You’ll decrease your jitters and increase your chances of getting the job.