How to conquer your interview fears: top ten tactics
Brilliant, you've landed the interview! Except, now you've got to go to the interview. Yikes.
For many of us, they can be a daunting prospect but worry no more: guest blogger Nicola Greenbrook is here with her top ten tactics for trouncing your trepidation...
How to conquer your interview fears
According to a survey by Investors in People, nearly half of the UK workforce (47%) will be seeking a new job in 2018. If you are one of the millions considering a career change or looking for a new role it could be an exciting transformation for the new year.
Although job applications can be time-consuming, being invited to an interview makes it worthwhile and is a huge morale boost. Yet, once the thrill of the invitation subsides the prospect of the actual interview leaves even the most confident of us a nervous wreck.
It's no wonder - interviews are one of the most unnatural forms of human interaction. Under the spotlight, you try hard to stay calm and appear a highly knowledgeable expert in your field while convincing a panel of strangers you are not a robot and, actually, quite normal.
That is, if you make it into the room in one piece. On a recent second interview, I toppled down the stairs on the way to reception thanks to smart but inadequately-gripped footwear. Fortunately, I was promptly helped up by a departing visitor and I think no one saw. With bruised knees/ego and laddered tights concealed by a table, I had to get on with the show because, after all, you only get one chance on the day.
So what steps can you take to conquer your interview fears and make it a successful, even enjoyable encounter?
Based on learnings from my own recent experiences and invaluable advice from a range of senior charity professionals, here are ten ways to ensure an interview doesn't become an ordeal.
Obvious, but the relatively simple act of learning about the organisation demonstrates your appetite for the role and is essential. Consider any challenges facing the charity and the wider sector itself. Meticulously trawl their website; know the mission statement, review the annual accounts and look for the obvious and less obvious. Approach your networks for valuable insights, and use social media for on-the-day activity. In-depth research will make you feel confident - and could give you the edge over the competition.
2. Practice makes perfect
Aim to know the role description inside out. Prepare a few relevant examples of where your skills and experience directly relate to the role or where your transferable skills apply and write these down to read over on the commute. Devise thoughtful, inquisitive and interesting questions but not so many that the interview overruns - you can email any additional ones after the meeting. If you've been asked for a presentation, print a few copies in case of technical malfunction on the big day. Finally, practice your interview responses out loud on your housemate/partner/cat.
3. Keep it in perspective
Thanks to their usual portrayal - hapless candidate grilled by ruthless, stony-faced panel - it's easy to think of interviews as something to fear. So why not think of them as something more familiar? What you're actually going to is a meeting, which not only sounds less scary, but more like the mutual discussion it's going to be. You'll arrive, meet some people in the same line of work as you, and spend time talking to each other about what you do. And when you put it like that, it actually sounds more like a cocktail party (though arriving with a large Martini is definitely not recommended) - so nothing too nerve-wracking at all.
4. Craft your story
A recent interview I attended was one of my favourites (and I generally find interviews terrifying). It was a blend of competency-based questions about my HR skills and experience with an informal chat about me, my life so far and my interests outside of my HR career - including the book I was reading and my favourite sport. Whilst it shouldn't contribute to the overall scoring, it does give the panel an insight into your key attributes and behaviours, reveals your values and proves that you are definitely not a robot. Carefully craft your own (genuine!) personal story and tell it confidently and engagingly.
5. Do a dummy run
Visit the building a day/week before if you can manage and arrive at least 15 minutes early on the day. Your nerves will appreciate you arriving early enough to grab a coffee, use the loo and review your notes rather than cursing and panicking on the Central Line. Sometimes though, lateness is unavoidable so be calm, always acknowledge and apologise for it and move on with the interview.
6. Be your best self
When 'imposter syndrome' kicks in on the day, remember the panel invited you for a reason - you didn't invite yourself. Don't let fear sabotage your interview - be confident in your skills and abilities. Use positive imagery before the interview, such as imagining yourself in an enjoyable conversation with the panel and laughing, to get in the right frame of mind.
7. Dress for success
It is likely you don't know the company dress code at this stage, so play it safe with a professional interview look,and avoid being over-trendy. A smart suit, dress, or elegant tailoring with a shirt or good quality top will work but mostly, dress like YOU and avoid trying a brand new look on the day. Steer clear of anything too tight/short/itchy/fussy and avoid accessories that take over the room - the panel should be focusing on you, not your necklace.
8. Be courteous
Be polite and warm to everyone you encounter - they may be your future colleagues after all. ALWAYS be polite to the reception team, usually the first people you meet, as first impressions last. Their observation on your behaviour and initial approach could prove useful feedback to the panel.
9. Be engaged
According to many senior fundraising professionals, the ability to win people over is an essential fundraising skill; engage the interview panel and you can engage supporters and prospects out in the field. Techniques include maintaining eye contact and nodding, using appropriate facial expressions and smiling throughout. Speak confidently, articulately and with passion. Apply great listening skills and be genuinely interested, rather than trying to be interesting. Look like you want the job and allow your natural character to show through.
10. Follow up
After the interview, email everyone on the panel to express your thanks for their time, note anything you particularly enjoyed or learnt from the experience and ask the questions you didn't get a chance to. It shows good manners and demonstrates how much you want the job.
Overall, try not to overthink the interview too much on the day. Take a deep breath, use your in-depth research and excellent preparation as your armour, conjure up that positive image and focus on being your best self. Conquer your fears ... you may even end up enjoying it.
Good luck! (Oh, and you might want to watch those steps.)
Nicola Greenbrook, Freelance Writer and HR Professional