Have an upcoming job interview that you're feeling nervous about? While it's normal to feel a few jitters beforehand, excessive stress and anxiety leading up to an interview can impact your job prospects and affect how you're perceived by your potential employers. To help active job seekers put their best foot forward, Public Sector People have provided some helpful preparation tips to help ease anxiety and make people feel prepared and confident when heading into their next job interview:
Often it's the sense of the unknown that will be a catalyst for anxiety, especially in social or professional situations. You can start to ask yourself a lot of 'what if' questions and when you can't answer them with any certainty, it can trigger an anxious reaction. So, when it comes to job interviews, one of the best ways to alleviate the nerves people can feel beforehand is to minimise the 'unknowns'. A great and easy first step in doing this is to do some background research on the people interviewing you and the organisation itself. Usually, the department or team you’re interviewing with will confirm who’ll be conducting your interview. Alternatively, you can always ask your company contact if they’ll provide you with the names of each interviewer. Once you have the names you can search for them on their company website or Linkedin to find out a little bit more about their role within the company and how they relate to the particular job you're applying for. This information is helpful, as when thinking about your hypothetical answers to interview questions, you can consider what questions these interviewers might be most interested in. For example, if you know a member of the finance team will be sitting in on part of your interview, it's worthwhile to mention your experience with any finance software, as this information would probably be valuable to them. Furthermore, researching about the company itself will make it clear to your interviewer how interested you are in working for them, as you've put in the effort. You can find out about their company’s past, present and future through looking over their website, Linkedin page and other relevant social platforms, press releases or even any recent news articles that mention the company, making a note of interesting projects and awards. Researching the company shows that you are taking the entire process seriously and most importantly, it will help form your expectations of what the interview will be like and make you feel more at ease going into it.
Another big unknown leading up to an interview is the questions you'll be asked. What if you don't have the right answer prepared? To minimise the anxiety surrounding this thought, active job seekers should do their homework. Before each interview you should give yourself plenty of time, to think of all the potential questions you could be asked and map out your answers. Luckily, most government organisation's will provide clear material before an interview on the types of questions/content that will be covered. Some interviews - particularly panel interviews- will even provide the interviewee a set list of questions they'll ask that will relate to the particular role. However, the more ‘hypothetical answers’ you can think through and practice beforehand, the more confident you’ll feel going into an interview. These hypothetical answers should be based on the background research you’ve conducted on the company, your skills, your previous experience and most importantly how these factors make you a great candidate for the current role the organisation is advertising. During your interview preparation, it can also be beneficial to look over the role's key selection criteria- which are the qualities, knowledge and skills required for a candidate to perform a particular role, set by the organisation’s HR department. This criterion will often be presented through specific questions or statements aimed at revealing your background and knowledge in areas relevant to the position and traits identified as important to the organisation. When planning answers to your hypothetical questions, you can use this key criterion as a checklist, to ensure you're covering or fulfilling all the requirements the organisation considers important to perform the role.
Furthermore, when answering questions, most government agencies encourage job applicants to use the The STAR method: a structured approach to answering behavioural questions that demonstrate how a candidate used their previous work experience to overcome a particular problem. The definition for what the STAR acronym stands for is below:
The Situation- sharing the context around a particular work challenge you faced;
The Task- describing your responsibilities or role in that situation or challenge;
The Action- explaining how you were able to overcome or resolve that challenge. If the action was carried out by a team, focus on your efforts;
The Response- summarising the outcome that was directly achieved by your efforts
So, you can also keep this in mind when forming your responses.
While on first glance, this can seem like a lot of additional effort, the more preparation you put into an interview beforehand, the more confident you'll feel on the day; a key quality interviewers will look for when meeting candidates.
One of the most stressful parts of a job interview is the feeling you get when you realise you're going to be late. Maybe it's because of unexpected traffic or because you've taken the wrong turn, but running late to an interview not only sends the message that you're not seriously considering the role but it puts additional stress on you. You then rush into the interview flustered and anxious, which will only make it harder to then try and convey how compatible you are for the particular role.
To avoid this from happening, you should ALWAYS give yourself a buffer when planning out your commute to the interview. Giving yourself an extra fifteen minutes of breathing room to allow for any unexpected travel hold-ups (traffic, car trouble, wrong turns etc.) will make you feel so much calmer on the way to the interview. You should also double-check the address the day before the interview and ensure you have the right route mapped out to get there, to avoid getting lost, or worse, showing up at the wrong venue. Even if this preparation means you have overcompensated and arrive at your destination earlier, you then have additional time to grab a quick coffee or look over your notes one more time.
Alternately, if the job interview is online, make sure you have double-checked the technology you’ll be using and ensured your internet connection is secure, as these factors will not only hinder your ability to answer questions but also suggests your organisational skills aren’t up to scratch.
If you're feeling confident and in a good headspace there’s a much higher chance you’ll have a good interview. So, in the days leading up to your appointment, take care of yourself. Exercise, eat well and make sure you get plenty of sleep.
Try to avoid sources of confrontation and stress before the interview. First impressions are important. Feeling positive will show, and you’ll have a better experience on the day of. It's also important to remember that actively looking for a job and preparing for interviews can be time-consuming and draining, especially if you feel like your job search has been going on for a while. If you're starting to feel anxious or upset about your current job situation, experts say that it’s important to maintain perspective. When psychologist and executive coach at Dynamic Transitions Lisa Obre- Austin was talking to Linkedin about coping mechanisms when looking for work during the pandemic, she mentioned that fixating on anything that might impact your future job interviews that are outside your control will only hinder your progress. Try not to dwell on things like the current job market, your competition, or even potential restrictions or border closures as these will only exacerbate any feelings of anxiety and stress. They are issues outside of your control and therefore aren’t worth dwelling on. Alternately, she suggests focusing on what you can control; your skills, your knowledge, keeping your resume up-to-date and continuing to reach out and stay in touch with your professional network.
It's also important to remember that no interview is a waste of time. Interviews are a skill; the more we practice, the better we get. And even if you leave an interview not feeling confident, you can always learn from the experience, and use it to improve your skills time for your next interview.
For those that are currently looking for job opportunities and seeking advice on their interview prep, or even feedback and assistance on their application process - Public Sector People has a team of consultants who specialise in helping candidates with their job search, in addition to knowing what clients are looking for when hiring. If you’re wanting to seek advice on ‘cutting through’ within the current job market and making a strong impression with potential employers, reach out to our team of consultants at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ready to find your next role? Start the search today!