This thesis will outline my learning’s, and the learning’s of others, as to how to best way to prepare for a job interview, whether it is your first or 20th. This step is just as important – if not more so – than all of the research and work you have done up to this point. Other articles both on my site, in my book, and across the web can tell you basic pre-interview preparation. But what do you do the morning of the job interview? This posting will give you the benefit of my experience to answer the question of how to not be nervous for an interview.
By now you have done all of the basic preparation for a job interview and research ahead of the actual interview:
- Successfully completed a phone interview by an HR representative.
- Been selected by the hiring manager based on your resume and the HR feedback to come in for an onsite interview (or this step possibly could be a video interview as well).
- Re-read the job description multiple times and aligned the requirements with your experience and education.
- Researched the company, its products and services, and possibly even the hiring manager via LinkedIn or other resources such as published speeches or conference proceedings where they spoke.
Job Interview Preparation Confidence Boosters
We cannot kid ourselves – preparing for a job interview is no less stressful or demanding then performing a stage audition on Broadway for that coveted lead role. Some people consider knowing how to interview well to be something you’re born with – it’s not. But a variety of circumstances can and will lead to nervousness, anxiety, and a mix of emotions around your thoughts about the job, the company, how it will help you or your family, will I be happy, will I have good coworkers – will I look forward to going to work if I get this job offer?
The purpose of this interview preparation guide is to give you some tools to use to mentally get into the right state so that you achieve the desired outcome. In some cases the desired outcome may be that you won’t want the job – you have to have that in your mind as well as the strong desire to get this job. Do not fool yourself into thinking that every job will be right for you or will make you happy or meet your needs. Also keep in mind how long interviews last – this isn’t days of torture. Most interviews last 30-45 minutes with individuals, while a group interview may be scheduled for 60-90 minutes. So any given interaction, whether good or bad, will not last that long.
Perspective #1: This Job Interview is not Life or Death
This is not life or death. During your preparation for the interview keep this in mind. Whatever happens in the interview you will still leave just as you entered, and return home. You will not die, you will not be incarcerated, you won’t lose all of your belongings, house, car, etc.
You cannot elevate this day and series of meetings with people to a do or die scenario. It is simply not true, and you have to fix this thought in your mind. The sun will come up tomorrow just as it did today – regardless of whether you have a great series of meetings or not. All the interview preparation in the world won’t change whether the Earth continues to turn day after day.
Perspective #2: You are Meeting with Real People
You are meeting with real people. People just like you. They also have to prepare for the job interview. They have their own challenges in life, fears, anxieties and issues. They are not superhuman, nor do they possess a superior intellect or ability to look inside of someone and judge them. They are simply a group of people looking to find the next member of their team that can contribute to the team and companies success. So don’t be nervous during the job interview – these are people just like you. They are interviewing you and will ask tough interview questions – but you are also interviewing with them and will have targeted interview answers. It is a two way street to learn and gather information.
Too often you can go into an interview intimidated – the hiring manager is more successful, he/she has had a tremendous career and is in a position of power – and they will judge me and decide if I am worthy. This kind of thinking is not a job interview confidence booster, so drop it.
Do not fall into this trap. You are not submitting yourself to be judged by others – you are here to learn about this person, their team members, the company, and the work they do. The people you are meeting with have had their own failures in life, and have daily struggles that are likely no less stressful than yours.
Perspective #3: You are Giving up your Freedom to Work for this Role / Company
You are giving up your freedom for this role/company. Think about it – how many hours will you spend working per week if you get this job?
Do the math:
- At least 8 hours/day based on a 40 hour work week.
- You may have 1-2 hours at most in the morning to yourself, your spouse, and your kids.
- You will arrive home and have another 3-4 hours at most to yourself etc.
- This time in the morning and night will be filled with preparing meals, cleaning, laundry, exercise, chores, etc.
- In the meantime, your new employer is literally getting the prime of your life dedicated to their company – your core, most alert waking hours.
- If you’re lucking you have 2 days a week [“the weekend”] to live your own life on your terms.
Too often we get lost in the appreciation for an income and health benefits. We need the income to live – shelter, food, activities, clothes, etc. However, you are very likely willing to fall into the trap that you owe everything in your life to your employer.
The lesson I want you to take away for your interview preparation is this: You are sacrificing the prime of your life to this company and role. Do not approach the job interview as one-sided where you are hoping the company picks you and bestows all of these benefits on you. The second side to consider is the company and role worthy of me making the sacrifices described above? This should help guide your thinking any time you starting wondering what to do during the interview. This is your life.
Does the company think you are the best fit for their position, and DO YOU think the company and role is the best fit for YOU?
Do not assume all of the power and judgment resides on the other side of the table – it is on both sides of the table, among equals.
Perspective 4: Treat this as One of Many Career Opportunities You are Considering
I don’t care if this is the first and only job interview you have had for months, or is the 3rd this week. Dwelling on this will lead you to a state of desperation or arrogance, which will color all of your responses and reactions in a negative way.
In your mind you need to tell yourself the following: “This is one opportunity out of thousands I can spend my life on. I hope it is a perfect fit for me and them, but I will be comparing it against other existing or future opportunities for myself”.
Never go into a job interview thinking this has to be the one or else all is lost. Every interview should be treated as the opportunity to learn and THEN decide whether this is your passion and best fit. Don’t focus on whether they think so or not – your preparation, experience, and dialogue during the interview will help them make their decision.
Lastly – this interview is for you and them. Be sure you are getting the information out of the interview to decide if you would even want the job if offered.
Perspective 5: There are Incompetent Hiring Managers Out There
There are incompetent hiring Managers out there – and you will have bad interviews. Some of the interview questions they will ask will be wacky, crazy, tough – and not all of them relevant. As mentioned earlier, in my experience there are unfortunately more unqualified hiring managers out there than there are qualified. The best leaders [and hiring managers] I have gone to work for are smart, insightful, personable, full of passion – and most importantly know how to get to know who a person is. Not what their resume says, or by reciting canned job interview questions – but by really having a strong insightful dialogue with a candidate.
Many managers never receive training on how to interview candidates for a job. Sad but true. Even if they do, it may be nothing more than a set of questions broken into categories with numerical rankings for each one:
- Subject matter expertise
- Team fit
- Handling conflict
- Ability to manage or drive change
- And countless others.
Although a team approach to assessing a job candidate is pretty standard, you would be surprised how often the wrap-up meeting occurs and everyone has a completely different opinion as to the candidate. The hiring manager has to “go with their gut”, and too often the safe route is to decide based on other people’s opinions as misinformed as they may be.
The lesson here is do not be dismayed if a job interview goes badly, or you don’t get a job offer, or you feel like they asked every possible interview question (and you provided answers) under the sun and it was stressful. I have been there – I have had horrible interview experiences with VP’s for positions I was interested in. They asked all the wrong questions, weren’t focused on what character traits were key for the organization, and had awful answers to my questions about the role, priorities, and their leadership style.
Would I want to work for a leader like that? NO.
Recognize that people you are interviewing with are not experts, in some cases may be horrible at it, and likely have done less preparation for the job interview than you have. In many cases they have received your resume the same day you are coming in and are reviewing it for the first time in front of you.
This gives you the upper edge – but you can’t correct for a team that is fundamentally assessing candidates wrong. Keep that in mind. No amount of interview preparation, career experience on your resume, or a stellar personality can correct for bad judgment on the other side of the desk.
Perspective 6: You are Awesome, and have Done Great Things!
You are Awesome, and have done Great Things – and likely are the best candidate for this job opportunity! You never want to beat yourself up before an interview – and certainly not during an interview. Recognize that you are a fantastic, unique individual with a set of life experiences that nobody else has. Nobody.
You wouldn’t be sitting in this chair if you didn’t have the right qualifications for this job. Now it is about overlaying your perspectives, learning’s, and achievements onto this company demonstrating why, out of all other candidates, you truly will bring what is needed to this role. This is where your character plays a huge role. I don’t care, and neither should you, if the people you are interviewing with don’t have the right training, insight, or desire to see this. You need to enter the interview with confidence in what you have done and overcome in your past. This is your character.
I don’t care how you pump yourself up – just do it. Nobody else has the experiences and learning’s you bring to the table – you will highlight and leverage those in the job interview and connect with the team, and prove you are the best candidate for this role and for the company.
This is not the biggest moment of your life – so don’t work yourself up into major job interview anxiety by having that attitude. Don’t stress over the 101 possible interview questions, or drive yourself nuts reading every online site with job interview tips, or secret answers to questions.
Treat it as a rare opportunity to showcase yourself to others – you’ve earned that right.
To your success!