How to ace the job interview if you’re nervous

From a reader:

I will soon be entering interviews for my first job in a new career path. I’m interested if you have any tips or resources for interviewing well? Ways to practice, reduce nerves, etc.

Thank you,

In my last business, I had to recruit a lot of people. I spent many hours at “the other side of the table”. It was a mind opening experience because I saw people do the same mistakes over and over. So I thought I’d share with you some of my experiences of what people did well at interviews and what they did wrong.

First: In school and in life in general people talk WAY TOO MUCH about their experience and WAY TOO LITTLE about attitude and social skills.

Ask any successful business owner what they are looking for: Someone with years of experience or the right attitude and social skills? Thousands of employees with “years of experience” get rejected every day because they don’t show the right attitude at the interview.

How come? Well, with the right attitude, things always work out. After all, people without experience will learn. With the wrong attitude, no experience in the world will help.

All employers are painfully aware of this. For many jobs, you need the right experience and qualifications, but only up to a certain point. This is called a threshold value. As long as you fill the qualifications, it’s about attitude.

“You need to be smart enough to be in the game. Once you’re in the game, however, […] the number one deal breaker is the drive to achieve (attitude)…”

Next is social skills.

Why are social skills important? Most employees I’ve come across don’t know about this, but it’s actually REALLY HARD to combine a group of people who will spend 8 hours a day together in a stressful environment for years and still be able to work great together. Conflicts between employees cost a huge amount of time and money in each company so employers CRAVE people who are socially adept to make sure they can work together.

With this in mind, here are my best advice for nailing the job interview:

1. Employers are OK with interviewees who are nervous

Employers are OK with interviewees who are nervous. However, if you tense up they might mistake that for you being stiff/distant/uninterested. So you want to address that. Before you enter the interview, remember that it’s OK to feel nervous! It’s even OK to show it. If you want to, you can even tell the employer “This is so exciting to me so I’m feeling a bit nervous”. (That will in itself make you feel more at ease, and you show the employer that you CARE.)

2. Attitude is a deal breaker

What a lot of interviewees forget is to show EXCITEMENT for the job. If you’re excited about the job – tell them. Give them some positive remarks about something you like about the company or the place. (I cringe when I think about how people don’t show employers that they are super excited for the job because attitude is a deal breaker when it comes to getting the job.)

3. Don’t assume they know you are passionate

The hardest thing to find is people who are passionate. As an employer, you’re doing everything you can to find passionate people that can work hard even if things get tough. Show that passion by telling them that, in case they would consider you, you’d love to work at their place because of A, B, C.

That’s right, don’t just say the empty words, tell them exactly why you would like it!

DON’T say: “I would love to work here”.

DO say: “I would love to work here because since I was a kid I loved [something that relates to the job] and this would be a dream come true for me. I know it won’t always be easy but I’m prepared to fight for it. At my last job, for example, we had [a big problem] and I did my best to solve it by [tell how you solved it]”.

Note: The point isn’t that you need to love something since you were a kid or been a hero at your last job! It’s that you give proof for why you really want the job.

4. Skip the empty phrases, provide evidence

Don’t say “I’m reliable” or “I’m hard-working”. That’s not possible to verify for the employer and comes off as bragging. Also, everyone says that. Instead, tell the employer about situations where you’ve been reliable or hard-working. Tell them stories about actual things you solved or did well. Optionally, say “People at my last job saw me as reliable. I think that’s because [tell them about specific moments]”.

5. Social skills

These were 4 points about showing the right ATTITUDE. But what about the other area, SOCIAL SKILLS? When it comes to both employers and coworkers, the rules of being likable is the same as for life in general. Remember that the employer is a human being who likes the same qualities in people that you do.

Read more:


P.S. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below!

David Morin is the founder of SocialSelf. He's been writing about social skills since 2012. Follow on Twitter or read more.

Go to Comments

Leave a Comment