It's easy to get nervous before a job interview, especially if you haven't had one for a while. And if you've been out of work for an extended period of time, each opportunity to interview becomes increasingly important, adding to the pressure.
But with a new year comes a fresh start. And your next interviewer knows nothing of your past mistakes. So take the time to prepare using these tips, and you'll walk into your next interview confident and ready to put your best foot forward.
Here's how to rock your next interview:
1. Be yourself. It's tempting to morph during an interview. To tweak an answer to tell the story you think someone wants to hear. To say you like to work independently when you don't. Tell your true story and let your true personality shine through. If the job is really a good match, you'll fare better by being yourself.
2. Learn to enjoy the interview. We don't have many chances to compete in life anymore. But a job interview is a chance to show off what you can do for a new team. Relish this opportunity even during the interview itself and prove yourself to a new crowd.
3. Engage your interviewer. An interview should be a two-way dialogue, where both parties get a chance to ask probing questions. So ask away! And don't be afraid to ask tough questions. When you engage your interviewer, your interview is more likely to become a business discussion and less of an interrogation.
4. Forget the odds are not in your favor. It doesn't matter if five other candidates have already interviewed for the job. And you can forget the five who will interview after you, too. Those factors are out of your control, so put those thoughts away and interview without restriction.
5. Fill your head with victories. Instead of thinking about your shortcomings, play a "best of" reel in your head when you have breaks during the day. Focus your mind on days or hours when you were on top of the world, loved by everyone as the rainmaker or problem-solver. You're offering this new company your best, so that's all you need to showcase.
6. Get ready, then let go. Of course it's possible to over-prepare for a job interview. But you can also forget to transition from preparation to execution. So when it comes time to do the talking, put all the preparation tools away so you can relax and focus on your goal.
7. Get to know your audience in advance. You can ask better questions if you know something about your interviewers. Researching them will also help you prepare for any questions they'll ask you. To find information about a company or hiring manager, use LinkedIn and Google. And expect the employer to do the same research on you.
8. Bring a few great stories. Everyone loves a good story. And interviewers love true and compelling stories of how you helped a business. Prepare a positive story (situation, action, and result) based on a key events in your past. Be sure you can identify the specific role you played.
9. Smile at everyone you meet. A confident smile shows you're relaxed and happy to be there. But it also can prompt a reaction from people you meet. If they don't smile back, you've learned something.
10. Watch and listen for key signals. Is the office is busy? Vibrant? Social? Compare what you see and hear to your workplace preferences. Whether it's a good or bad fit, you've learned something about the company culture.
11. Show genuine interest and passion. Results from recent job interview research suggest that your passion and excitement for the position really does matter. So when you feel it, show it. This is likely to positively influence an interviewer and change the mood in the room.
12. Focus on the first five minutes. Most interviewers say they know in the first five minutes whether the candidate is a good fit for the job. Your handshake, first few answers, and body language all have the potential to signal strength during a job interview. Have a great "first five" and you're in good shape!
13. Try the company's products. If you're interviewing with a company that makes a product or service you can touch or experience, get your hands on it. Test it and be ready to share your experience.
14. Slide up your dimmer switch. Sometimes you need a mental gimmick to shake off the nerves, pull you up, and get your light to shine. Just before walking in the front door, mentally slide up your dimmer switch, and engage the first person you meet with a confident smile.
15. Be honest. An occasional "I don't know" will not ruin your chances at landing the job. Nor is it destructive to admit to not having a certain experience. Delivering the truth says you're comfortable and confident with what you know and what you can do.
Tim Tyrell-Smith is founder of Tim's Strategy, a site that helps professionals succeed in job search, career and life strategy. Follow Tim on Twitter, @TimsStrategy, and share his 30 Ideas Book with job-seeking friends.