Unexpected Benefit of the Interview: Confidence

Career Blog

Published: August 9, 2019 by Greta Snyder

Nothing like working a job that doesn’t utilize your education and talent to suck the life out of you and drain your confidence. If you haven’t already moved on, it is time to start breaking up from this vampire job. This isn’t Twilight, you need to leave all the drama and frustration behind and find a new job. You are the star of your own career; when you start going for new opportunities it will re-energize your passion, clarify your goals, and give you that burst of confidence you need to succeed. Go to that interview and get your groove back!

Interviews are actually fun

Wait, what? Did I actually say that interviews are fun? Think about it. When you hear the word interview, you probably immediately think “stress,” and the very idea might even make you feel physically nervous. But, don’t forget that interviews are also your path to success. Plus, interviews are always a chance to meet new people, build connections, learn about yourself, and share all of what makes you awesome to potential employers. C’mon, that sounds fun right?

It is totally natural to feel anxious before an interview. You’re in the hot seat. Someone, usually a stranger, is about to analyze your every word and mannerism, and hello, there’s a lot at stake. No matter what point you’re at in your job search and career path, the pressure is on to either get that first professional job, land an exciting opportunity, go for that sweet salary bump, or a promotion that would empower you to positively impact your community.

Think of it this way: most employers look for candidates who can remain calm in high-pressure environments and who can adapt and manage change, so being able to present this demeanor in your interview is crucial. Since the pressure is a given, why wouldn’t you prepare for how you’ll feel, just as much as for what you’ll say in the interview?

I promise I can handle difficult customers, but I’m straight up having a meltdown in the interview; I can lead a team, but I can’t manage my nerves just talking to you one-on-one; I could totally present data to stakeholders, but I look like I am about to cry when you ask me my greatest weakness? No, leave it all behind, you are stronger than your fear. Yes, you’ll still get stressed no matter how much interview Zen you master. So, let’s talk about how to wrangle your nerves and stay calm, cool and collected.

Tips for managing interview anxiety

As this Big Interview post points out, for many people just being in a position where you are not in charge and not sure what you will be asked is anxiety-inducing. So, don’t feel bad if this sounds like you; instead, here’s some helpful advice so you can cope.

 Here are top tips from Big Interview:

  • Be prepared:  read up on the organization, explore their website, download any apps and follow their social media, connect with a few employees via LinkedIn, re-read the job description and think of examples for each required and preferred skills.
  • Accentuate the positive:  While sarcastic storytelling can be entertaining to friends, it is not the appropriate tone for interviews. If you focus on framing everything with a positive spin, you will feel more confident and make it clear you are enjoyable to work with.
  • Visit the interview location before the interview: new environments alone can trigger stress, especially if you are negotiating traffic and dealing with parking. Know where you are going by doing a trial drive to the location and walk through if possible. This “logistical confidence” will help reduce your anxiety about dealing with unknown environments.
  • Give yourself extra time: set yourself up for success by arriving super early. You will absolutely want time to find a restroom and 10 minutes early is a great look.
  • Don’t feel self-conscious about pausing: if it feels awkward, use the classic “that’s a great question” to buy yourself time and then make your answer “the best example of….”

Some practical steps to reduce interview anxiety from Psychology Today:

  • Get out of your own head: try focusing on enjoying meeting new people and remembering their names and any interesting details. Start thinking of how you’ll tailor your questions at the end to the specific interviewer.
  • Assume super-hero posture: imagine you are your favorite super-hero. How would they stand to greet the interviewer and sit in the chair? Engage your core, don’t slump, you need to be prepared to save the world at any moment.
  • Treat yourself well: don’t drink too much caffeine as caffeine plus nerves equals jittery, speed-talking disaster. Don’t eat a huge meal, you’ll feel groggy, but don’t go on an empty, growling stomach. You won’t be able to think clearly, plus who wants the interviewer to wonder why your stomach is making so many sounds. Get a good night sleep the night before and stay hydrated to avoid dry mouth.

Additional tips from my recent interview experiences:

  • Save notes on your smartphone: the stealth way to prepare for your interview while waiting. I especially found reviewing my “tell me about yourself” statement helpful, which you can read about here.
  • Make eye contact: sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s so easy when you’re anxious to avert your eyes. This comes across like you are uncomfortable or don’t believe in yourself. Focus on looking at the interviewer directly. Hint:  they have no idea how nervous you are, so don’t tell them by fidgeting, closed body language or not making eye contact.
  • Do a mock interview: reach out and ask a colleague, professional connection or another student to role-play with you. (This helps even if you end up having to interview yourself.) Or, let me know if you want to do a mock interview with me. We can schedule a Zoom meeting or a phone call.

How do you deal with interview anxiety? I’d love to hear your advice and success stories.

Interviews give you confidence

I spoke with SJSU iSchool MLIS alum Emma Keefe, currently a public librarian in Bozeman, MT, to gain interview insights from professionals in the field. She recently supplemented her MLIS degree and library and archival experience with online courses through Udacity. Emma is now extremely proficient in high-demand specialized skills with SQL, Tableau, Python and R, and seeking to put her impressive data visualization and analysis skills to work in a new role.

Emma really expanded my thinking on interviews. She explained how through the process of going after exciting new opportunities, she realized that going to an interview is empowering. By articulating her skills and what she could offer the organization, it was like giving herself a motivational speech. After taking the leap to go for the first big interview, she felt much more confident and excited for the chance to find the right match for her. (Connect with Emma on LinkedIn to follow her exciting career path.)

Based on my discussion with Emma, I realized the unexpected benefit of job interviews is that the experience gives you a chance to celebrate your accomplishments and realize how much you are capable of. Having this aha moment will then allow you to better express your strengths, special skills, and talents in your next interview. Go out and get that confidence boost; you earned it!

Develop a mantra

As this useful Psychology Today article points out, if you try to force yourself to be calm, this won’t work and will just make you more anxious. Don’t try to ignore feeling nervous, name the feeling and acknowledge that it is totally natural and will pass. Try developing a mantra to repeat that will help focus you, as feeling focused will help you feel calmer and more in control of your nerves. Repeating a mantra also helps distract your mind and slow down your breathing.

One suggestion from the article is to give yourself a call to self-compassion, for example, “wisdom, strength, warmth, nonjudgement.” This is a modern mindfulness trick that can help keep you from diving down a negative thought spiral. In addition, approaching each person you meet at the job interview with warmth and nonjudgement is a great way to set a positive tone.

I remember showing up to job interviews when I was younger feeling rushed, sweaty (I am in LA, after all) really unsure of what job I was even applying for, and not taking the time to research the organization. When the questions began, I just immediately started doubting myself, and it was like an out-of-body experience watching myself in a movie about how not to interview, rambling on with answers that still did not address the question.

If I was repeating anything in my head, it was “you are bombing this interview, please stop talking, when will this end?” With the benefit of hard-won experience, I now prepare, arrive early and repeat to myself, “you are relatable, you are capable, you are creative, and you are valuable.” You can of course customize the mantra based on the type of job role you are applying to. Going for a leadership position? Try “I have star-power, I have charisma and have earned this.” Don’t worry, the interviewer can’t hear your thoughts, but they will see the impact of your calm demeanor, positive attitude and confident focus.

So, what do you think about while you wait for the interview to start? I would love to hear what other mantras have helped you get it together for intimidating interviews.

Final takeaways

Each time you interview, you get better at it. Interviewing is a skill and a crucial component to your applied professional education. Take advantage of SJSU iSchool interview resources and then get out there and practice those skills.

It is totally natural to feel fearful and anxious, so use these tips to help plan how you will manage your nerves and set yourself up for success. Be prepared, be yourself, and remember, the more you practice, the more confident you will be. Ultimately, you are in command of your career. Imagine getting an interview in the first place as a call-back for an audition, a request to go on a date, a new friend inviting you to a cool event; sure, the nerves are there, but why not be excited for the opportunity and use the fact that you are in demand already to boost your confidence. After every interview, remember to congratulate yourself for taking a chance and growing; then take note of what worked, what didn’t and what skills you want to develop.

And a quick request

I’m working on a post focusing on what to wear to the interview. Please share outfit fails and wins at recent interviews and any advice we can benefit from. Feel free to comment below, email me, Tweet at me, or message me on LinkedIn with stories.

Finally, If you are a student, I can’t recommend INFO 283-10 Marketing for Information Professionals (offered Fall 2019) and INFO 286 Interpersonal Communication Skills (previously offered during the summer) with Dr. Sue Alman enough:  do yourself a favor and take these. Also, I am super psyched to be taking Marketing Your LIS Skills in a Networked and Changing World this Fall with Oracle Senior Cybrarian Scott Brown, please join me.

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