How to be more confident in job interviews
October 8, 2006 1:14 AM   Subscribe

How can I be more confident in my job interview this week?

I have attended half a dozen job interviews in as many months. I get all of my job interviews based on written applications, but I freeze up when it comes to the face to face interview.

I get nervous easily, especially when asked questions about myself.

How can I be as good in job interviews as I am on paper?
posted by sconbie to Work & Money (16 answers total) 49 users marked this as a favorite
My interviews improved immeasurably after two things. The first was doing a mock interview and being filmed while doing so - watching it back was excruciating but gave me a huge amount of things to improve on. The second was practice, practice and more practice. You can guess what sort of questions they're going to ask you about (previous jobs, your background, why you want this job, what you do in your spare time etc). If the job has key competencies or skills listed you can guess what they will ask on those, too ("tell me about a time when you had to demonstrate leadership", etc). Come up with answers to those questions - not ones you have to learn word for word, just some key words or phrases you know you have to drop in. Have an opening sentence ready so you have more thinking time. And get friends to do practice interviews with you - it doesn't have to be formal, it could be 20 minutes over coffee or in a bar, but as long as they're asking new questions you will get used to thinking on your feet.
posted by greycap at 1:32 AM on October 8, 2006

One trick I've used often, is simply to say "I'm sorry, I'm a bit nervous" if I stumble a bit or freeze. Always seems to break the chill a little bit, and sets everyone at ease. But then, I'm not applying for positions involving public speaking.
posted by Manjusri at 1:45 AM on October 8, 2006

Do all the homework that greycap suggests. Prepare as well as you can. Make sure you're rested, accentuate the fun part of having the interview (sic), etc.

And then after having done all that say to yourself "I'll do my utmost to get the job, but not all is lost if I don't get it".

The reason is that there are factors outside of your control in doing an interview; there's a certain aspect of luck, of the match between the organisation, the interviewer and you.
But more importantly; this realisation will put you in a state of mind that enables doing well and being as self confident as you can.
posted by jouke at 1:57 AM on October 8, 2006 [1 favorite]

Smile. Lean back in the chair. stretch. You're at ease because you know our stuff.

Before the guy asks you a question, ask him one, about the business, but one me can't give a canned answer to. No, "How many offices do you have", more like "what problem are you trying to solve by hiring me" -- then smile "or whomever you do hire" -- now bigger smile, like you both know he's going to hire you.

Let him give this answer, which will be in great detail. Nod appropriately. When he finishes, nod slowly, like you're absorbing what he had to say. Pick from what he wants your best qualities, incline you head to one side (it looks humble , and like you're thinking), smile, and explain your strengths that fit what he wants.

Then apologize for going on at length, and say "but I know you have a lot of questions for me". Then the "normal" interview starts, but you've taken charge in a very diplomatic way.
posted by orthogonality at 2:00 AM on October 8, 2006 [3 favorites]

Use an overall interview checklist to organize yourself for each interview. If you don't forget anything, you won't be stressed walking in. That's half the battle.

Practice your two minute drill, preferably in front of a mirror. You also need a prepared "two minute verbal summary" [PDF file linked] of yourself in mind for every interview. Use it to reply to questions about why you are looking for the job, what you've done in the past that is related experience, what your goals are, etc. If you have good statements that you've written and believe to be true about yourself, you can deliver them with confidence, and by rehearsing them, keep them at the ready in your mind. If you don't already have a practiced 2 minute summary, you should write and edit one immediately, and aim to practice it for at least 20 repetitions a day, until you can deliver it perfectly, word for word as you've written it, naturally. Most people decide that you are confident or nervous in the first two minutes after meeting you. Once they've made that decision, they'll think of you that way until considerable evidence mounts to the contrary.

So, to be judged confident and capable, you only have to be those things for two minutes! And that's what your two minute drill and summary accomplishes; these tools get you through the first impression period, the first two minutes, in the best way you can possibly present yourself.

If your interview is held in a private office with more than one seating choice offered, take the seat furthest from the door, or least in line of sight to the office door from the interviewers seated position. That way, if your interview is interrupted, you sit quietly to the side of the interruption, and do not have people talking, literally, "over your head." If your interview involves a tour, or questions while standing or walking, try to maneuver to deliver your answers while standing, and maintaining eye contact with your interviewer(s).

Listen actively. Don't be afraid of asking questions yourself, or of leaving silences while you think. Some interview questions are designed to see if you are a thoughtful thinker, willing to carefully and fully develop all the information you can, before answering a question.

Ask for the job at the end of the interview, and find out exactly what follow up steps you can do, to stay in contact until the decision is made. Find out when the decision will be made, and if there wil be subsequent interviews to reach that stage. Check with references a couple of days later, to see if they've been contacted.
posted by paulsc at 2:06 AM on October 8, 2006 [7 favorites]

Maybe orthogonality's advice will work.
But it has the risk of backfiring when the interviewer feels your behaviour as manipulative or phony.
posted by jouke at 2:06 AM on October 8, 2006

jouke writes "But it has the risk of backfiring when the interviewer feels your behaviour as manipulative or phony."

Yeah, good point. I'm basically describing what I did last interview. To do this, you need a strong resume.
posted by orthogonality at 2:17 AM on October 8, 2006

what Manjusri said, plus think this:

I'm here to have a chat about the interesting things I've done and how I did them well, and to see whether I want to work for this organisation.

Remember: you're interviewing them.
posted by Lucie at 2:43 AM on October 8, 2006

If there are things the organisation can do that would make the interview easier for you, consider contacting them beforehand and asking them about this. I have a communication disability and always ask for my interview to be scheduled first and request relaxed time limits. Friends who are nervous in interviews have also done this and found it helps. It depends on the nature of the organisation and the post of course - there are some situations in which you might not want to acknowledge interview nerves.

Also, I second paulsc's comment about feeling free to leave silences. When I interviewed recently, one of the most powerful things was a candidate who several times said "let me think about that for a moment" - she came across as being able to think on her feet, not necessarily having a prepared answer but being able to come up with one.

And my other tactic is to have lots of papers - job description, my own application, notes of anything I want to make sure I say - with me so if I am nervous or unsure what to say I can pretend to read for a moment and gather my wits. Best of luck!
posted by paduasoy at 2:48 AM on October 8, 2006

I am very very much in favor of filming yourself.

have friends mock interview you. tell them to be tough on you, to scrutinize your resume, to ask follow-up questions. watch yourself. do you shift a lot? do you avoid eye contact? what do your hands do?

watch yourself and think of a few charming, intriguing answers. you can steer the conversation pretty well if you have a couple of hooks lined up. think about things that would make you seem like a nice, optimistic, interesting person. make them want to have a drink with you.

you will nail it. really.
posted by krautland at 3:52 AM on October 8, 2006

"let me think about that for a moment"
"I'm sorry, I'm a bit nervous"

Both these are excellent suggestions. These are both part of being open, and honest. You've said you get nervous - who doesn't? All the other candidates will be as well, so forget about this, if you can, and try as much as possible to treat the interview as a conversation. A friendly chat. These people aren't interviewing you - you haven't been read the Maria and have a lawyer present. You're all just having a chat. So be friendly. Be cheerful. Admit it if you need time to think if you don't immediately know the answer to something. Use it as an opportunity to show them what you do know, rather than worrying about what you don't.

And have some questions prepared. I think this is the best preparation you can do - I mean, it's important to know about the company hiring you, but it's even more important to know what to ask about the company hiring you.

I tend to have faith in the idea that, despite the structured interview format we all have to go through these days, the interviewers are actually as sick and tired and stressed about it as you are. Coming across as a thoughtful person who will be nice to work with is as important as anything.
posted by Jimbob at 4:04 AM on October 8, 2006 [1 favorite]

the interviewers are actually as sick and tired and stressed about it as you are.

Absolutely right. I do a lot of interviewing at work sitting as the "third person" or independent assessor for internal interviews - I get far more stressed about doing that than I do for going to interviews myself, and spend ages preparing to make sure I don't mess things up for the candidate. Trust me, the panel will be nervous too.
posted by greycap at 4:24 AM on October 8, 2006

This may seem silly, but from my side of the desk one thing I see over and over again is people who are very uncomfortable in their clothes.

If you're a man and wear a suit, make sure your shirt has a generous enough collar so your tie's not choking you. If you have any doubts about the quality of your wardrobe, get yourself upgraded at the suit department of a reliable, old-school department store (think Brooks Brothers). And, whatever you do, spend some time just hanging out in your interview wardrobe, get used to it.

If you're a woman and not comfortable in skirts or heels, for hecks sake don't wear them to an interview. Any benefit you get will be far outweighed by your visible lack of ease.
posted by MattD at 7:02 AM on October 8, 2006

Be honest with yourself and them about your abilities; everything else seems to follow after that. When I know I'm being completely honest and upfront, I don't worry about getting caught in a lie, I don't get nervous wondering how I should best answer a question to please them. I just answer honestly. If I'm not intimately familiar with a topic that comes up, I'm not afraid to say, "I don't know."

Most of the time, abject honesty is a welcome change of pace for your average interviewer who's already had their fill of bullshit and spin. Concentrate on being interested in what they're saying and bringing to the table, instead of trying to appear interesting just for the sake of standing out.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:21 AM on October 8, 2006

Learn anything you can about their business. Not only the business that they "are in" ... but them specifically.

Demonstrate that knowledge in the interview. Turn the interview into a conversation ... a conversation that demonstrates how much you and they have in common ... now and in the future.

This is especially effective if the interviewer is a principal in the company.
posted by w_boodle at 11:14 AM on October 8, 2006

Two things to remember:

Research the company. Use all the resources you have internet, library etc etc. Learn about who they are, what they do. If you can check the news for recent important events for them. Also try and find out who some of their competitors are and how they match up.
Secondly I once heard a phrase that might be useful. 'If you act like a general, walk like a general and talk like a general, you'll be a general'. In other words act confident, walk confident and talk confident and you will be confident.
You can't trick the interviewer into hiring you with clever phrases and remembering a bunch of them will only be useful if they ask the right questions. Know all you can about the company but there is no point in being someone your not.
Being confident will attract more points than being cocky.
posted by mjlondon at 6:53 AM on October 9, 2006 [2 favorites]

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