This might be a bit presumptuous, but I think I may know better than anyone how terrifying a job interview can be. Being an introvert starts me at a disadvantage, and my anxiety makes it that much worse. Put these two together, and you have me up at 3am the night before the interview, frantically Googling acceptable answers to the question “if you were a Crayola crayon, which color would you be?” because somewhere along the line we started telling college students that that’s a legitimate question you will be asked (not-quite-a-pro-tip: nobody is going to ask you that question.)
So while I’m far from being a pro at this, and there are probably far more qualified people on LinkedIn willing to share advice, here are my five tips for nailing the job interview that you’re absolutely terrified you’re going to screw up.
Know Whether You Want the Job
It might seem like utterly ridiculous advice in a society where finding a job is akin to finding the golden ticket and having a degree really doesn’t mean much of anything. I’m not suggesting that you’re going to find your dream job and that you’re going to love it every minute of every day, but you should enjoy your job more often than not. And the job interview is the first chance you’re going to get to figure out what you do or don’t like about a certain company.
I’ve been on job interviews where the interviewers texted the entire time, stared out the window while I was talking, and didn’t bother shaking my hand even when I held it out to them. I never did get that job, but I also knew from the get go that I didn’t particularly want it. The job I’m at now though? I love it, and the interview was my first experience with the people I work with now. Going home that day, I couldn’t wait to tell my parents how great everyone I’d met at the company was.
This is advice I can remember my mom giving me when I went on my first job interview back in freshman year of high school. At the time, I was interviewing for a job as a snack-stand attendant at the local sports complex and the point was kind of moot since the only questions they asked were, “do you have a work permit” and “can you work weeknights.”
As I got older though, and started interviewing for internships and for full-time post-graduate jobs, the advice started to make more sense. Most interviewers are going to ask if you have any questions, and having nothing to say makes it seem like you’re not very interested. Beyond that though, and this is why my mother gave me the advice, you should ask questions because you should have questions. There are going to be aspects of a job you don’t like, and some of those aspects might be deal breakers. Asking these questions at the interview gets them out of the way, so that you’re not finding out after you’ve turned down another job that you’re not happy with your workplace.
Do Some Research
I don’t mean you need to grab the nearest notebook and log in to your university’s alumni library program, but you should know a little bit about the company you want to work for. Chances are pretty slim that an interviewer is going to ask you what year a company was founded, or how much money they made last year (although that’s another question college career counselors would have you believe you should be prepared for), but they probably will want to check that you know what the company does and be able to tie that into your career goals.
When you find out you have an interview somewhere, take a few minutes to figure out what that company does and how you fit into that. Some interviewers may never ask, but others will want to know if you have any experience in this type of work, and how you think you’d be of benefit to the company. Don’t get caught stuttering out something along the lines of “uhh, well, I’m really great with people.”
I know it can be tempting to pad your resume, especially in the first couple years out of college where there’s not much on there (trust me – I know the feeling you get when you think “could I put my experience as a waitress on here?” because spoiler alert: I did). But for the love of all that is good in the world, don’t make things up. If you barely passed college Spanish, don’t write that you’re fluent in three languages because chances are, you’re going to have an interviewer ask for some sort of proof or, if you get the job, some day down the line someone in the company is going to ask you to use that skill. Don’t put yourself in that position.
Instead of making things up to fill your resume, use experiences you really do have (like that waitressing job I just mentioned) and apply skills you learned there to the field you’re looking for a job in. For example, waitressing for three years in college taught me time-management and multitasking skills that can be applied in any post-grad job. The resume game is about knowing how to apply the experiences you have to the experiences you want, not about lying to get the job.
Demonstrate Your Skills
Remember all those group projects and extensive research papers you hated doing in college? Well, I hope you kept a copy of them because now’s when they come in useful. Most employers may never ask to see that business plan you created in Intro to Advertising, but they will love to hear about it. Being able to discuss these projects you’ve done, what they’ve taught you, and what skills you were able to apply to them shows an employer that you’re willing to get a job done and that you have skills to bring to the table.
Next time an interviewer asks what kind of experience you have with teamwork, remembering that press release you wrote and presented back in college can help to not only tell them that you have the experience, but show them that you have the experience.