You’ve landed an interview for a dream job. You can already picture yourself working there, but your nerves may stand in the way of making the best first impression on the hiring manager. LaSalle Network, a Chicago staffing and recruiting agency, recently conducted a survey on interview stress and reported 81% of interviewees get nervous before their interview. The main causes of stress included saying the wrong thing, not “selling” themselves well, and being underprepared.
Here’s how to get over interview stress and land the job.
The majority (58%) of respondents to LaSalle’s survey reported being stressed out about saying the wrong thing in an interview. LaSalle Network CEO and Founder Tom Gimbel says the key to eliminating this stressor is to know your topic: you! “You need to go in confidently knowing you; what did you do, what did you accomplish. If you don’t know you, you’re not going to do well in the interview,” says Gimbel.
While many of us may feel our palms sweat when asked our opinions on certain matters, Gimbel says as long as you’re honest and are expressing opinions based on factual knowledge, you can never say the wrong thing. If you and the interviewer fundamentally disagree on something, this may be a sign that this isn’t the right job for you.
While picking out the perfect interview outfit and trying to look your most professional are things most of us do to prepare for an interview, Gimbel says making a good first impression goes beyond outward appearance. Arriving late, he says, is the worst thing an interviewee can do, since it gives the impression that you’re not very serious about the position and that you are disrespectful of your interviewer’s time. Gimbel recommends arriving at the interview site an hour in advance to allow time to cool down after the commute, review your notes, wipe the sweat off your brow, and breathe.
Think about how to put yourself in the right state of mind the night before the interview. “You shouldn’t be planning a late dinner with friends the night before,” says Gimbel. Avoid alcohol and anything else that can impact your sleep the night before so you wake up feeling fresh and ready to put yourself out there.
Gimbel recommends speaking with other managers about what they look for when they hire people. “Ask the most successful person you know; aside from the ability to do the job, what are the things you look for the most?” he says. Most managers will say things such as reliable, able to communicate, a team player–all things you can articulate in an interview.
The biggest mistake people make when trying to sell themselves, Gimbel says, is focus on the intangibles: I’m a hard worker, I want to be part of your company. While these things are all important, he says what sells yourself isn’t being a salesperson, it’s being knowledgeable about what you’ve accomplished.
Take some time before the interview to reflect upon your life and your experiences and look at your successes, what you’ve learned and how you’ve made an impact. “The number-one thing managers want to see is how you impacted results,” says Gimbel.
Planning ahead is the best way to avoid arriving late. If you’re interviewing at a place you’ve never been before, driving there in advance to make sure you know the route is a good idea. Be sure to have a phone number you can call if you get lost along the way, and plan to arrive extra early. “If the interview is at 9 a.m., being there at 9 sharp isn’t being on time,” says Gimbel.
If you’re new to interviewing or haven’t had an interview in several years, you may be worried about being caught off guard by curveball questions or worried about sitting in dead silence as you try to think of an answer. “The biggest reason that happens,” says Gimbel, “is most people don’t put themselves in uncomfortable conversations.” Most of us hang out with the same group of friends and family and rarely sit down with someone new.
Of course, then, when placed in front of an interviewer you know is judging you, you’ll be nervous. To avoid this, Gimbel recommends putting yourself in uncomfortable situations on a regular basis. Attend Toastmasters meetings to practice speaking in public, go to networking events in your industry, or take a class on a topic completely unrelated to your industry to learn how to relate to different types of people.