Interview nerves are a good thing. They show you care about the job and can give you that extra performance boost you need. But if you’re really struggling to feel confident about your graduate scheme interviews, here are some expert tips to help.
How to boost your confidence ahead of an interview
Pretend to be your more confident mate
‘Pretend to be someone you know who is confident,’ suggests Dr Sue Black, a self-confessed shy person who is now a senior research associate at University College London and an IT industry figurehead. ‘I’ve pretended to be one of my more confident friends in interviews – and it has worked!’
At first glance Sue Black’s advice is completely at odds with the standard interview advice to ‘be yourself’, as expressed by leading life coach Alexandra Watson. ‘Let yourself come out,’ she advises. ‘Don’t pretend to be someone else.’
In fact, these are two different approaches to getting at the same result. Your ultimate interview aim is to be able to show interviewers something of yourself – both talking about your skills and past experiences without terror, and relaxing enough to give them a flavour of the ‘real you’. Ironically, for the very shy job hunter, it may be easier to show yourself while pretending to be someone else.
Get your mates to give you a pep talk
‘Before your interview, find someone to give you a pep talk and tell you how great you are,’ Sue recommends. ‘It really does make a difference – it’s amazing! Find those people who will make you feel good about yourself.’
Play the positive ‘What if…?’ game
Banish worries about ‘What if I mess it up?’ by playing the positive ‘What if…?’ game. ‘Ask yourself questions such as “What if I really stormed the interview?”,’ suggests Alexandra Watson.
Be clear what you want and what you can offer
You will feel more confident – and come across as such – if you are clear in your own mind what you want at this stage in your career and what you have to offer. ‘You need to be clear on your options, and clear on your value,’ states Alexandra.
Use your listening skills to your advantage
Interview success isn’t about randomly singing your own praises ad infinitum – in fact, that’s a big turn-off with recruiters. If you’re an introvert, your superior listening skills are your secret weapon.
Follow your natural instinct to listen carefully to the questions, clarify if you’re not sure what interviewers are asking and pay attention to any new information they give you about the job or the company. If you can find a way to bring this back into conversation later in the interview so much the better – it shows you have taken it in.
Rest assured that overconfident candidates are likely to shoot themselves in the foot by thinking too much about what they want to say and not enough about what they are being asked.
Developing long term confidence
These quick tips should help you succeed at imminent interviews, but why not think about increasing your confidence levels long term?
Alexandra Watson likes to use the term ‘superconfidence’ to describe genuine self-confidence that can’t be faked. ‘If you are superconfident, people can’t help but notice you,’ she states – clearly a big advantage in any recruitment process.
Importantly, she stresses that it’s possible to develop superconfidence. ‘Know what you want and how to get it,’ she advises. Alexandra is a big believer in understanding what makes you happy. ‘Then challenge yourself regularly and be the proactive one. A series of small breakthroughs makes a massive difference to how you feel about yourself.’