Q: Next week I'm going in for an interview for a dream job. I know I've got the right qualifications, but I'm afraid I'll say or do something that takes me out of the running. How can I put my best foot forward when I'm feeling so stressed?
A: Few things in life are more nerve-wracking than interviewing for a new job. So much rides on the outcome: money, opportunity, self-esteem. Yet there are ways to calm yourself down and focus, and even use your excess mental energy to your advantage. How can you achieve this? The key is preparation.
Before you go in for your interview, find out as much as you can about the job and its compensation package. Then you'll be able to speak intelligently about how your experience, skills and personality are a good match for what the employer is seeking. Knowing what the position pays in advance can also save you a lot of angst. Usually getting a job description and estimated salary is easy – just ask for the info when you're scheduling the interview. Employers don't want to waste their time with a candidate who isn't qualified, or wants more than the company is willing to pay.
Next, find out as much as you can about the company online. This can help you be sure that the organization is one you'll be proud to represent, as well as help you refer to their specific products and services during the interview. This is a surefire way to impress any interviewer.
After you've laid out the job's details and compiled research on the company, think hard about what makes you the best candidate for the job. Practice explaining how your background and talents match with what the employer needs. This may seem a little silly, but you'll find it much easier to talk about yourself in the high-pressure environment of a job interview when your brain has already worn a little path through the appropriate synapses.
Also be prepared to discuss your strengths and weaknesses, as well as why you want the position. Don't play it cool. Employers want people on board who are excited about working for them, since they're more likely to be successful. So channel your jitters into enthusiasm for the job. You'll find that when talking to HR, a positive attitude is often contagious.
Finally, make your own list of questions. Interesting questions reveal their author's grasp of the subject, while simultaneously offering the interviewer a chance to expound upon his knowledge and opinions. In a job interview, asking good questions is often more impressive than giving good responses.
The biggest thing to remember, however, is that you're not the only one who's nervous at the interview. Your potential employer is probably worried about the process and outcome of your conversation, too. Concentrate on making them comfortable, and it'll help you to focus much less on your own inadequacies.