Job interviews can be stressful. Candidates are most often nervous and unsure of themselves, understandably so. Add in the awkwardness of social distancing protocols like no handshakes or virtual interviews, and you have a recipe for a less than stellar performance.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Follow these five proven strategies to increase your confidence and maximize your interview success.
1. Practice, practice, practice
You wouldn’t give a presentation in front of your company’s CEO without practicing, so why would you go into an interview cold? You should be able to confidently answer questions like, “What’s your greatest weakness?” before your interview. We find this to be one of the trickiest questions to answer, so be sure you’ve practiced what you’ll say. Your answer should be honest, but also demonstrate what you’re doing to overcome that weakness.
Some other common interview questions you should practice answering include:
- Tell me about yourself.
- What are your strengths?
- What does success mean to you and how would you measure it?
- What motivates you?
- Why are you interested in this job?
The goal with your practice sessions shouldn’t be to memorize your answers. Instead, you want to commit to memory your key messages and what you want the interviewer to take away from your response. This will allow you to be more relaxed and your answers to flow freely during the interview.
2. Treat your interview as a conversation
It’s easy to overthink your answers if you simply treat your interview as a question and answer session. Instead, think of it as a conversation. Ask questions of the interviewer or ask them to elaborate on a point they’ve made. Use your questions as an opportunity to demonstrate that you’ve researched the company, the interviewer, or both. It helps to write some down before you go into the interview so you’ll remember what to ask.
Some good examples include:
- How is success measured for this position?
- What would my first 30/60/90 days look like?
- Why is this position open?
- What did the last person to hold this position do well?
- What are the next steps in this process?
Remember that interviews are your chance to see if the company would be a good fit for you and your career goals. This will help you be more relaxed and fully quantify your answers during the conversation, which leads us to our next tip.
3. Sell your success in every answer
Every question is an opportunity to tell a story. We strongly encourage our clients to write down their career success stories before an interview. These should be specific achievements related to your career. For example, were you recognized for your work on a special project? That’s a career success story that you should find a way to highlight in your interview.
Be sure to quantify your success stories wherever possible. That could mean specifying that you saved your company 20% in supplier costs by renegotiating a contract, rather than just saying you successfully renegotiated a contract.
Just like your questions of the interviewer, you can write down a few key success stories you want to highlight on a pad of paper to take with you into the interview.
4. Make your body language and other nonverbal cues work for you, not against you
While experts disagree on how much of communication is nonverbal, there is no debate that much of what we communicate isn’t with our words. That means that your body language, facial expressions, tone, and even your gestures can be more important than what you’re saying.
Some simple strategies are to lean forward, make eye contact with, and smile at your interviewer. These tactics show that you are engaged in the conversation and are interested in what your interviewer has to say.
To avoid fidgeting, which is a big no-no, take a pen and pad of paper with you and write down notes during questions to allow yourself to recenter and reset your nonverbal cues.
5. Send a thank you note
Be sure to send a thank-you note to your interviewer thanking them for their consideration and time. Thank-you notes should be sent within 24 hours of your interview. It’s best to try to include something specific from the interview conversation to show that you’ve taken the time to personalize your note for this interviewer. For example, “I very much enjoyed learning about how ABC Company has worked to bring X product to market ahead of schedule.”
Another tip is to let the interviewer know you’ll follow up with them about the job in a set amount of time (such as one week). The follow-up should be based on how the interviewer answered your question about next steps that we discussed above. We call this “owning the follow-up.” It puts you in control and shows the interviewer you are assertive and highly interested in the position.
Be sure you proofread your note before sending (whether it’s through snail mail or email) to avoid typos or grammatical errors. We also suggest running your draft note through a proofreading tool like Grammarly to catch any mistakes you may have missed.
By preparing, executing, and following up after the interview, you will set yourself apart from the competition and maximize your interview success.
This article was written Franklin Buchanan.
Franklin Buchanan is the founder of Post Up Careers, where he helps professionals at every stage of their career with interview preparation, resume writing, LinkedIn profile optimization, and more. He is an avid sports fan, former youth basketball coach, and a proud #GirlDad.