Written by: Lindsey Marx | Best Company Editorial Team
Last Updated: February 24th, 2020
If you get a pit in your stomach when you think about an upcoming job interview, you're not alone. A study by Harris Interactice in behalf of Everest College, found that 92 percent of adults in the United States fear job interviews. Is there an antidote for interview-induced anxiety?
Fortunately, the answer is yes. Survey spokesperson John Swartz, regional director of career services at Everest College advises "Everyone is different when coping under the pressure, but the best advice to help manage job interview fear is to simply be prepared."
As someone who knows a thing or two about job interviews, I'll share with you my hard earned wisdom about what to do before, during, and after a interview so you can land the internship or job that you always dreamed of.
Before the interview
You probably already know that first impressions matter, but you may not realize just how important they are. Laura Sinberg writes in Forbes that your interviewer has already come to conclusions about you in the time it takes to cross the room, shake hands, and sit down: "According to a study by Frank Bernieri, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at Oregon State University, within the first 10 seconds of meeting your interviewer — otherwise known as the meet-and-greet — that person has decided whether or not you're right for the job. Those who come across as polished and pulled together are quite simply more likely to be hired than those who are seen as putting in less effort."
As you dress for an interview, make sure that you look professional. Have confidence, and don't forget to smile.
When it comes to the interview itself, how do you approach your preparation? You can count on being asked to explain why you are interested in the job and why you think you're a good fit. But what about the questions that address more situational subjects, like how well do you work with a team or how have you overcome an obstacle at work? I have found the STAR strategy to be enormously helpful.
STAR preparation stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result:
- S — Situation. Think about a specific task you were given or situation you were in.
- T — Task. What was required of you?
- A — Action. What was your plan to accomplish the task?
- R — Result. What happened? What did you learn?
For example, imagine an interviewer asks this question: "Tell me about a time that you worked effectively with a team?"
Using the STAR method (and drawing on my previous work experience), my answer would be:
S — Situation: "I worked effectively with a team when I was in my internship with Goldman Sachs. We were required to find a solution that would fix some of the problems we had within the private banking realm."
T — Task: "My team was made up of eight different juniors and seniors in college who all had 10-hour work days. We had to learn how to manage eight different crazy schedules while still fulfilling our responsibilities. We had one week to present on the topic of innovation and engineering to fix private banking problems."
A — Action: "We used qualtrics to help us manage our schedules and meet together while blocking out time on our calendar and being proactive in asking for mentors' help. We decided we needed two hours a day, and often came to work earlier as a team to get more time to work on the project and to have the conference space and materials we needed to succeed."
R — Result: "Our team grew super close, and we felt ready by Friday to present our ideas. We all still communicate with each other today and we won the innovation team competition."
Use this approach to identify at least six different answers to six different scenario questions. Bring notes with you to your interview that you can glance at them if you get stuck, but practice to ensure you are confidently look the interviewer in the eyes as you respond.
Mentors, friends, and family members can help you prepare for the big interview. If you can, connect with a current employee on LinkedIn and meet up with them to ask them questions and prepare for your interview.
During the interview
Make sure you have questions prepared to ask your interviewers. As much as the interview is for the company to see if you are a good fit, it is also for you to see if the company is a good fit for you. Ask questions that show you have done your research and know some basic information about the company.
You could look at the company's social media accounts to learn about specific iniatives or community outreach that the company you are interviewing with is involved in. You can also ask about what current employees like about where they work, what challenges they are facing, and how they are planning to overcome those challenges. This shows that you care about the culture and environment of the company.
Remember, it is not recommended to ask for details about salary or compensation packages until after you have an offer. Use your limited interview time to display your passion and skills for the job you want.
After the interview
Remember to send a handwritten thank you letter and an email or LinkedIn message to show how much you appreciate the interview and to thank the interviewer for their time. Many candidates forget to thank their interviewers and this doesn't go unnoticed. I like to send an email and thank you note the very moment that I complete the interview. If they ask for anything like references, a copy of my resume, or something from my portfolio, I make sure to include this in the email and to ask for anything else that needs to be included. I also mention, "I look forward to hearing back from you."
Make sure to stay in contact. If the company calls, emails, or texts you, reply as soon as you can. I once applied for a position and literally the only thing that set me apart from the other candidates was the fact that I texted back as soon as I saw the original message about an interview. The CEO was so impressed with my immediate reply that when I came in ten minutes early to interview, she hired me right at the end of the interview. Be prompt and show care.
Like anything else in life, practice makes perfect when it comes to interviewing. If an interview doesn't go well, choose to learn from that experience so you can do better the next time.