So you've prepared for your interview and done your research. But what if you're being taken over by nerves? Or worried how to handle the interview itself?
This is the final blog in our job hunting series from our guest blogger Gemma Bartlett, Life Coach, Career Coach and Head-Hunter. Gemma has worked with a number of companies both in the UK and Internationally, to interview and deliver talent of all levels to their business. Gemma also runs her own businesses working with her coaching clients around mindset & confidence coaching, defining life & career goals and giving practical interview and CV advice. So she knows a thing or two about nailing your interview with a confident mindset. Read on for her top tips. Or if you don't tend to learn best through reading text (and many people don't) why not watch this video instead. If you missed our first and second blog in this series covering CV/cover letter tips and interview preparation tips you'll find those at the end of this blog.
Getting into a confident mindset
In our previous blog we covered tips for planning answers for the interview so hopefully now you’ll be feeling confident in your preparation, so all that’s left is to get confident about yourself ahead of the interview! If you missed that blog click here.
In the world of psychology, it is said that in order to grow in confidence we must first grow in competence. And in order to grow in competence we must take action and be consistent. When we start seeing small successes come from our actions, our confidence increases.
It's your choice
Although we can’t control the thoughts that pop into our head all day long, we can control which thoughts we choose to accept and which we choose to discard. What we focus on we feel, so it’s important to focus on positive affirmations and tell yourself all the things you know you are good at, before the interview. Make a choice to not think negative thoughts. You are in control.
It’s just a story you tell yourself
I’m not good enough. I don’t have enough relevant experience. I won’t match up to the other candidates. I’ve been out of work for too long. Sound familiar? These are the stories we tell ourselves and therefore have created a habit to think in this way. These are not factual statements or based on any kind of truth. This is simply your perspective based on how you feel about yourself and the world. What must you believe about yourself and the world for this to be true?
Break the habit
If you’re prepared to put in some effort and keep consistent, you will be able to break the habit of negative thinking. You must be conscious of your thoughts throughout the day, and when something negative creeps in tell yourself NO! I am not going to accept that. Instantly replace it with a positive thought and keep focussed on it. You are now in the process of creating a new, positive habit.
Here is an effective exercise to increase your confidence and adjust your mindset. Ask yourself these questions;
- What has this way of thinking cost you in the past?
- What is this way of thinking costing you in the present?
- If everything remains the same and nothing changes, what will this way of thinking cost you in the future?
- Who else are you doing this for?
If you focus on a reason bigger than yourself for wanting to achieve a goal, you’ll take some of the focus away from you which will take away somewhat from your nerves.
Why has the company invited you to interview?
To make you feel good? To give them something to do that day? No. It’s clearly because they like your CV and skillset. People sometimes forget this important point and talk themselves into not being good enough, when the factual evidence suggests the Company already thinks you could be!
Get clear on your value
Based on the evidence, a company likes your skills and experience if they ask you to attend an interview. So, you now need to get clear on what you can offer. If you believe you are a strong candidate who can add value to their business, it will be reflected in your body language and tone.
Adopt the behaviours of others
A good trick to appear more confident, is to think of someone you know who is super confident and positive, and simply adopt their behaviours and traits. Try and behave a little more like them over a two-day period and see how your mindset changes. Take some of these behaviours into the interview (whilst still showing yourself) and you’ll find you naturally come across more confidently.
Try simple breathing techniques
You tend to feel more confident when you are relaxed. You will find many breathing techniques online, but one that always works well is to breathe in for a count of four, hold for four, and breathe out for four. Do this a few times while you’re waiting to go into the interview room!
Does the word INTERVIEW increase your anxiety?
If so, replace this word with “conversation.” That’s all an interview is, but “conversation” sounds a lot friendlier! You are having a two-way conversation, so follow the lead of the person sitting in front of you, be yourself and relax.
The interviewer is going to judge me!
Do you really believe this statement? Do you really think they are trying to trip you up? Hoping you fail? Wishing you’ll embarrass yourself or make a humungous mistake? Of course not! This is just another story people tell themselves. What is actually going through the interviewer’s head is more like, I really want to get this job filled, I’d love to speak to someone I get on with and who is a good team fit for the company. I really hope they do well.
If you do get a rude, angry, judgemental interviewer, remember this is the exception to the rule and ask yourself, would you want to work for them anyway?
And finally, remember this is just as much about whether a company is right for you as it is about whether you are right for them!
And if all else fails on the confidence front Digital Mums has a Power Up Playlist on Spotify filled with motivational songs that really do help you to believe in yourself. We use it with our students all the time. Spotify has a free version so anyone can access these great tunes and give themselves a boost. Click here to access it.
Ahead of the interview
Dress appropriately, according to their culture
You’ll be able to get a good feel for a company culture from their website, usually under the “Work for Us” section. Are they mainly dress down? (choose smart casual for the interview) or ultra-corporate? (choose suited and booted). If in doubt, lean towards corporate clothing.
Turn up 5-10 minutes early. This means leaving plenty of time for things to go wrong. It seems obvious but people are often a few minutes late due to traffic or delayed trains. But don't go into the interview more than 5-10 minutes ahead of your allocated slot. If you’re much too early, it almost looks as bad as being late and they will question your time management. You have been given an allotted time for the interview so always assume they can only see you at this time. Grab a coffee nearby if you arrive ultra-early!
Throughout the interview
There are some overall tips for approaching the interview itself that it's useful to know.
Yes, they want to see a professional version of you, but they also want to see your personality and who you really are. They don’t want to see a clone of the last person they met or text-book answers that aren’t genuine and don’t show any enthusiasm or passion.
Don't forget to smile!
Sometimes when we’re nervous, we forget to smile and show our usual warmth. Don’t make this mistake as you will come across a little cold or too serious. It’s more than ok (where appropriate) to share a laugh with the interviewer if you have built a good rapport.
Watch your body language
Positive body language includes leaning forward, smiling, good eye contact and using your hands to express yourself when talking about something you are passionate about. Try not to fold your arms, lean back in your chair or look everywhere but at the interviewer – all this shows disinterest and/or rudeness.
Hold your hands up and own any mistakes
If you didn’t get the grade you wanted while studying or you think you made a mistake on your CV by working for a company you wished you hadn’t, don’t play the victim or make it somebody else’s fault. Always take responsibility for your decisions even if it didn’t turn out the way you wanted. Reframe everything to what you learned, and it will be a welcomed positive, mature approach.
Get a balance of being honest and telling them what they want to hear
Obviously, you should never lie about anything. But there is such a thing as being too honest or giving too much information. Remember you want the interviewer to buy into you, so have enough awareness to know how they can reach a certain conclusion based on the way your words can be interpreted.
A good structure to answer any interview question is to firstly answer it directly. Get to the point as quickly as you can. Then, try and give a bit of detail around your answer (ideally in the form of an example) and after that make yourself stop talking! This way, you won’t fall into the trap of not giving enough information (they like detail) but also you won’t talk for too long (they don’t like waffle).
What the interviewer is looking for
In the interview they will consider four main key areas. These are;
The interviewer wants to find someone who would be a pleasure to work with and a good company fit.
They would like to see someone who is conscientious, knowledgeable about the job duties, someone who takes pride in their work and who is able to work towards deadlines.
3. Genuine & Authentic
As we talked about above, be yourself but the professional version! An interviewer usually has certain questioning techniques to get to the bottom of things so don’t fall into a trap!
4. Evidence & Substance
They look for this to determine what your strengths and skills really are and whether they are what their business needs. They can only do this by seeking out evidence and substance to back up the things you say you are good at, so expect them to ask for this a lot.
How the interview will flow
The interview will likely have the following structure:
The first section will usually cover the following elements:
- Who are you - usually discovered through a question such as "tell me a bit about yourself"
This is a harder question than it sounds. If you do not have a structure, you’ll find you are all over the place with your answer and you’ll almost certainly go on for too long. Bear in mind that they do want to hear a bit about your personal life but not absolutely everything. The best thing to do is give two points for each of the below areas;
- Life. Where you grew up, where you live now and who with.
- Hobbies. Top marks if they are relevant to the skills/traits needed for the role.
- Experience summary. From your first (relevant) position to the present day.
- Goals. What you want to do going forward. What motivates you? Why are you there? This doesn't have to be major 5 year career plans or anything it's just a bit "future focused".
- What do you know about us?
I know you will be more than ready to answer this question! Have your 5 bullet points ready and be confident when relaying them.
This question can extend to “What do you know about the job?” The same tips apply here. Recite a few points about the duties and what they expect of you.
This question can also extend to “Why would you want to work here?” Base this around your aligned values and what you genuinely like about the business from your research.
- A walk through your CV/experience to date
If the interviewer approaches it like this, you have the control! Again, you’ll need a structure to prevent you from getting lost half-way through. Think of this answer as a summary.
They don’t need to know about every role you’ve had since you were 16. Talk about roles that are relevant from the first to the most recent and describe any big successes, achievements or promotions along the way. Also let them know of any life changes that led you to a certain job move (e.g. if you moved Countries / Towns or if you returned from work after Maternity leave.)
They may decide to take the lead and ask you about individual jobs. The same tips apply but go into a bit more detail with each one, as they have picked out certain roles for a reason.
- What were your reasons for leaving your current job (if you're unemployed)
The interviewer will ask this question for each role they discuss with you. It’s important to talk about a previous Company in a positive light based on what you learned, even if you had a terrible time there. If you had a bad experience and you are too honest when explaining, it becomes emotional and can be interpreted as passing blame. The interviewer doesn’t want to hear this. Keep the reasons for leaving factual and business focussed.
Take note that if you're on a career break they may switch this up to ask you about your recent break.
At least half of the interview will be devoted to questions to understand your suitability for the job.
- Competency-based questions based on the job spec to assess your suitability for the role in terms of experience.
- Scenario-based questions based on the likely day to day duties of the role to understand how you would fit into the role.
- Common interview questions such as your strengths, weaknesses, motivations to understand more about you and how you might fit into the company.
For top tips in preparing for these questions read the second blog in this series here.
Elements of the final session tend to include some finalising questions such as:
- Why should we consider you for this job?
You should answer this by talking enthusiastically about the role and giving a short summary of your specific, relevant skills and strengths. You should also explain how you can add value to the business (including improvements) and how the company’s values align with yours.
- Are you in the interview process with any other company?
If you are, the best way to answer this question is to tell them only about roles and industries that are similar. If the interviewer knows you are interviewing for 5 different jobs in 5 different industries, you are unlikely to get a call back. This is an example of where you take the “too much information is not good” point onboard.
Companies want to hire someone who is specific about what they want to do and has ideally drawn the conclusion they want to work in that Company’s field. This way they’ll know they are making a sound investment and won’t be faced with you leaving after a few months.
- Do you have any questions?
Never say no to this question! You should always have 2-3 questions ready for them. This shows interest and curiosity. The interviewer will also conclude that your intention is to stay with the company for a substantial amount of time if you have some great questions prepped. Questions can include;
- Growth plans
- Team structure
- Progression potential
- What are your expectations of me in the first 3-6 months at the company?
- Closing questions
It is absolutely a good thing to ask a “closing” question at the end e.g. “If I am successful at this stage, what would the next steps be?” “When can I expect to hear feedback?” “How many other candidates do you have in the process?” These types of questions show you can take the lead when needed as well as showing assertiveness and genuine interest.
Following the interview
If you feel it is appropriate, (i.e. you have built a good rapport with the interviewer) drop them a short message on LinkedIn later that day thanking them for their time, saying you enjoyed the interview and that you hope to hear from them soon.
And finally, if you don’t get the result you want from an interview, try and frame the situation in a positive way. Remember what we focus on we feel. If you focus on it being a terrible, devastating experience you’re likely to feel devastated. If you focus on what you learned, you’re likely to learn. So if you don't get it then see it as a positive and note down any learnings. But don't go over and over the interview in your head obsessing over what you could have done better. No one gives a perfect interview.
Go and give it your all and good luck!
If you enjoyed this blog why not read our others in this series:
- Top tips on crafting a killer CV and cover letter here
- Top tips on preparing for your interview here
To find out more about the awesome Gemma Bartlett check out her website and socials below.