At some point in your college career, you will have to take part in an interview, whether that be for an internship, job or graduate school. Knowing how to interview well is an exceedingly important skill to have. However, interviewing is still a daunting task for everyone, including college students.
I know this because interview anxiety is an issue that I have grappled with. I would worry about the interview weeks in advance, unable to shake the vexatious thoughts hung over my head like a big, black cloud. I feared that I would stumble on my words or say the wrong thing. “Can they see me shaking?” and “What if they don’t like me?” were common bothersome thoughts that I experienced. I want you to know that while these concerns are common, you must not let them inhibit your potential.
I am happy to say that over the years, I have become more confident in my interviewing skills. My anxiety, although it still rears its ugly head once in a while, has mostly dissipated. Unfortunately, there is no way to completely eliminate interview anxiety; however, there are things you can do to lessen your worrisome thoughts and feelings. To help students struggling with interview anxiety, I have put together a list of four techniques that have helped me calm my fears. These tips will improve your interviewing skills, which in turn can reduce your anxiety and provide you with the confidence you need to hone your professional life.
Tip #1: Do Your Research
The first tip I have to offer, which is arguably the most important, is to do your research. By this, I mean conducting research on the company that you wish to work for. Although this seems like it would be common sense, you would be surprised at the number of people who skip this step entirely. Failing to obtain an adequate understanding of the company you are interested in may result in your potential employer’s refusal to hire you. Lack of knowledge about the company reflects badly on you because it shows the employer that you are not willing to put in the effort to understand their mission and values.
If you wish to move forward in the interview process, it is imperative that you conduct research on the company before you meet with your interviewer. I am not saying that you need to know every single detail about the company, but you should at least be familiar with the general information on their website’s homepage. You should also be able to answer any basic questions that they may ask you about their company because yes, they sometimes quiz you.
Tip #2: Ask Questions
My second interview tip is to always ask questions. Oftentimes at the conclusion of an interview, the interviewer will ask you if you have any questions about the company, which more often than not takes the form of “Do you have any questions for me?” At this point in the interview process, you will probably be exhausted and ready for it to end — trust me, I have been there. But you must fight the urge to say “No,” no matter how tempting it may be. Instead, you must ensure that you ask the interviewer questions about their company.
In an ideal scenario, you will have already written down your questions beforehand. Asking your interviewer questions that are specific to their company looks great on your part because it shows them that you are genuinely interested in their company. Failing to offer any questions could eliminate you as a potential candidate. It sounds cruel and unfair, but it is the truth. Companies look for enthusiastic candidates who display a sincere interest in their company. Any action that denotes otherwise will, unfortunately, be noted.
Tip #3: Create a Job Interview Outline
My third tip is to build an outline before heading into the interview. Having an outline will not only give you structure, but it will also ease your stress and anxiety by providing you with something to reference if you feel yourself getting lost. The outline should contain several different elements. One thing to definitely include are questions for the interviewer, as stated in the above paragraph. These questions should be targeted specifically at the company that you are interviewing for. In addition to these questions, your outline should include a brief summary of the information you wish to share with the interviewer. That way, you will not forget to leave out any vital details about yourself or your accomplishments.
I would also jot down the most commonly asked interview questions, which you can easily find with a quick Google search, along with a brief response for each one so that you are not caught off guard when the interviewer asks them. Additionally, when creating this outline, you should not write in full sentences. Instead, you should use bullet points and key phrases/words. If you need to use a full sentence here and there, that is fine; however, if your writing is too dense, you will most likely have trouble following along with it during the interview.
Tip #4: Follow-Up
My fourth and final tip is to follow up with your interviewer shortly after your interview. But first off, you should be very proud of yourself for finishing your interview. Interviewing is a skill that takes time; it is not something that can be perfected overnight. However, the good news is, the more interviews you participate in, the easier it will get and the less anxious you will be. After you are done with your interview, the rule of thumb is to wait five business days before getting in touch with your potential employer again.
If you do not hear back from them after five days, you need to follow up. You can do this by either calling the company or sending them an email. There really isn’t a better method to this, unless your employer states a preference for one over the other. Whether you decide to call or email your employer, you should keep your message simple. Make sure to thank them for their time, let them know your name and that you interviewed with them so that they remember you and lastly, politely ask them for an update on your status as a job applicant.
All in all, don’t forget to have fun with the process. Of course, you must take interviewing seriously and act with sophistication, but it is important that you do not forget to be your true, authentic self!