Stepping into an interview, especially for the first time, can be a daunting experience. There are so many thoughts running through your head all at once. How am I supposed to make an unforgettable first impression on a complete stranger? What if they ask me a question that I don’t have an answer to? What if I mess up?
The first step to alleviating these anxieties is to take a deep breath. These concerns and worries about interviews are all common and completely natural to have. Many of us struggle with presenting who we are over the course of a twenty- or thirty-minute conversation, and that’s because it isn’t easy! We as humans are complex, and we don’t always say the right things.
So as those terrifying “what if” thoughts run through our heads, we have to first calm ourselves down and recognize that no interview will ever be 100% perfect. That being said, there are several ways to approach and prepare for an interview that can help you feel comfortable and confident in yourself and your abilities. And usually, this will lead to an overall positive interview experience for both you and the person interviewing you!
1. Remember that an interview is a two-way conversation.
Whether it’s an interview for college or a job, you should show up prepared with some questions to ask the interviewer or some topics to discuss. It’s not just about whether you are a good fit for the school or company, but also whether that place is a good fit for you. So, make sure you consider this as you prepare for your interview, and try to strike up a conversation with the interviewer about something that you want to know more about.
2. Look over your application beforehand.
it’s important to review what you are most likely going to talk about in the interview, be it a resume, cover letter, personal essay, or any other part of your application. For example, if you are applying for a job in business, the interviewer will probably ask about your previous work experience in business. You want to make sure to hit on everything that is important or relevant in your answer, so it can be helpful to review this ahead of time. Additionally, looking over your application in its entirety can help you make a mental note of what non-academic or non-professional things you want to talk about as well, like hobbies, activities, interests, etc.
3. Practice answers to the most common interview questions.
If you come into the interview already prepared for a few of the questions, I promise that you will feel a million times more comfortable and confident. Common interview questions include “Tell me about yourself”, “Why do you want to work for us?”, “What is your greatest strength?”, “What is your greatest weakness?”, “Tell me about a time you were a leader”, and many more. When you do practice your answers, try not to come up with a word-for-word script, but instead, think of a roadmap or outline in your head for that question. This will ensure that you still speak naturally in the interview, even if you practiced beforehand!
4. Practice with someone: a friend, teacher, or parent.
This can be a great strategy to receive feedback on your answers, especially if that person has previously participated in a job or college interview. Alternatively, you can record your answers and listen to them, paying attention to what you think you can improve for the real interview.
5. Be polite and dress professionally.
This is a very important part of any interview! Dress appropriately, make sure to thank the interviewer at the end, express enthusiasm that you were invited to participate in the interview, and just be an all-around kind person! Simply doing this can make a great impression. And if all the participants are being polite and respectful toward one another, it will make the atmosphere of the interview more open and comfortable for everyone.
6. Stay calm!
Remember, the person interviewing you is a human being too, and they’re simply trying to get to know you better. Don’t get discouraged by how overwhelming an important interview can feel; instead, approach it with the mindset that this is just a conversation where you have the chance to share how unique, talented, and smart you are. And at the end of the day, the interview is mostly about you – your experiences, abilities, and personality – and who better to discuss that than you?
7. Keep things in perspective.
If you ever have an interview that doesn’t go as well as you wanted, it’s essential to recognize that and move on. It may not have gone as badly as you think it did, but even if it wasn’t great, just remember that this one experience is not the end of the world. You will learn from it and next time, you will have a better experience because you grew from this one.
In the end, I find that the most helpful tip is to remember that how you approach the interview is just as important as practicing answers and reviewing your application ahead of time. If you view the interview as a conversation and a chance to learn if this company or school is a place you belong, you will be calmer and more confident. You will be personable and interact more with the interviewer, and this will make the best first impression you could hope for.
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