A lot of people feel nervous before an interview. Personally, I always get cold fingers. It’s totally normal, and if you are interviewing in a second language, it can feel even scarier. But, don’t worry. Interviewing is a skill you can build just like any other, with practice and strategy. Here are some basic tips to make the process easier for you.
How can you give a good interview?
The first thing to pay attention to is your body language. Try to present yourself with confidence in the way you speak and move, even if you feel nervous. In the U.S., we have a saying for this: “Fake it until you make it.” This means you should try to act confident even when you feel nervous. Taking some deep breaths just before the interview will help you relax.
If your interview is in-person, take an open posture when you enter the room and sit down. Try not to cross your arms and legs, unless you are wearing a skirt or dress. Smile often, and try to resist fidgeting. Imagine what a confident and relaxed person looks like and try to mimic that body language. When you are interviewing online, remember to look at the camera often to create the feeling of eye contact with your audience. All these things will create a good first impression before the interview even begins.
When you speak, pay attention to your speed and volume. Often people speak too quickly or quietly when they feel nervous. Instead, take your time and pause for a moment if you need to think. If you don’t understand a question, ask for clarification. It’s better to get the question right even if you need to have it repeated or rephrased.
Americans can be very direct compared to some other cultures, so try to make your answers short and give the point first. You should share important details that you want the audience to know, but don’t tell a long story. Explain things like the importance of your experience or achievements if you think your audience needs that information. For example, “I graduated from _____ University, which is the top school in my country.” Or, “I received _____ Award, which is given by the _____ Organization for excellence in _____. If you give a short answer and aren’t sure whether you should give more details, it’s ok to ask: “Would you like me to give you more details about that?”
Be authentic! Of course presenting yourself as a professional is important, but remember that your audience wants to know about your personality too. If you are interviewing for a job, the interviewer is wondering whether you will be a good fit for the team, how you solve problems, and how you handle it when something goes wrong. Be prepared for these types of questions and have examples ready to show how you’ve dealt with these issues in the past. Being yourself is important because if your interviewer doesn’t like you for who you truly are, do you really want to work with them anyway? You’ll be much happier in a place where you can be appreciated for who you are.
If you’re giving an interview for your followers, the advice is similar. Think about how you can help them understand your work and process. Try to connect with them. They want to get to know the real you, so don’t be afraid to share your authentic self. Let them know what inspires you and what your passion for creating is. Tell some stories that they can relate to!
What mistakes should you avoid in an interview?
It’s very common for people to use filler words when they are speaking, such as um, like, ah, so, etc. It’s ok if you use these a little, but it’s better to avoid them if you can. Using too many filler words can make you sound nervous or confused.
It’s also very common for people to use uptalk or vocal fry when they are nervous. Uptalk means that your voice goes up at the end of a sentence, like a question. Some people speak every sentence like this and it makes them sound like they are uncertain about everything they say. Vocal fry is a way of speaking that makes your voice sound low and creaky. Some people have negative feelings about this type of speaking, so you should avoid it if you can.
Of course, you also want to avoid grammar and pronunciation mistakes, but the most important thing is to be natural. Don’t try to memorize your answers, because they will sound awkward. Instead, practice talking about your work and your industry so much that it comes naturally and easily to you.
Always focus on your strengths. Don’t talk about the things you don’t do well or put yourself down. Instead, try to describe yourself in the best way possible. Try not to complain about past employers or bosses, and don’t apologize for your English, lack of experience, or anything else that you might feel anxious about. Just do your best and focus on the benefits you can bring as an employee. Think about what makes you different from your peers and present that as an asset.
How can you prepare for an interview?
One of the best ways to prepare for an interview is to do your research. Look at the website of the company you are applying at and be sure you understand what makes it unique. Also, be sure you completely understand the job description and can talk about why you are the best-qualified person for it. Be ready to explain why you are a good fit and how you will benefit the team.
You should also research common interview questions – both general questions and questions specific to your industry. I’ve listed a few links with these types of questions below to give you an idea of what to look for.
Next, plan your answers. Make a list of the most important things you want your audience to know about your background, your projects, your process, your passion, and what makes you stand out from your peers. Then try to include those points in your answers.
Finally, practice makes perfect. The best thing you can possibly do to prepare for an interview is to practice many, many times. You want to be so comfortable talking about yourself and your work that you can do it without thinking. I strongly suggest recording yourself on video when you practice, then watch the recording to see if you are following these tips. Do this again and again until you master it. Once you feel comfortable, it’s a good idea to have a friend give you a practice interview, so you don’t know what questions are coming.
Interviews can feel pretty scary, so I’m here to support creatives in their journey. If you have questions about this post or are interested in working with a coach, send me an email. If you’d like to read more tips like these, you can sign up for my newsletter and get a free email series about how to tell your portfolio story.
To see a previous version of this post that focuses more on the needs of the ESL community, click here.