After spending hours filling out one job application after another, you’ve finally managed to get an interview. Though some companies require a phone interview in the early stages, what really matters is the on-site interview when you get to sit down with the hiring committee. There’s nothing easy about putting yourself out there, especially in a professional setting. A job interview carries a lot of weight and there’s no shame in getting a little nervous. Just be careful not to let your nerves overwhelm you to the point that you bomb the interview. If you find that you don’t have as much time as you’d like to prep, read on for last-minute tips to shake-off your job interview anxiety so you can show up with confidence.
1. Have a Cheat Sheet
Before you set foot in the interview room, you should have a firm understanding of the job you’re applying for and should have some background on the company as well. If you can, gather information about the people who will be interviewing you as well as their positions and titles.
It’s also a good idea to review your resume (as if you haven’t read it a million times by now) with an eye toward predicting what details your interviewers might be most interested in…and what concerns they may have. Another important aspect of preparing for an interview is to consider your answers to common interview questions.
Here are some of the most commonly asked interview questions:
- Why do you want to work here?
- What interests you most about this position?
- What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- Why should we hire you over any other candidate?
You don’t necessarily need to write out your answers to these questions. But you should at least consider your answers, so you’re not caught completely off guard. If there are key details you want to be sure you mention, jot them down in a notebook. Create a “cheat sheet” for yourself to study before the interview. You should also include names and quick facts about your interviewers and the company.
The morning of your interview, refresh your memory using your cheat sheet. Go over your notes during your commute if you use public transportation or arrive early enough to reread your cheat sheet a couple of times.
2. Memorize Your Interviewers
If you’re participating in an on-site interview, you may meet with as many as 5 or 6 different people. In some cases, you’ll move from one office to another for a series of individual interviews or you might end up in a room with everyone at once. Either way, pay attention when being introduced to people.
A job interview can be a long and stressful process but it’s important to stay focused.
Don’t worry about memorizing every little detail about your interviewers but do make note of their name and their role. If you only have time for a quick introduction in an initial interview, jot down a few details about what they look like, so you’ll remember them in later rounds.
If you really want to impress your interviewers, show them that you were paying attention.
Most interviews end with an opportunity to ask questions – use that time to interview the interviewer. It’s the interviewer’s job to determine whether you’re a good fit for the company, but it’s just as important for you to decide if the company is a good fit for you and your goals.
Here are some questions to ask:
- What is the culture of the company like?
- What are the biggest challenges facing the company right now?
- Where do you think the company is headed in the next five years?
- What do you like best about working for this company?
- What do the most successful employees here do differently?
Take what you’ve learned about the interviewers, company, and position, and ask questions that get to the heart of this concern. It will ease your job interview anxiety by taking yourself out of the spotlight for a moment. It also shows your interviewers that you’re taking the opportunity seriously.
After your questions have been answered, don’t forget to ask one more question: what are the next steps in the interview process?
3. Prep Yourself the Day Before
You can’t expect to completely eradicate your pre-interview jitters, but you can mitigate them by being as prepared as you can. Don’t leave it to the last minute, either – do as much as you can the day before.
The night before your interview, pick out your outfit and make sure everything is clean and pressed. It wouldn’t hurt to try things on, just to make sure there aren’t any hidden stains or holes that might catch you by surprise in the morning.
In addition to planning your outfit, you should prepare the materials you’ll need for the interview.
Plan to bring the following to your interview:
- At least 5 copies of your resume
- A list of references
- Pre-written questions for your interviewers
- A pen and pad of paper
Make sure your resume and list of references are neat in a folder to keep them safe during your commute or, better yet, prepare multiple folders with important information so you can pass them out to your interviewers. You want to show them that you’re prepared, even if you still feel nervous on the inside.
4. Get Your “Tell Me About Yourself” Answer Ready
Many people combat anxiety by playing through potential scenarios in their head. This can help you reduce anxiety before an interview, but you can’t possibly cover all of the questions you might be asked. It’s a good idea to review the list of common interview questions above and at least think about your answer, but you don’t need to memorize an exhaustive list.
Instead of memorizing your answers to a dozen interview questions, focus on the one most interviewers start with: “Tell me about yourself.”
Without making your job interview anxiety worse, it’s important to know that your response to this question sets the tone for the interview.
The interviewer doesn’t actually want to know about your obscure hobbies. They want to know how your experience is relevant to the job. How did you come to find yourself in the position of looking for a new job? What brought you to this field or this particular company? What do you bring to the table as an employee and a person?
Here are some of the key points you want to hit in your answer:
- Talk about your past work experiences
- Mention some of your successes in the field
- Hit on some of your strengths and skills
- End with a statement about what you’re looking for
In answering the dreaded, “Tell me about yourself” question, it’s okay to let a little of your personality shine through. Let the interviewers know that you’re a real person but that you take your work and this opportunity seriously. Make sure they have a good sense of who you are before you leave the room.
5. Arrive Early to Allow Time to Relax
Being punctual is extremely important for a job interview but being early is better.
Plan to arrive at least 15 minutes before the interview so you have time to relax and run through your cheat sheet. If you feel like you need a little more time, arrive 30 minutes ahead and relax in your car or in the lobby for a little while before heading to the interview.
If you have severe anxiety or have experienced issues with performance or job interview anxiety in the past, consider talking to your doctor about a beta-blocker like propranolol to give you a boost for your big day.
Once you’ve arrived at the location for your interview, refresh your memory using your cheat sheet. It’s also a good idea to reread your resume, check your list of references, and remind yourself of your answers to the all-important, “Tell me about yourself” question.
It’s always a little nerve-wracking to find yourself in a room full of people scrutinizing your resume – job interview anxiety is a real thing! Just remember one thing – you made it this far for a reason and that’s something you deserve to be proud of. Instead of agonizing over what questions the interviewers might ask, channel your stress into excitement for the opportunity that lies ahead. No matter how the interview goes, you’ll have had a unique experience you can learn from. If all goes well, you’ll also have a new job!