If a client shares interview feedback with the caveat; ‘maybe it was down to nerves’, my heart always sinks. Sadly this means an otherwise capable and credible candidate has had a case of the interview jitters; a momentary lapse from their usual focused and collected selves. With the exception of the few who have never experienced such jitters, how do the best candidates consistently show the best versions of themselves at interview?
For those that find interviews tough or stressful, it’s hard to fully remove the stress. Even the most naturally gifted leaders need strategies for coping. These are some of the most pragmatic and accessible lessons we’ve gleaned from the many, many talented candidates we’ve met with over the years:
- Plan ahead – make time to do your thinking ahead of an interview. Very few job specs ever seek ‘flying by the seat of your pants’ as essential criteria! Being flexible is one thing, but if your flexibility delivers you to an interview without thinking time you are selling yourself short. Give yourself the time and space to be successful.
- Be prepared – know the brief, know the firm, and the drivers behind the appointment. Importantly focus upon what you have to offer in solving this specific issue. Being prepared and feeling prepared gives you a great platform to stand upon.
- Manage yourself – if you are a morning person, or you find it difficult to leave the office once you get there, go for an interview slot for the beginning of the day. Or if your work diary is challenging, seek a session after hours. You know when you perform best, and when you are likely to be least distracted, so go for those interview slots.
- It’s not a battle – the folk you are meeting are not there to defeat you or catch you out. Interviewers generally have a cool head, take a cautious view of your experiences, but at heart they just want to be impressed by you. Consider it a business meeting – treat your interviewers as you would your business stakeholders- structured, calm, assertive and positive dialogue focused upon measurable outputs .
- Pause, breathe, think, act – if you muck up an answer hold your hands-up. Take a moment, collect your thoughts and then have a second go at the answer. Realising you’ve taken a duff route and calling it out, is far more compelling than trying to blunder on.
It is worth remembering that we are all allowed an off day, and that includes your interviewers too. As the saying goes; class is permanent form is temporary. And that applies to good and bad form! Try to learn from a case of interview nerves, try to identify the trigger and work on managing it. Interviewing well is just another professional skill to master and have in your arsenal of business leadership skills.