You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.'
Interviews are never easy. I have conducted many interviews and I have also been interviewed for lots of jobs...I still get nervous when I am in that candidate seat.
In doing interview coaching there are some tried and true things I advise people to do to help reduce the amount of nervousness and stress before a job interview.
Some people may argue that the steps that I have laid out below are a lot of work and create more stress. However, I always say, "Would you rather be under pressure before the interview when you are preparing and by yourself or, would your rather be an nervous and blabbering idiot in front of an interview panel because you are unprepared?"
Overcoming the anxiety of preparingI find that the big reasons people don’t prepare ahead of time for interviews are either 1) They don’t know how to (if that’s you…keep reading), or 2) The don’t want to invest the time because it’s a big emotional investment to want it bad enough to prepare for, and if they want it badly and don’t get it - it’s very disappointing. Then they have to deal with their disappointment.
Well, big investments can reap big returns. Deal with the disappointment when it is happening. Don’t dwell on what hasn’t happened yet and read my post on dealing with job rejection. But for now focus on the task at hand which is preparing for the interview.
So you’ve been contacted by an organization to interview for a job that you’ve applied for. First thing is first:Read the job description. - You will need this information to figure out what the key skills are that the company needs for this position. Many companies will include the skills (or competencies) in their posting, however, if the posting looks sparse or you want to be sure you have the most complete understanding of the job ask the organization for a full job description.
Figure out what the required skills are. - Once you have the job description or the posting in hand, make sure you have the minimum qualifications for the position and are able to prove it e.g. proof of diploma or certification required. Make copies and have them with you when you go to the interview in case they ask.
Next, read through the description line-by-line. - Figure out what skill they are asking you to demonstrate based on the responsibilities of the job. For example, if the description says, “This position is responsible for coordinating meetings, booking events and managing the schedule of the VP.” The skills you might jot down are: organization, time management, technical ability to use scheduling software, ability to work closely with one individual, confidentiality etc.
Once you have gone through the entire job description you will see certain skills repeat themselves. Most likely the skills that you have zoned in on will be key skills the interviewer will be looking for you to demonstrate in the interview.
How will you demonstrate that you have the skills?Write down examples in the format of Situation/Action/Result. - Think of examples from your past and present work experiences that demonstrate the key skills that this position requires.
For example if one of the skills for the position is initiative, write as many examples down that you can think of where you thought of some sort of improvement that you brought forward that was accepted and and was successfully implemented. Then organize your story in the format of Situation/Action/Result.
Using our initiative example. (You’d want to add more verbiage around the story but your example may sound like this):
Situation - There was a time when I was a new assistant administrator to a small office that took care of the administration of a large manufacturing plant of over 600 employees. In this office one of the jobs was to collect punch card information for attendance and manually compile the information on paper for the supervisors.
Action - Having experience creating databases in Access I asked the manager if it would be ok to devise a system where I could download the punch card information into a database and create a report for the supervisors.
Result - The manager agreed that I could give it a try. I created the database and ran reports on a weekly basis for the supervisors. As a result a I reduced the amount of time spent on manually transferring the attendance, increased the accuracy of the attendance records, and reduced the amount of paper being used and wasted in the office. It is still in effect and my database is now used at 4 other sister plants.
The more recent and related the example, the better. However, if your only example was 5 or 10 years ago, still write it down. It is better than having nothing.
Do this for every skill that you identified when you went through the job description. You may feel this is a bit of overkill, but it will be worth it. The process of doing this very important step is to begin priming your brain to remember these examples and be able to articulate them when the time comes.
Practice out loud and visualize. - Don’t skip this step! Often people go through all the work above and then run through the examples in their head. I advise to practice out loud because sometimes what you plan to say may sound strange to you if you haven’t practiced out loud yet. You may even want to change the word choice you use. Word choice between writing and speaking can be different.
Journal. - This should really be the first step. If you have any inkling that you may be looking to get promoted, change careers or change jobs you should be jotting down outstanding situations that you would want to use as examples in an interview. Most people do not realize the importance of journaling until they realize how much they could have benefited by capturing their experiences ahead of time. Sometimes it takes going to an interview to kick start oneself into preparing well for an interview.
Get a good nights rest. - Being well rested is always a good idea.
Trust yourself! - When the time comes don’t get caught up in what might happen. You are already prepared. You have gone through your examples. They are primed in your brain and ready to go. The more at ease you are in knowing that you prepared, the easier you will be able to access your memory to articulate your answers well. Trust yourself that you will be able to answer whatever they ask.