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5 Steps to Help You Ace That Nerve-Racking Job Interview

By Dr. Larry D. Parker, Jr.
Department Chair, Supply Chain Management, Contracting and Acquisition (SCA)

Having a job interview can be nerve-racking and daunting, especially if you’re a fresh graduate or entering a new industry field. However, there are some candidates who seem to be naturals at interviewing. They are more relaxed and more confident during the interview process.

Have you ever wondered why those people are so at ease with their job interviews? The good news is that you can be a confident and self-assured candidate, too.

Yes, you read that right. You have the mental toughness inside of you to ace your next job interview. You just have to learn how to harness and summon certain skills on demand. There are five steps you can take to better prepare for your next interview.

Related link: Determining Your 2022 Career Goals: 10 Questions to Ask Yourself

Step #1: Prepare Your Mind

Before beginning any job interview, remember that your most important tool is your mind. Think about why you decided that this company needs you and focus on how your new manager will be so grateful to have you join his/her team.

Prepare on paper and later in your mind what skills you have mastered, why you will excel at this job and why you are the best person for this job. If you have performed diligent research on the company, the senior management and the role for which you are applying, you will have a well-prepared mind.

Search on Google to find the company’s values and mission. Explore LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook to find out who works for the company and what they post about the culture of their successes.

Your pre-interview research doesn’t have to be as detailed as your thesis, but if getting this job is important to you, fill a notebook with comprehensive information that will allow you to stand out compared to other applicants. Conducting thorough research will also give you the peace of mind to know if this job is a good fit for you and your values.

Your research can include the company’s latest acquisitions, which managers came from what companies, and if they have a team that participates in sports such as soccer or ice hockey. Take the time to align your interview stories with the needs of the company or its managers.

For instance, do three of their middle managers post Instagram photos showing themselves playing tennis? Choose to relate a story about how the tennis lessons you took in Maui really helped develop your backhand or how much you learned about natural talent vs. deliberate practice from reading the book “Bounce: The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice” by Matthew Syed. 

Related link: Panel Interviews: How to Ensure You Are Properly Prepared

Step #2: Dress to Impress

There’s a reason why people say that when you’re going for an interview, you have to dress to impress. Dressing smart is one way to set the bar and create a good impression on the people who may hire you, so make sure that you look neat, clean, and presentable.

It is important to realize that you may find a job with a company who dresses business casual every day. When you’re applying for a job, you should be the best dressed person in the room – or in our new normal – on a Zoom call.

You don’t need to wear the most expensive clothing you own. However, it is imperative that you wear a suit jacket or suit and tie to show that you are more serious than other applicants who think that jeans and a polo is acceptable interview attire. 

In addition, it is important to do your research. There are some positions and some companies that disdain suits and ties, but these companies are not overly common. Often, you will find someone’s anti-formal dogma expressed in books or in social media posts.

If you do get a chance to have an in-person interview, try wearing clothing that can easily be dressed up or down, depending on the interviewer. You may be asked to remove your tie or lose the suit jacket, but you never want to give someone the opportunity to judge you by your lack of a professional appearance.

Step #3: Practice, Practice and Practice

Practice how you plan to respond to interview questions. An important interview cannot be treated like a typical test that you cram for the night before.

How you mention your skills and how you relate your achievements during a job interview takes deliberate practice to sound confident and authentic. You cannot plan to memorize answers and recite them like a robot to your interviewers. But if you have a good understanding of what you plan to say, saying the words will feel less rehearsed and less like you are speaking a foreign language.

Use your research about the company and its people to practice how you might answer multiple questions. Focus on understanding what key person works for what specific department, and recall a few pieces of relatable information to make yourself seem qualified for the job.

Step #4: Create a Good Background and Remember to Smile

During your job interview, it is important to remember that your main focus is to make the best possible first impression. When the Zoom or Skype call starts, for instance, make sure you have a clean, clutter-free background.

There are several filters and backdrops that can be used with today’s telecalls, but try to find a plain, well-lit area. Make sure that you don’t have posters, stuffed animals or dirty dishes in view.

Also, make sure you greet your interviewers with a welcoming smile. You can say, “It is a pleasure to meet you” or “Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today” after the initial introductions.

Sit as relaxed and professional as you can, and look straight into the camera lens if you’re talking with interviewers via Skype or Zoom. Sitting up straight and not fidgeting are good signs of confidence.

Remember to sit in a way that you can take notes and/or review your questions for the interviewers. Having prepared questions within easy access is a great sign of a good job candidate.

Take a deep breath and answer according to the question; don’t go off on tangents. Make the interview feel natural as possible.

The interview will be done before you know it, so give it your best shot. Remember, you are here because you are a qualified candidate. Your goal is to show your potential employer what you can bring to the table. Take advantage of your credentials and showcase your good personality.

Step #5: Thank Your Interviewer(s) after the Job Interview

Whatever the outcome of the interview is, do not forget to say thank you to your interviewer or panelists. This time is your final opportunity to create a good impression, so thank them for considering you as a candidate for the position.

It is important to remember that if you’re interviewing via a Zoom or Skype call, say “Thank you!” and allow them to terminate the call. They may have one last question, so don’t be too quick to press “end call.”

Always remember that no matter how shy or unqualified you feel you are, you are just five steps away from having a better interview if you properly prepare for it and confidently state your abilities. People have been hired for all sorts of unexpected reasons: the sound of a voice, a story that resonated with the interviewer or the fact that the candidate was the only person to send a thank-you card.

Be the best you that you can be, so that you’ll stand out from your competition in a positive way. Best wishes for a successful job interview!

About the Author

Dr. Parker currently serves as the Department Chair, Supply Chain Management, Contracting and Acquisition (SCA) within the Wallace E. Boston School of Business. He serves as an adjunct faculty for various universities around the world. Dr. Parker is a native of Temple, Texas, a certified Inspector General by the Association of Inspector Generals, and a proud member of professional organizations advancing knowledge and professionalism, such as the Association of Supply Chain Management and the National Naval Officers Association.

Dr. Parker is a published author, inspirational speaker, consummate entrepreneur, and consultant who speaks worldwide on diversity, inclusion, and leadership. He holds a Ph.D. in organization and management from Capella University, a MBA from Liberty University, and a B.A. in history from Wittenberg University. Dr. Parker has a long history of passion and interest in local communities and is a proud member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. Learn more about Dr. Parker by visiting Dr. Larry D. Parker Jr. Inspires.

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