Ace that interview


Are you feeling stressed about that upcoming interview? Are you envisioning being dissected by people who have the power to decide your future? Time to take control.

You are not the only person being evaluated. Your potential employer is being assessed by you, too. It is necessary that you believe you will be a good fit with, and enjoy the opportunity to contribute to, the company you are targeting.

Here are some strategies to help you maintain control of your feelings as well as of the interview process.

Organize and review the day before. Look over your documents and write good questions to ask. Plan your timing and the route to the meeting. Try on that professional attire you intend to wear and ensure the outfit is clean, neatly pressed and in good repair.

Arrive early. Get there at least 15 minutes before your interview. By arriving in advance, you’ll give yourself an opportunity to unwind, compose yourself, look over some of your notes, and remind yourself that you are interviewing the interviewers, too.

Smile and shake hands. Regardless of the number of people you meet, or their status, behave as if you are pleased to make their acquaintance. Ensure you leave each person with a great first impression.

Breathe. Speaking too quickly or getting “brain freeze” are two of the most common symptoms of forgetting to breathe. Stop. Quietly let out your breath. Breathe in. Breathe out. Then speak.

Take your time delivering a response. The first answer that pops into your head is not always the best one. Rephrase the question or try a response such as: “There are a few examples that come to mind. I’ll have to think about that for a moment.”

Make good eye contact. Don’t stare like the proverbial deer caught in the headlights. When in a one-to-one interview, glance away occasionally. If there is more than one interviewer, look at the other panellists from time to time so they will feel included.

Sit properly. Now is the time to put it into practice all you ever learned about good posture. This will help you look composed and professional. When you add a pleasant smile and proper breathing to the mix, you will appear relaxed and approachable as well.

Watch your manners. Polite and professional delivery during the interview can extend to unusual situations such as being invited to lunch. Follow the lead of your host. Politely decline alcoholic beverages and avoid items such as hot soup that are awkward to handle.

Avoid jargon-filled responses. A bit of industry-specific wording is fine. A person who peppers the conversation with acronyms and the latest idioms runs the risk of appearing smug, covering up a real lack of knowledge, or trying too hard to impress the listeners.

Ask your questions! Don’t leave the meeting without asking the things you want to know about the role or the company. This not only gives you what you need to confirm that you want to work for them, but also is a further indicator of your interest and enthusiasm.

One final tip:

When the interview wraps up, thank those involved for their time and information and ensure you follow that with a thank-you letter! Whether you e-mail the letter the next day or have the luxury of time to send a handwritten version, that extra acknowledgement can go a long way in reminding your interviewers why they will want to hire you.