For many people, the idea of a job interview causes them to break out in a cold sweat.
Even someone who is comfortable speaking publicly sometimes finds the idea of being grilled by a potential employer daunting. That's because a job interview is unlike most social situations. It's sort of a mostly one-sided first date where you lack a full understanding of what the other person wants.
That's a scary prospect even for the coolest of customers, but it's possible to minimize the stress you feel before and during your interview. There's no magic bullet that will help you ace every interview, but if you follow these steps and rules, you should do well most of the time.
While it may sound trite, you would be shocked at how many people I have interviewed over the years that were completely or partially unprepared. Being prepared for your interview means learning about the company and the job beforehand.
You don't need to memorize every detail of the company, but you should know the highlights. In addition, if you know who will be interviewing you, it's best to do a little research on him or her. That could result in gaining an advantage -- like learning you both like the same baseball team or were in the same fraternity -- but even if it doesn't, it's still a good idea.
Look the part
Unless the person interviewing you specifically tells you not to, you need to wear a suit or its female equivalent to your interview. Even if the job you're applying for only requires very informal dress, the interview is still a dress-up occasion. In addition, if the company has a public appearance policy (like Walt Disney World's rules on public-facing employees' appearances), you should do your best to comply with it.
Bring your materials
Even though you sent your resume and perhaps other materials to your potential employer, you should have copies with you. This means bring enough resumes for at least a few people and have a copy of your references ready to to go. These may never leave your bag, but it's always better to be safe than sorry.
Be ready to talk about yourself
While you may get a chance to ask some questions (and should have some prepared) much of the interview will be about you. That means you should be ready to talk about yourself and lay out some of your accomplishments in a rational, not braggadocios way. Think "my efforts led to sales rising 13% for the past 12 months," not "I'm a great salesman."
Relax and breathe
The interviewer may try to trip you up. Be prepared to answer common "gotcha" questions like "what is your biggest weakness?" But, even if you slip up a little, remember that the goal is to be yourself, and sell your skills to the interviewer.
Interviews are scary because jobs are so important, but at the end of the day all you can show the interviewer is your best self. Be confident, relax, and act like you've been there before. Be comfortable, friendly, and answer the questions fully.
Remember that sometimes you will get jobs where the interview seemed to go poorly and other times you won't be hired when things went well. It's a confounding process that's best approached with a relaxed, confident demeanor where you accept that you can do your best, but not control the outcome entirely.