Last week during a 1:1, our intern asked me for some interview tips. She’s really awesome and I wish we could keep her, but unfortunately we just don’t have a job opening right now, so she’s looking for a new role.
She confided in me that she’s really nervous about the interviews and thinks that she isn’t very good at them. I thought back to when we hired her and assured her that’s not true at all. She was actually really good. Still, I was happy to share with her some of the tips that have worked for me over the years–and some that I’ve picked up from successful candidates.
Here’s the advice that I gave her:
1. Accept the nervousness.
Job interviews make (almost) everyone nervous. It’s totally normal. Although it might sound counter-intuitive, I’ve found that the best thing I can do is to just accept it. The more you try to fight against it or tell yourself to calm down, the more anxious you’ll get because you’re essentially telling yourself that there’s something wrong with your totally natural reaction. So then you’re anxious about being nervous, which is just compounding the problem. Instead, why not just tell yourself: “Yep, it’s an interview and I’m nervous. Probably most people they’ve spoken to have been. This is totally expected.” Then, you can focus on showing them how awesome you are instead of worrying about your totally natural reaction.
2. Be on time–but not too early.
Like a lot of people, my days are usually pretty tightly scheduled, so when a candidate is late, it either means that we have less time for the interview or the rest of my day is thrown off. It’s not like I’ll automatically disqualify someone based on what time they show up (I mean, unless they’re significantly late), but it’s definitely something I take note of.
On the flip side, don’t show up crazy early and expect your interviewers to drop what they’re doing and see you right away. I get that you want to get there with time to spare in case you get lost–that’s good. But instead of actually checking in right when you get there, why not figure out where you have to go and then find somewhere inconspicuous (like the lobby or a nearby cafe) to hang out until it’s time to go in? (And before you think this isn’t a thing that actually happens, know that I’ve had candidates show up more than half an hour early!)
3. Let your personality show.
There are few things I find more boring in an interview than dry, canned responses that sound like you memorized them from a website. Instead, why not inject a little personality into whatever you’re saying? If you’re someone with a good sense of humour, weave in a small (work-appropriate) joke somewhere. If you’re an enthusiastic person, don’t try to contain that in favour of some sort of robotic answer. I love seeing a candidate’s genuine personality in interviews, rather than getting the sense that they’re just showing me what they think I want them to be. Plus, showing off your personality helps build a rapport with your interviewer and make it more of a conversation, both of which will usually help ease your nerves.
4. Come prepared with questions.
I always feel uneasy whenever a candidate says that they don’t have any questions. Like, seriously, you’re thinking about making the commitment to spend 40 hours a week at this place, with these people, and you have nothing you want to ask about it?
If you’re not someone with a wonderful memory (guilty!) or you’re not good at coming up with questions on the spot, make sure that you jot some down and bring them with you. And if somehow in the course of conversation, all of your questions have preemptively been answered–which is really unlikely if you’ve prepared a long enough list–say that, and be specific about what you’d planned to ask. I’d rather have a candidate admit that they’d planned to ask me about the team composition and management style, but that we already covered those, than to just sit there and awkwardly shrug when I give them a chance to ask questions.
Speaking of questions, here’s one for you: Do you have any interview tips you want to share? Leave them in the comments!