There are several life circumstances that strike irrational fear in most of us, but there's one that's universal: the job interview. And we have to agree that the internal terror you feel is totally justified. We get it: Interviews can be majorly intimidating. Whether you're a confident person or not, walking into that important meeting can induce cottonmouth, sweaty palms, and serious nausea—sometimes all at once.
So how do you calm your nerves, summon up the courage you need, and perfect your poise on the big day? From all the stories we've written on the topic, we can tell you that research is one key to success. Other big ones: Understand your interviewer, study common questions (and prepare your own), look up confidence-building tips, and know your career story. With that in mind, we compiled a quick reference guide to help you nail your next interview and land that dream job.
Do Your Research
We made this priority number one in our interview to-do list because it is so important. Why? For the simple reason that 47% of hiring managers will immediately eliminate candidates who had little or no knowledge of the company. It doesn't matter how confident you are or how many skills you have that fit the job description; if you don't have a solid understanding of the company, they're going to assume you're just not that into them.
CMG co-founder Hillary Kerr believes it's an interview deal-breaker. "My personal pet peeve is when someone comes in and then asksc the question like, 'how did you guys get started?' And to me, that for a job interview, you should have done a little bit more research," Kerr told The Huffington Post.
Of course, a company's own website is a good place to start, but dig a little deeper than that. Check out the company's page on LinkedIn, familiarize yourself with its staff, look up news articles, find out if its CEO has written any books, and be aware of its competitors. Showcasing your passion and knowing about the culture in the interview will not only prove you want to work there but will put you in good stead to land the job too.
Prepare for the Questions, Including Your Own
"What are your expectations for this job?" "What are some of your weaknesses?" "Tell me about a time when you failed and turned it around." These are just some of the tough questions a hiring manager could ask you during an interview, so be ready. You can purchase books with practice questions or look them up online; there's a myriad of articles out there. Once you feel confident in these, start prepping the questions you should ask. If you're not sure where to start, ask yourself, what do you want to know about the company and the position? This is your chance to get as much information from them as possible and really discern if this is, in fact, the right job for you. You are both interviewing each other for the role, and asking questions will ensure you're both confident it's a right fit.
Update Your Résumé
While there has been some debate about its relevancy— a pain letter will increase your chance of a callback by 25%—a résumé is still the single most important document for your interviewer. It should be a concise checklist of your work history so they can see the most important information at a glance. If you want to make a good first impression, this needs to be immaculate and incredibly detailed. That means using power verbs, avoiding overused phrases, and being selective with the jobs you include.
Be Aware of Your Body Language
So you've practiced enough interview questions to feel confident enough, and your résumé is looking slick, but there's one crucial form of communication you should become familiar with, and it's nonverbal: body language.
These often-subtle visual cues will ensure you make a memorable first impression and give you that competitive advantage. In her book "Presence," Amy Cuddy (who you may know from her TED Talk on the benefits of power-posing) says "adopting the body language of a powerful person changes the way other people see and act toward you, which in turn reinforces your confident behavior."
So before an interview, Cuddy advises you to plant your feet widely and stretch your arms overhead in a V shape. If that seems too aggressive, then strike the "performer" pose for two minutes to "set those hormonal changes in motion and give you the confidence you need to ace the interview."
You should also refrain from folding your arms across your chest, and keep good posture throughout the interview. Never give in to slouching, or you'll come off as aloof or uninterested. To show your interest, lean in, mirror their body posture, and use the triple nod.
Ryan Robinson, an entrepreneur, and marketer at Creative Lab told Inc.com that this simple act affirms to the interviewer that you're listening and are engaged. He said a whopping "38% of hiring managers say they've eliminated candidates after an interview because of a lack of smiling and engagement during conversation."
Dress the Part
Just as it's important to be articulate in an interview, it's also important to think about the way you dress and how you present yourself. It's the first line of communication before you even open your mouth, so make sure you make it count. A crisp white shirt and tailored pants with heels is always a fail-safe, professional-looking outfit if you're a little unsure.
But ultimately you have to feel like yourself. If you're uncomfortable at all, it will show, and your confidence will wane too. If you want to wear color, science says navy blue is best. According to a CareerBuilder survey, hiring managers prefer this color, and it symbolizes loyalty, control, and confidence—attributes we all want to exude in an interview.
Learn How to Negotiate Your Pay
Before you head into your interview, you should know your worth and prepare for the negotiation stage. Ashley Stahl told Forbes there's only one thing worse than avoiding a salary negotiation, and that's "completely botching on your ask," so try to avoid these common mistakes and make sure you're happy with the outcome.
It's also really important that when asked about your current salary, you don't lie about how much you earn. National workplace expert Lynn Taylor told Time you should always answer truthfully. "Not only could you lose the opportunity, it could damage your professional reputation," she said.
If put into a corner, Taylor suggests putting emphasis on the position itself. Her example of a good reply to this is: "Compensation is certainly important, but I'm really looking for other factors in my next job, too—such as growth potential and making a difference with a great product and team. Perhaps you can use "You tell me what is budgeted for the position, and we can discuss it?"
Don't Forget to Follow Up
Now you've completed the terrifying task of the job interview, how do you feel? Listen to your gut. If you thought it went well and want to ensure the hiring manager remembers your name above all the others, don't forget to follow up. Make sure you send it within the 24-hour window after your interview finished so your name is fresh in their mind. It doesn't need to be long or gushy, just a simple (preferably handwritten) note to say thank you for the opportunity, regardless of the outcome. This simple sign of gratitude will speak volumes.
Want to nail your next interview? Read our top tomes below to make sure you score an offer.
25 Fun Facts About Resumes, Interviews, Social Recruitment. Business 2 Community. August 14, 2014.
How To Write a Pain Letter to Get Callbacks in 3 Steps. Zety. July 17, 2020.
New CareerBuilder Study Looks at Best and Worst Colors to Wear in a Job Interview. CareerBuilder. November 21, 2013.