Interview nerves are often 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.
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 and persistently singing your own praises – in fact, that’s a big turn-off with recruiters. If you’re an introvert, you may have strong listening skills. Use these to your advantage.
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 and you may find that there are a few situations during your career when a ‘fake it’ approach works for you. That’s completely fine. However, by working on your self-confidence you may become more resilient when faced with new and challenging situations, a better decision-maker and more able to work independently – all of which may make you more able to enjoy, and progress in, your career.
One of the ways in which you can build up your self-confidence is by taking on new challenges. As Alexandra Watson suggests, try to ‘challenge yourself regularly and be the proactive one. A series of small breakthroughs makes a massive difference to how you feel about yourself.’ Each time you deal effectively with a challenge, whether that’s an interview or a difficult task at work, you prove to yourself that you are competent. Try to take the time to reflect after each challenge – of course, you might consider how you would do things differently next time, but make sure you balance this with a thorough consideration of the skills you demonstrated and the things you learned.
Remember: self-confidence isn’t about shouting the loudest. It’s about believing in yourself and your abilities. Even if you do this quietly – listening to people closely and contributing where you feel you have something useful to say – it will inspire others to have confidence in you.