By Beth Ryan – Manchester Graduate Talent – Careers Assistant
Interviews can be stressful, there’s often a lot of stake and it’s the only chance you get to make a good impression. I more than anyone can tell you how difficult it can be to shake interview anxiety, answer questions well and not leave the interview room feeling like an idiot (or a sobbing mess). It can be really hard to overcome nervousness, but with resilience it can be done! Drawing on my experience, I’ve compiled my top tips for overcoming interview nerves to help you secure that coveted internship or graduate job:
Prepare and plan
- Find out as much about the role and company as you can – read the job description thoroughly and gain a good understanding of the skills the employer is looking for. If you aren’t sure what the role involves contact the recruitment team and they will give you an insight. Remember to also research the company and find out what their values are and where they fit commercially.
- Typical interview questions – create a list of commonly asked questions and write out a few bullet points with how you’d answer them in the interview, you’d be surprised how many come up.
- Prepare situational examples using the STAR method – many employers ask situational interview questions such as: tell me about a time (you worked in a team/showed communication skills/used your initiative). The skills they ask about are likely to be in the job description, so prepare an examples using ‘Situation-Task-Action-Result’ and you won’t feel so put on the spot in the interview.
Book an interview advice appointment
- The Careers Service provides two types of interview advice appointment: interview preparation and interview simulation. Talking to a careers consultant can really help relieve your worries and point you to useful resources. More information about interview appointments and how to book can be found here.
- Being organised for the interview day can take away some of the last minute stress, leaving you free to focus on the interview itself rather than getting worked up about little things.
- Choose your interview outfit the day before and make sure it is ironed and ready to wear.
- Do a recce ahead of time to see the building and room where the interview will take place and plan your route so you know exactly how to get there. If you’re driving think ahead about where you will park and take traffic into account by giving yourself extra time.
- Bring a succinct set of notes along with you in a professional folder, including a copy of your CV, the job description, a page of bullet points about the company or role and four questions you’d like to ask at the end.
When you arrive:
- I tend to get a feeling of impending doom in the count down to an interview. It can really help to put headphones in and listen to something which calms you down and gets you focused before you enter the building. The Counselling Service have a great selection of short audio downloads to help you relax and control your breathing which I recommend, you can find them here.
- If you’re early refresh your memory using the notes you’ve brought with you, think about the key skills the employer is looking for and reread the STAR examples you prepared.
- A friend of mine told me she does a ‘superhero power pose’ for thirty seconds before she meets the interviewer to help her feel confident, I don’t know how practical this is but it’s worth a shot!
When they invite you in:
- A lot of interviewers appreciate it if you tell them you’re nervous at the start of the interview and can be very understanding. Nerves are completely natural and mean you care, so it is sometimes better to let them know at the beginning rather than try to hide it.
- Remember an interview is a two-way process, they want to meet you and there is a reason you passed the application process. Interviewers rarely want to catch you out and they want you to do your best, so try not to think of them as a scary person.
- It’s all about the personality! They can teach you a lot of the tasks the job involves, but they can’t teach a positive attitude, sense of humour or strong work ethic. A lot of interviewers are looking for how well you will fit into their team, so remember personality can be just as important as experience.
- Try your best to structure your answers and keep everything you say relevant to the question. I sometimes forget the question so will write down key words as they ask to keep myself on track.
- Pace yourself – if you find yourself stumbling over words, it’s likely your anxiety has taken over. Nervousness can cause you to speed up your mannerisms and your speech and it can also prompt you to speak before you consider the question properly. So slow down and don’t be afraid of the pause.
- If you’re stumped by a difficult question taking a few sips of water can give you a few seconds to think. If this fails, a lot of interviewers prefer you to spend ten or fifteen seconds thinking.
- If needed you can utilise the printed notes you brought along to help jog your memory, even briefly scanning your CV can help you think of a good example or situation to use as an example.
- If you genuinely don’t know what to say or if you go completely blank, it is perfectly okay to ask the interviewer to come back to the question at the end. Usually by then something in your brain has jogged and you can answer without a worry.
After the interview:
- Even if it doesn’t go well reward yourself with a treat anyway (I always got mint chocolate ice cream)! We all know practice makes perfect and although it can be really difficult to overcome interview anxiety it honestly gets easier the more experience you have. The important thing is you try your best.
- When the employer contacts you about the outcome ask them for constructive feedback. As hard as it can be to hear everything you did wrong, it can be helpful for your next interview.
- It is okay to feel upset if you aren’t successful, but try not to beat yourself up about it. Resilience is the most important thing when it comes to job hunting and if you keep trying you will eventually secure a job you love!