Tips on Reducing Job Interview Stress
Finding a job can be a stressful experience, and it is common to feel nervous, anxious and excited before an interview. For a successful interview, it's important to make the right first impression, communicate your skill set effectively and be at your best. This article highlights some of the resources available to help you build confidence and reduce stress during the job interview process. No matter the specifics of the interview, this article will provide you with the right resources to help you prepare for, and ace, your next job interview.
Before the Interview: Prepare
Use the tips below to prepare for your interview to reduce anxiety and set yourself up for success. Every interview is different. There may be multiple rounds of interviews that are conducted in-person, with a group or virtually over a phone or computer. Employers may require you to take a test, provide writing samples or present a portfolio of your work.1 No matter the interview format, the interviewing process is an important opportunity for the employer to learn more about you in addition to what is on your resume.
The interview is also an opportunity for you to learn more about the company and the position for which you are interviewing. Use the best practices below to organize your thoughts before an interview and gather essential information to share during the interview:2
- Research the company and job responsibilities. Visiting the company's website, if it has one, can provide a great overview of the company as well as the job for which you're applying. There are also a number of publications on the Internet or at your local library, as well as the company's annual report, that can help you learn more about the organization.
- Review your resume. Be prepared to talk about accomplishments that appear on your resume as well as ones that do not. Think back on your previous positions and be prepared to highlight your successes.
- Anticipate questions that the employer will ask you and practice being interviewed beforehand by a friend. This will help you frame your answers and rehearse your responses to difficult questions, as well as ensure that you have included all the significant points you wish to make in your response.
- Contact potential references. Reach out to your professional and personal network and make a list of contacts that would be willing to be a reference for you. Bring a list of confirmed references and their contact information to the interview. Also, if you have letters of reference from previous employers, bring copies for your interviewer.
Anticipate questions that a potential employer may ask you by reviewing some of the most common questions asked to veterans during job interviews:3
- Why did you leave the military?
- What do you like about your current position? What do you dislike?
- What professional mistakes have you made?
- What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses?
- How do you handle deadlines or job stress?
- What is your biggest accomplishment? What is your biggest failure?
- Where do you see yourself in five years (or one year, two years)?
- Why should I hire you?
Visit CareerOneStop's Sample Interview Questions resource to see more common interview questions as well as questions you can ask employers.
During the Interview
The interview has finally arrived! During the interview, your goal is to demonstrate that your abilities and personality are a good fit for the company. Your success will largely depend on how you present and conduct yourself during the interview. Follow these tips to demonstrate your skill set and keep interview stress in check:2, 4
- Arrive on time. If you are unavoidably detained, contact the interviewer and re-schedule if necessary.
- Turn off your cell phone.
- Greet the interviewer with a firm handshake and introduce yourself.
- Sit comfortably, but maintain good body posture.
- Be confident, smile and make eye contact.
- Listen carefully to the questions and make sure you understand what is being asked. Be sure to ask for clarification if you don't understand.
- Use your voice and gestures to communicate enthusiasm.
- Try to minimize distracting habits (ex. tapping your pen, twirling your hair or moving your legs) and filler words such as "umm" and "like".
- Be positive about your past jobs and experience. Never speak negatively about a former manager, supervisor or co-worker.
At the end of the interview, thank the interviewer, restate your interest in the job and ask when you can follow up.
To boost self-confidence and reduce the stress of making a great first impression, consider these tips from Military OneSource when planning what to wear for your interview.2
- Invest in appropriate interview clothing – don't wear your uniform or military-issue shoes on a job interview.
- Dress for women includes a business suit with a light blouse or, for a more casual interview, slacks or a skirt and a blouse.
- Dress for men includes a navy or gray suit, a light shirt and a matching tie. For a more casual interview, slacks, a collared shirt and a sports jacket are appropriate.
- Be meticulous about your appearance. Make sure your hair and nails are neatly trimmed. If you choose to do so, wear simple makeup and conservative nail polish.
After the Interview: Follow Up
Following up after the interview is an essential step of the interview process. It expresses to the employer that you are proactive and interested in the position, which will help to make a positive statement to the company and could give you an edge over the other candidates. Follow these tips from Military OneSource to maximize your impact after an interview: 2
- Verbally follow up. If your interviewer was open to a follow-up call, make the follow-up call on the day the interviewer suggests – not earlier.
- Write a thank-you note. The thank-you may be an email, typed business letter or a simple, handwritten note. In the note, restate your interest in the position, thank the interviewer for his or her time and provide any additional information you may have forgotten to mention at the interview.
If you get a job offer – congratulations! Before you make the decision on whether or not to accept the job, consider the work environment, location, growth potential, job security, salary and benefits. If you don't get a job offer, don't be discouraged. There could be any number of reasons why you didn't get the job, including reasons not necessarily related to your performance at the interview. Look at the interview as a learning experience. Analyze what went right and what could be improved. This experience will be valuable as you continue searching for employment.
- Defense Department's Career Decision Toolkit for Interviewing Excellence
- Department of Veterans Affairs' Performance Based Interviewing
- Department of Veterans Affairs' Interviewing Techniques Guide [PDF 912KB]