Rocking a Job Interview – Tips for the Nervous

So a LONG time ago I promised a post about interviewing for jobs…then I promptly started my new job and forgot my promise. But now, now’s the time!

I’m going to be honest: job interviewing is like a weird sort of natural high for me. I get really keyed up beforehand, I spend a few days prepping and deciding what to wear and making sure I have 8 alarms set (if it’s a morning time slot). I’m weird. I also like doing my taxes, what can I say?

Maybe this comes from one of my first job interviews, which was terrible. I didn’t get the job, I didn’t even get a follow-up phone call, so I vowed to NEVER have a terrible interview ever again. I’m by no means the master of interviews now, but I leave them feeling relaxed and happy and confident in my abilities. Here’s a few tips that I’ve come to rely on in the last years.

First – do your research. Make sure you have a decent understanding of what it is you’re applying for, and the background of the company. When they ask you “Why do you want to work for us,” have an answer that’s more specific than “this is a great opportunity.” Know something about their philanthropic efforts, their workplace environment, awards or accolades they’ve won. Make it personal – you want THIS job, and you want it for a reason. It was easy to do this with my latest job interview; I grew up wearing their clothes, and they were a big part of my childhood. I knew something about company history that I could bring up (I used to go to warehouse sales when the company was just getting off the ground). It was easy to establish a connection with my interviewer through this.

Practice practice practice. I have my husband ask me interview questions in the days leading up to my interview. You can find tons of interview questions online to practice with. Work through a few main points that you want to touch on. For instance, if you have a strong work ethic, figure out how to incorporate that into a few different answers. Ask for critiques and be flexible with your choice of wording and phrasing. Your practice interviewer might hear something in your words that you do not.

Be yourself, but don’t overshare. Your interviewer doesn’t need to know your quirks, not right off the bat. I’m pretty sure an answer to the simple question “what sort of books do you like to read,” is what made that terrible interview head downhill. I was too specific. So I read about religious cults, I find it fascinating…but I could have stuck with “I read a lot of non-fiction.” Don’t offend your interviewer or make them feel uncomfortable.

Dress comfortably. This obviously varies according to the business, field of work, etc., but here in the Pacific Northwest, we are generally pretty casual. Unless you know that the office is business formal ALL the time, I don’t feel that it’s critical to wear a suit. I always do slacks or a skirt, paired with a stylish top in a non-cotton jersey fabric, and maybe a blazer, or cardigan, depending on the weather. If you can’t walk in heels, don’t wear heels. It’s so easy to dress up flats, and stumbling into the room while you’re attempting to stay balanced on your stilettos isn’t the most flattering way to make an introduction.

Lastly, remember that the interview isn’t just for the company to decide whether or not they like you; you also need to decide whether or not you want to work for them. Try and get a sense for what it’s like at the office. When they ask if you have any questions, ASK some questions. I once heard that it’s bad if you don’t ask questions, because that makes it look like you aren’t engaged with the opportunity. Think up a few standard questions you can ask at all your interviews – this can help you compare opportunities if you are ever lucky enough to juggle multiple offers. Also, if you see anything of note in the research you did before the interview, bring it up. Show that curiosity! I did one interview where I figured out about halfway through that the job didn’t sound interesting, and I had no desire to work for the manager. Without asking the right questions, I may not have made that realization.

And don’t be discouraged! I graduated from college at the height of the recession, and it took me six months of applications and interviews to finally land a job. Yeah, it can suck to be rejected, but the right opportunity will come around, and it will feel oh so good.

I’ll leave you with a picture of me that was taken minutes before I interviewed for what ended up becoming my first real adult job. It helps when your cousins are around to photograph these moments for you! Stay confident, trust what you know, and go land that dream job!

Dressed for success!

Dressed for success!


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