Help me not act like a freak when interviewing for my dream job
December 6, 2006 7:25 AM   Subscribe

I am insanely nervous for an interview I have tomorrow for what is essentially my dream job. Any advice to avoid allowing my nerves to get the better of me and screwing it up?

Extra points if you have tips for stopping yourself from rambling, because in these situations I tend to be uncomfortable with silence and sometimes can't stop myself from talking just to fill space.
posted by hazelshade to Human Relations (24 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Have a list of questions prepared in advance regarding the job. When I got the job that I really wanted I asked the interviewer (months later) if I had done anything differently from the other people that went for the interview, he said that the quality of the questions I asked about the company and my future role (demonstrating that I had spent longer than 10 minutes looking at the website) helped swing it in a pretty competitive field of candidates.

Good Luck!
posted by ClanvidHorse at 7:31 AM on December 6, 2006

Prepare, then answer the questions succinctly. Then stop talking. I always enjoy playing "silence chicken". The first one to break the silence looses. This actually comes across as confident as long as you look relaxed and maintain eye contact. Otherwise you just like that quiet girl from the breakfast club.

And I second ClanvidHorse's advice too.
posted by jlowen at 7:37 AM on December 6, 2006

Excellent advice from both replies. If you can just relax and know that you will survive this and the sun will come up tomorrow and your life will go on. The advice to not talk after you have answered a question is exactly right. Good luck.
posted by JayRwv at 7:53 AM on December 6, 2006

masturbate ahead of time. seriously.
posted by yonation at 7:54 AM on December 6, 2006

To help stave off the impression of appearing desperate or over-eager, try to remember that an interview is an opportunity to gauge mutual approval. You're interviewing them too, looking for evidence to back up your hunch that this is your dream job. As Clanvid said, prepare a couple of candid questions or talking points. No one wants to get to the end of an interview and be asked, "Do you have any questions for us?" and have nothing to say.

As for the "Help I can't stop talking Help I can't stop talking" dread, just try to remember that beats of silence are natural in any conversation, you just do't normally notice because you're not as nervous. And chattiness is okay as long as you are having an actual conversation, drawing your interviewer into talking with you (as opposed to telling long-winded stories. If you catch yourself beginning a long story, feel free to cut yourself off and smile and say, "But that's a long story I'll save for another time." Or simply take a deep breath before answering each question. A good interviewer will easily redirect the interview with questions if they feel you're running off at the mouth too much.

BEFORE THE INTERVIEW prepare a handwritten thank you note on stationary. Address and stamp the envelope so that after the interview all you have to do is fill in the interviewer's name, write a short personalized note while everything is fresh in your mind, and drop it in the mail IMMEDIATELY after the interview. This way it will arrive no more than two days later.

Good luck!
posted by hermitosis at 8:02 AM on December 6, 2006

Lie down and spend several minutes breathing deeply and relaxing as much as you can. Now visualise yourself in the interview room speaking confidently and succinctly. When you are in the interview itself try to recreate that same feeling of calm. Not very original advice I grant you - but it has been shown to be an effective technique for anything where people have to perform while nervous.

Your best tips to avoid rambling would be to try to rehearse concise answers to the sort of questions that you think may make you go on and on - for example "tell me a little bit about your background". With each response you will want to make no more than about 5 sub-points (like bullet points on a slide). Watch the interviewers carefully while you are answering for signs that they have heard enough - but stop when you are finished with their points and let them ask another question.

Good luck.
posted by rongorongo at 8:06 AM on December 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

I don't know if this is advice you can take versus something that just comes with time, but realize that an interview is an interview for both of you. This is the point where you decide if this is the place you want to spend a quarter of your waking life, versus all the other places you could go. So stop thinking of this as a situation you're walking into where you want to impress them at all costs - you're an intelligent, articulate, educated person who has the ability to do the job. All you have to do is be yourself and not spaz.

So just recognize that by the time you get to their door you've done everything there is to be done. You know it or you don't, you've learned what you can about the company and now you're just going to have a conversation about who you are and who they are and hopefully you'll like each other. If you don't then you really don't want to be there anyway.

Don't get anxious if you decide you really want them to like you because you really want to be there - be excited by the fact that you've found a place you really want to be and they are confident enough that they might want you that they've set aside their valuable time to have an interview with them. Let that excitement show - in a non-obsessive fanboy way - it's an attractive feature in a job candidate.
posted by phearlez at 8:13 AM on December 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

I'm no expert but I have in recent months been an interviewer and then an interviewee (and got offered the job). Don't worry about filling every quiet moment. Taking a moment to think about your answer shows the panel that you can think on the fly and are not simply regurgitating what you think they want to hear.

If you get what feels like a too long silence when you've finished answering you can always ask something like 'Does that answer your question or were you thinking along different lines?'

Good interviews are like conversations, don't be afraid to have one.

Oh and ditto on coming prepared with at least two good questions, that's your opportunity to prove to the panel that you've done your homework on the company and are thinking ahead about how you will fit into it.

Best of luck!
posted by Ness at 8:37 AM on December 6, 2006

One thing I find helps immensely with interview nerves is having found and physically gone to the building previous to the day of the interview. Your judgement on when to leave home to get there on time is just much better, then, and there's less grounds to stress about punctuality.
posted by Aidan Kehoe at 8:40 AM on December 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

You have to feel that you are really happy with your life right now, without this job. You have a dry place to sleep and enough food to eat, and whatever else makes you secure and happy. If you're satisfied now, there's no chance that you'll feel desperate and no reason to be nervous.
posted by textilephile at 8:52 AM on December 6, 2006

Know that you are worthy.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 9:07 AM on December 6, 2006

Look over your resume ahread of time and make sure you have something of substance to talk about for all the past jobs you have listed on there. Think in terms of the nuts-and-bolts "what did I actually work on/do/contribute here?", but also make sure you cover the more subjective "tell us about a time you overcame a conflict" stuff. For me, it really helps my confidence to know that there's nothing on my resume they can bring up that will really trip me up, since that's where the majority of the dialgoue often comes from.
posted by rachelv at 9:37 AM on December 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

Be up front with the interviewer(s) that you are nervous. It will take the pressure of hiding it off of you, and make a human connection with them from the beginning.
posted by tkolar at 9:46 AM on December 6, 2006

Do you have a friend that can help you with a practice interview? They choose a dozen or so typical job interview questions (There must be a dozen sites that have lists) and you refine your answers. That way if they ask "So, why do you want to work here?" instead of answering "ARE YOU KIDDING ME!? YOU GUYS ARE SO FREAKIN COOL!" you can say something more like "I've always had an interest in navel-gazing -- you'll notice in my college transcript I took psychology and philosophy as well as an advanced seminar on navelology -- and your firm is at the cutting edge of navel-gazing technology. I think I have what it takes to be on the next wave of navel-gazing pioneers."

I also think a crash course in meditation may be in order.
posted by ilsa at 9:54 AM on December 6, 2006

I am a rambler too, but I've been doing a lot of interviews lately and have found some tricks to help me stay on topic and succint.

First, prepare. Look over the job posting, description, and your resume. Think about what kind of skills and experience they are looking for, and what kind of questions they may ask regarding those. I try to have the highlights of my various jobs solid in my brain, so it's very quick to think through "Oh, they are asking about time management, my Coordinator position at X while I was in school is the best example"

It's okay to take a moment or two to think about your answer before launching into it. One my mouth is going, then it's hard to stop me, so I try to start when I'm ready, not before.

Finally, clearly end your answer with a one-sentence summary of your response. This indicates to the interviewer that you are finished, so they will know to move on to the next question and not sit there waiting for you to come to some sort of conclusion. It also puts the brakes on my brain to do this because I have a spoken PERIOD to end things (don't actually said "PERIOD!" you know what I mean)

On that note, I'm actually off to an interview! Best of luck to both of us!
posted by nelleish at 10:06 AM on December 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

I third ClanvidHorse's. Also, it can sound hokey but you also want to show enthusiasm. Let them know you want the job (but not *too* much of course).

I've found myself in the position in the last year or so of hiring people and the one thing that I've noted is I really pay attention to that passion (or lack of it).
posted by jeremias at 10:38 AM on December 6, 2006

This is all great advice, and as an emergency backup, if you happen to find yourself acting flustered or nervous, just apologize and say that you're flustered and nervous because you're really very excited about the job. Honesty is the best policy.
posted by Durhey at 10:46 AM on December 6, 2006

The best advice I ever received was to remember that I'm interviewing the company as well. It has to be a mutual match for it to work.

Silence is OK. You don't have to fill every space, and it's annoying when people try to do so. Answer the questions to the best of your ability, and zip it. And please don't end any answers by saying, "so..." or "and that's it" or anything like that! I am always embarrassed for people when they do that in interviews with me.

Be prepared. This means knowing a lot about the company and the job, reviewing your resume, and thinking about the possible questions they'll ask you. Nothing is worse than coming across as clueless or unprepared.
posted by suchatreat at 11:34 AM on December 6, 2006

ilsa's answer is fantastic, but that's just my thing.

Think about why you believe this will be your dream job, and write down all the things that you expect from it. Once you kow that list tangibly, then you can go into the interview with those things in mind, and ask the interviewer about them specifically. Questions such as, "What kind of travel will this involve/allow?" or "How much of the job will be directly working with clients" or whatever it is that makes you want the job so much, will prove your interest better than regurgitated answers such as "I really love travel" or "I'd love to work directly with clients."

Know where you're interviewing. If I were you, I'd get there at least an hour beforehand, so that you can sit in the nearest diner or coffeeshop, have a cup of coffee and a little bit of food (to calm your stomach) and do a crossword or something of the sort. This will not only make you mentally alert as you walk in, but with any luck you'll have just accomplished something (albeit trivial) before walking into the room.

While at the diner, sit up straight and smile often. You want to get into that mode, because once you're worried about how much you're talking (and don't be, you'll do fine) you might not notice if you're slouching, or looking down and away, or not smiling enough. Nothing shows confidence like good posture and a sincere smile.

Dress in whatever nice clothes make you feel most comfortable, and bring a back-up shirt in your bag in case anything happens to the first one.

Essentially, you are indeed interviewing them as well, so you want to go in there as the interviewer you would most like to deal with yourself. Be gracious, and charming - smile some more - but keep as much control over the meeting as you can.

And remember, if you can get them to the point where they're presenting their own credentials/selling points for the job, you've got 'em.

Good luck!
posted by Navelgazer at 11:36 AM on December 6, 2006

I disagree with telling them you're nervous. That's a given. Saying so usually means you're not confident in what you have to say despite, and may just cue them into noticing your ticks instead of your answers. I've been terribly nervous for presentations and afterwards told people. Most are surprised and say they couldn't tell—not because the signs weren't there, but because they were listening to what I was saying.

Take my advice with a pound of salt, because I suck at interviewing.
posted by mealy-mouthed at 12:52 PM on December 6, 2006

I actually just went through this - been working at a big consultancy for the last few years, and finally got my route in to a company which essentially reached into my brain and found my perfect job in there and then made it real. To say I was a little freaked out and nervous that I wouldn't get it would be an understatement.

AidanKehoe is right, checking out the location of the company you're interviewing with and knowing where you're going is an immense help.

Also, being pretty secure in your current job, as mentioned by textilephile, goes a long way to helping you focus that while this is absolutely what you want to do, the world isn't going to end if you don't get it. That can go a long way to chilling you out.

In the interview, interview them. For me, I was pretty sure that the job was what I wanted, but asking lots of questions (and I mean proper questions, like, what's the working culture like here, what's the hardest part of your job, not crap like what's the firm's long term strategic direction) will help you work out if this really is your dream job, as well as taking the pressure off you for a second.

I'm a rambler too, but ensure that your rambling has a purpose and can be curtailed. I was exceptionally open and honest in my interview, because I sensed that would be appreciated by my interviewer, and I also felt that it was the best approach given the fairly specific reasons I was leaving my old job. That openness led to a few rambling answers, but I was pretty good at cutting it short when I realised I'd run out of things to say.

Ultimately, if the interviewer is hostile to you because you're a bit nervous about interviewing for your dream job, you have to ask, is that actually the place you want to work?

Do your best, attempt to translate the nervousness you feel into nervous enthusiasm (you're nervous cos you reaaaaally want the job - make that show) and you'll do fine.

Good luck!
posted by Happy Dave at 3:21 PM on December 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

Oh, and make sure to post here when you get the job! Note I said when - the Green never lets you down.
posted by Happy Dave at 3:23 PM on December 6, 2006

In the future, you might want to try getting your doc to prescribe you a beta-blocker. My dad takes them before he does public speaking and it keeps his adrenaline from spiking.

I personally have never tried them, and my Dad's a doctor, so I trust his opinion. But IANAD.
posted by np312 at 6:59 PM on December 6, 2006

One more tip for immediately after the interview: mail your prospective new boss a card saying thank you for the interview - you enjoyed meeting everybody, hope that you get the job, are contactable if they have follow up questions, etc. There is nothing like an extra gesture (which may well arrive on the same day the winning candidate is being selected) to identify a classy candidate. If the card is a cool one then it may also be hung onto as a reminder of you if other vacancies arise.
posted by rongorongo at 2:25 AM on December 7, 2006

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