I’ve worked random part-time jobs since I was about 16. While not every singe job I’ve had required an interview, and while a lot of those interviews were more formalities, I’ve been through a few. In high school, I also did a lot of flute auditions, which kind of count as a musical interview — the judges are assessing your skills and qualifications, just like they do in interviews, and the nervousness beforehand feels about the same. So although I’m not an expert, here are some of the things I do to 1) survive and 2) do my best in interviews.
- Tips from my flute teacher: eat well beforehand. This sounds like the opposite of what you’d want to do — nervousness makes some people nauseous, so why would we want to eat? For auditions, my teacher told me that eating tricks your brain into thinking it’s not in “danger.” If your stomach is full, your brain says, you must be in a non-threatening environment, because no living thing eats when they are in danger. Choosing what you eat helps, too — turkey and bananas both have tryptophan, which just makes us fall asleep after Thanksgiving, but calms our bodies down before auditions and interviews.
Visualize yourself in the interview or audition. This does work a bit better for auditions, because you usually know what you’ll be expected to play, but it can be modified for interviews as well. Before auditions, when I was practicing, my flute teacher told me to close my eyes and imagine myself walking into the audition room. I would visualize how I was going to stand, how much I would breathe, and then would imagine playing each and every scale. Don’t just think about the audition, she said, imagine every single finger position and every movement that your body will be making. It’s a way of being in the environment without actually being there, and it helps to alleviate fear of the unknown. For interviews, you can imagine yourself going in and saying hi, and then sitting down and taking a deep breath before you answer a question. You can imagine how you will explain your skills and experience, and then imagine giving a strong handshake before walking out. It feels a little weird at first, but it really has helped me in the past. If you’ve done something before, it’s not as scary, so this is a good way to practice for an interview or audition.
- Be prepared. When I apply for a job, I try to always looks around the company’s website a bit to get a feel for the company, products, and culture. If I get an interview request, I go back to the job listing and match responsibilities and skills to relevant experience on my resume. I try to come up with specific anecdotes to illustrate those skills. Then I go back to the company’s website for two reasons: 1) to re-familiarize myself with the company and the department I am interviewing for (if possible), and 2) to learn more about the company so I can come up with intelligent questions to ask during the interview.
- Answer questions genuinely and honestly. We all know that when asked about our weaknesses, we’re supposed to say that we are perfectionists and pay too much attention to detail. But unless that truly is your weakness, I think it’s cliche. Interviewers would rather hear about the real you, so be honest. When I’m asked that question, I typically answer that I avoid tasks I know I’m not good at. I’ve noticed that about myself and jobs. However, I do mention that since I know that about myself, I try to be intentional about learning and practicing in weak areas, and knowing when to ask for help. Knowing your weaknesses and having a plan to correct them should impress employers. And while some people have told me that it’s better to have a “strong” weakness — ie, one that can be spun into a strength — when I’ve gone that route, I’ve ended up sounding fake. So for me, being honest is better, and if that is the thing that loses me a job, so be it.
Don’t get too excited after a good interview (but don’t beat yourself up, either). Not to sound pessimistic, but I learned this from experience. Back in the fall, I had an interview for a manager trainee position. I went to the interview, and felt it went really well. I had specific examples to back up my skills and qualifications, the interviewer was friendly, and the job sounded great. I even had more than one intelligent questions to ask about the job. I was sure I’d get chosen for the second interview, so I told a bunch of people about it and got really excited. And guess what? I didn’t get the second interview. It was quite disappointing. I don’t know why I didn’t pass that stage — it could’ve been that there were other, much more qualified candidates, or it could’ve been that my interview didn’t go as well as I thought. Either way, I chose (for once!) to look on the bright side — doing that interview was excellent practice, and I learned a lot from it. So while I didn’t get the job, it was definitely still worth the time.
- Know that you’re not going to nail every interview. You’re just not. Sometimes, you’re off your game, sometimes the interviewer is in a bad mood, and sometimes you’re just not a good fit for the job. It’s okay. Interviews are a part of life, and you’re not going to “win” all of them.
- Finally, no matter how the interview went, you should celebrate that it’s over. Interviews and auditions are stressful. If it went great, that’s awesome! Congratulate yourself with an ice cream cone or something. If it went terrible, that sucks, and a wine and movie night is definitely warranted. Even if you don’t get the job, you got through the interview (or audition), and that in itself is something worth celebrating.