By Kathryn Berg
EAP Trainer, The Village Business Institute
A job search can be a pretty daunting endeavor. Searching for a new opportunity leads to endless applications and, of course, the dreaded job interview. While interviewing may never be easy or enjoyable for some of us, there are several steps you can take before, during, and after the interview to calm your nerves and present yourself in the best way possible.
Do your Research
When you’re in the market for a job, whether as a new graduate, new to town, or looking for a new opportunity, you’re probably casting a pretty broad net. Applying for several positions is totally normal, but in preparation for an interview, it’s important to narrow your focus. Of course you should make sure you are familiar with the position for which you’re applying, its duties, and how you are qualified to fill the role. But also familiarize yourself with the company’s mission, values, and culture. Check out their website as well as their Facebook page or Twitter feed to get a full sense of the organization.
Dress like Yourself
After graduating from college, I had what I called my “interview suit.” I bought it specifically to wear to job interviews, and never wore it for anything else. I had a vision of a respectable candidate, and she was dressed in a suit. The problem was that I wasn’t representing myself in this outfit. As soon as I stopped wearing my “interview suit,” I became more comfortable in my interviews, and I was better able to represent myself in an honest way. It’s important to dress in a professional manner, but there are still ways you can dress like yourself. Wear a special piece of jewelry, tie on a bright tie, or swap out your neutral shirt for a color you love.
Find a Happy Medium
We all know it’s important to prepare your answers for prompts like, “what are your strengths and weaknesses?” and “tell me about yourself.” Specifically, I believe it’s important to know how you’re going to answer these questions in a way that isn’t just “how you respond in an interview.” Nobody would cite “working too hard” as a weakness in real life, so you shouldn’t say that in an interview, either. You want to answer questions in a way that displays you in your best light, but stays true to yourself, hence, the happy medium. Instead of sharing a fake weakness, try sharing an actual one as well as the steps you have taken to improve upon that weakness.
It’s easy, and completely understandable, to be nervous for a job interview. In these situations, I try to flip the situation on its head. Instead of thinking, “I hope they like me!” I try to think, “They picked me!” It’s true. There is no way to know how many other applicants there are for any given position, nor how many of them the organization will be interviewing. However, you can know that they liked your application well enough to choose you for an interview. Hold onto that knowledge and use it to your advantage. This organization saw something in you that wasn’t there in every applicant, and they want to learn more. This is your time to channel Sally Field—they like you, they really like you!
Sometimes paper products do still have a place in our increasingly digital world. I believe a follow-up note is one of these opportunities to dust off your stationery. Write to each of your interviewers to thank them for meeting with you, briefly explain what stood out to you about the position or the organization, and remind them how you can be contacted for future questions or to schedule another meeting. A follow-up email is appropriate as well, but a tangible note will make you stand out in both the effort put forth as well as, again, a display of your individuality.
About the author
Kathryn Berg joined the Village Business Institute in September of 2014 as a trainer serving the VBI’s Employee Assistant Program client companies. Prior to joining the Village, Kathryn spent two years working in the human resources field, focusing during that time on recruitment, training, wellness and benefits administration. Kathryn provides training on a wide variety of topics and currently focuses subjects such as harassment prevention and drug-free workplace compliance. She graduated from Georgetown University in Washington, DC, with bachelor’s degrees in English and Psychology and a minor in French. Outside of her work at the Village, she spends her evenings and weekends as a competitive swim coach.