I recently received the rather stressful news that I will be made redundant in the New Year. This has been a very tough year for me in terms of work, as my anxiety has been pretty intense at times. After taking three months off of work to try to get better control of my mental health, and returning to work and doing my best to get back into the swing of things, this came as such a blow to my confidence, and the thought of starting over again somewhere new is very daunting.
However, with financial responsibilities in mind, on Tuesday I applied for a job, and by Wednesday they called me to arrange an initial interview-which I had today!
Now, those of us who struggle with anxiety know that things taking us by surprise, or having very little time to prepare ourselves for important things can feel very stressful and overwhelming. We also have a tendency to put extreme pressure on ourselves to do well, and think up all of the things that could possibly go wrong.
As it happens, my interview actually went pretty well today, and I received some excellent feedback. I now have to go for an assessment next week, as the final stage of the process.
Despite my anxiety being awful at times, over the years I have developed a fairly good interview style. I just wanted to take a few moments to share a few tips with any of you who may worry about interviews, in the hope it might help someone get through it.
Do your research
Prior to any interview, always spend some time researching the company. Work out their company goals and ethos, what they stand for, their values, and the services they offer. Also check for any recent, positive news articles about the company that you may be able to refer to during your interview. You could also check whether they are going through a period of change, or have recently merged with other companies etc. This is important, because not only are employers looking at your skills and experience, but they are also looking to see your motivations for applying for the role. In showing an interest in the company, and demonstrating you have done your research, it shows the potential employer that you are enthusiastic and can use your initiative. Additionally, in checking the company’s values and goals, you can get a good idea of the kind of people they are looking for to join them.
Take a glass of water into the interview with you. If you are anything like me, when I get nervous or anxious, my mouth becomes very dry and sometimes I struggle to get my words out. The glass of water can help in a couple of different ways. Firstly, of course, it assists to avoid your mouth and throat from getting dry, which will make you more comfortable. But also, it can also assist you to take your time to answer a question accurately. As the employer is asking the question, taking a sip of water will buy you an extra few seconds to think about your answer and gather your words together.
Take notes with you
Don’t be afraid to take in notes with you to an interview. It is a common misconception that an interview is a memory test. This is absolutely not the case! Taking notes with you to remind yourself of specific examples you would like to talk about, will take off the pressure a lot, and give you something to refer to if your nerves are getting the best of you. Equally, in getting these notes written in preparation for your interview, you are also giving yourself the chance to reflect on your own skills, knowledge and experience, as well as your personal qualities. It also encourages you to thoroughly look through the job description, in order to gather the relevant examples you wish to speak about. In doing this work beforehand, it can really boost your confidence and ease the stress a little, as you will know you you are going in prepared, and with a thorough understanding of the job you are applying for.
Remember that the interviewer wants you to do well
When we are feeling nervous, we often believe that the interviewer is trying to catch us out, or trick us, or make our lives difficult. But stop and thing about this for a moment. The interviewer is just another person, just the same as you. The last thing they want is to interview 100 people for the job, and then have to go away and re-advertise the job. This is time consuming, and a difficult process for them. It is in their interest to find someone for the job, and so they really do want you to be successful in your interview. Likewise, they have already received your application and read through it before asking you to interview, and so you have already been shortlisted. In being shortlisted, it is clear they are already interested in you. The face to face interview is partly to find out a little more detail about your skills and experience, and also partly just to see if you as a person are a good fit for their company. Being yourself is important for this reason, as it will help both you and the employer see whether the environment is a good fit for you.
Always arrive early…but not too early!
It is really important to not arrive late to an interview. Punctuality is important for nearly every job, and firm impressions count here. Of course, there are times when due to train strikes, road accidents, bus delays etc that this is outside of our control. Save the name and number of the person interviewing you on your phone before leaving home, and as soon as you have any concerns that you may arrive late, contact the employer as soon as possible to inform them of the situation, and if possible an estimate of when you should arrive. Apologise for any inconvenience, and apologise again when you arrive.
Where possible, I suggest you arrive to your interview around 10-15 minutes early. This allows you time to get a glass of water, take a few deep breaths, and gather your thoughts before going in. Try not to arrive any earlier than this, as this can make the employer feel under pressure to see you earlier than they are ready to.
Body Language is Key
Try to be mindful of how you are sitting in your interview. Don’t slouch in your chair, as this can appear unprofessional or uninterested. Similarly, do not lean too far back for the same reasons. Try to sit with a reasonably natural but good posture. Keep your knees together, and if you are like me, tuck one foot beneath the other-this stops you from nervously tapping your feet! I also have a terrible habit of getting shaky or fidgety hands, and so I manage this by holding my hands comfortably together on my lap, (unless I am drinking my water) and gently squeeze one of my thumbs. This is a strange tip, I know, but it can sometimes help me to direct my stress and pressure all to one area, and usually eases my shaky hands considerably! Maybe it will work for you too? If nothing else, it makes you keep your hands still!
Have a couple of questions prepared to ask at the end
Most interviews end by asking you if you have any questions you wish to ask. It can make a really good impression if you ask a couple of questions, as it shows a genuine interest in the role and the company. Avoid questions relating to pay or holiday-these things can be discussed if they offer you the job. Instead, ask questions relevant to the sector, or mention a (positive) article you have read about the company recently and ask a little about it. Alternatively, you could ask about career progression within the company, or internal training available.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself
I know, I know…easier said than done, right?! But honestly, try to cut yourself some slack. You have made it this far, and been offered an interview. That in itself is an achievement you should be proud of. If you get offered the job, that is brilliant. But if you don’t, try to remember you have still gained further interview experience, and you can use this as a learning experience for your next interview. Also try not to take it personally-not being offered the job doesn’t necessarily mean you did a bad job. It can be really helpful to ask the employer for feedback on your interview. This will provide you with tips for your next interview, and give you an idea of how you carry yourself in interviews at present.
There are so many people looking for work at the moment, and it is a difficult time for job-hunters. Don’t let it knock you down-brush yourself off, keep your head held high, and keep positive. The right job is out there for you. Do not doubt your own worth or abilities.
You are strong. You are bright. You are valuable.
You can do it!
Good luck guys!