There are 3 types of candidates, those who naturally do well in interviews, those who do not and no matter how much coaching they receive and work they put into it they just can't seem to polish their skills enough to leave interviewers wowed, and those who currently under-perform but can improve with the proper amount of receptivity to feedback and preparation.
Most fall into the third category - Most likely that means you.
Feel comfort in knowing you're not alone and remember, there is no such thing as being overly prepared. Roll playing with someone by phone and in person is indispensable, however there are also several other steps you can take to improve your interview performance and lessen your nerves.
Start by recognizing that some level of nerves is normal if you are taking this potentially life changing event seriously... it depends on your level of interview experience, self-confidence, how aligned you are with the job description and employer expectations, what's going on in your life at the moment... the variables are endless here.
Depending on how much interview experience the interviewers has, she could be could be as nervous as you are. This happens often with smaller companies that direct hire without a recruiter on staff or with a new hiring manager. I have trained and coached interview techniques to many managers and a lot of them are nervous. Remember, they need to hire the right person. A lot of companies look at candidates who don't work out as "bad hiring decisions" and place a lot (if not all) of the responsibility for a new hire on the person that made the decision. No one wants to regret the decision they made or have the boss or others saying "Well, you hired him/her". The point here is that it is an even playing field when it comes to nerves....
Interview nerves come from at least some level of lack of confidence and/or low self-esteem combined with self-pressure to perform and emotional discomfort from someone we have minimal to no rapport with being "in control" of our situation. Here are some things you can do to be more confident and enhance your performance at game time:
Research the company. Learn as much about it and the job you are applying for as you can. Devour the company website, spend time there and take notes. Showing you "did your homework" says a lot about you in the interview....namely that you want the job badly enough to be interested and prepared, but it also shows your initiative and mental energy. In addition, you will have more confidence in the interview if you are prepared and you'll find you depend less on your notes and are able to maintain more consistent eye contact. This can be the differentiator between you and your competition.
Ask the HR representative or receptionist what the dress code is if you don't know. Ensure you go dressed appropriately. An office setting requires asuit or at the very least business casual clothing. Regardless if it is an executive position or unskilled labor, you must be detailed in your appearance and appropriate. Women should always dress conservatively unless they are applying for jobs where they would be expected to wear revealing clothing to work. The bonus here is that when you look your best you are more confident.
Arrive as early for the interview as you calculate you'll need to relax and feel confident to walk in the door with good self command and composure. The drive there is always stressful enough, arriving last minute will just increase your adrenaline and make you more nervous. Sit in your car or in the lobby and give yourself a chance to calm down and prepare yourself. While you're at it, check your #1 first impression weapon - your smile. Smile at yourself in the mirror, check your teeth, lipstick, whatever else your face has going on - to make sure it looks the way you mean it to. Smiling, Job Qualifications, and Ratings of Job Applicants, a study by Western Carolina University, clearly shows that "Smiling applicants were more likely to be hired and received higher ratings on additional attributes."
Remember that an interview is a two way street....you should also be interviewing the employer to see if you really want to work there as much as you think you do. It has to be mutually beneficial or one or both parties will not be happy and it won't work out. Go prepared with questions about the company and the position. In addition to showing the interviewer your interest you will get the answers you need to know if you really want the job, if you would just be settling or if it's not for you at all.
When we are tense we tend to raise our shoulders and fidget with anything in reach. Make a conscious effort to relax your shoulders by taking a few slow deep breaths, lowering them a notch with each exhalation until they are in their normal position. Maintain good erect posture and resist the urge to act like you're all strung out on caffeine or whatever.. A candidate playing with a rubber band missed taking out my left eye by millimeters once. His behavior completely sabotaged the interview. He became embarrassed, red in the face, started to sweat, could no longer look me in the eye and forgot his lines. He squirmed until it was so uncomfortable for both of us I ended our misery by cutting the interview short. I couldn't tell him it was OK - because it wasn't.
If answers aren't generating themselves as fast as you would like, it's OK to ask for a moment to formulate the response to a question. Just say, "I have several examples, I would like a moment to give you the one that best exemplifies my skills and abilities". No interviewer will have a problem with that.
Refrain from TMI and speaking about personal things unless they relate directly to the job. Remember it is an employment interview not a date (though there are similarities), stay on on topic. People who tend to discuss their social life and outside of work interests usually do so to fill in those awkward moments of silence or when they don't know what to say... and it is apparent to the interviewer. If you face an awkward moment of silence just smile, ask a question you have prepared or comment on your vast wealth of knowledge of the company that you gained from your research. It will be much more impressive than whatever beans you were about to spill...
Most importantly, remember that an interview is really a sales presentation of yourself. The employer needs to "buy" your skills and talent to hire you. Your objective is to present yourself in the best possible light to show the employer why you are the best possible candidate. You must prove that if you are not selected the loss will be theirs. Sometimes, thinking of yourself in the 3rd person as a product is helpful.
Here is an exercise. Let's say your name is Sam. Take a piece of paper and write down all the qualities you should be hired for. Stand in front of the mirror and sell Sam's qualities. Tell the person in the mirror why they should hire Sam. Be convincing, and if you are not convincing to yourself you will not be convincing to the interviewer. Do this exercise until you are convincing to yourself and then ask a friend to listen to you give your presentation. You can "program" yourself to understand or believe just about anything. When you write, see and listen to a message multiple times you give yourself repeated mental impressions. Whether they are positive or negative, they will be deeply ingrained. That is why this exercise is valuable.
When it comes down to evaluating your performance, your advanced preparation will give you a clear advantage over the arrogant know it all who "doesn't need to prepare", and the self-sabotaging candidate who doesn't want the job as much as she thinks she does - or she would prepare for it as if it were an Olympic moment.
Unless you were born with crazy mad communication and presentation skills - you'll need to practice and refine yours if you want to walk out of the interview leaving them running to the nearest computer to draft your offer letter.....
Are you a job seeker? Ask me your questions..... Are you an employment professional? Tell me your thoughts.....