I was terrified for my first real job interview.
I had to go to a nearby Starbucks beforehand to mop off all of my fear sweat. My prior internship interviews seemed so trivial — they wouldn't have resulted in a paying job, so the stakes were much lower. Now I was walking in hoping they'd be impressed enough to offer me a salary and benefits.
In the interview, I took the old “be yourself” advice a little too seriously. I'm not someone who likes to talk about herself, and, at one point during the interview, I literally said, “I don't want to toot my own horn.” My interviewer looked at me incredulously and said, “This is an interview, you're supposed to toot your own horn.”
Needless to say, I did not get that job. Yet I did get an important lesson on what NOT to do in a job interview.
Because introverts tend to shy away from the spotlight, job interviews can feel wholly unnatural. All of the attention is focused on you? No thank you.
Yet with these simple steps, you can become an expert at interviewing.
Do your homework the night before.
It's easy to feel confident in a job interview when you actually know what you're talking about. That confidence will carry you throughout the process, no matter what questions get asked.
The night before the interview, research the company's history, as well as any stats you can find on the person you're meeting with. The more you know, the more ammo you have in your arsenal.
Additionally, practice your answers to standard interview questions so the responses feel like second nature.
Accept that you have to sell yourself.
You may not like self-promotion, but forget about that today.
This job interview is all about you. It's about what you can offer the company and bring to the position, and how you can elevate the team. Don't feel awkward about touting your accomplishments — own them and use them to your advantage.
Since most employers will try to learn about you beforehand, think about creating a website where you can showcase some of your best work. Spending a few hours designing a site with Squarespace can save you a lot of heavy lifting later on by letting your accomplishments speak for themselves.
Power pose in the mirror beforehand.
A few years ago, a TED talk given by Harvard Professor Amy Cuddy went viral. On the TED stage, Cuddy talked about research she had conducted that found power poses actually alter your body chemistry to make you feel more confident. To date, Cuddy’s talk is one of the most widely shared TED talks and has racked up more than 30 million views.
In the study, participants who adopted a power pose stance before their mock interviews delivered better results. They came across as captivating and enthusiastic — just the type of employee a company wants.
So take some time before your interview and power pose in the mirror. You'll feel silly in the moment, but you'll reap the benefits later.
Firmly shake your interviewer's hand.
You know how turned off you feel when you greet someone for a first date and he has a terrible handshake? Like, the type that feels as cold and limp as holding a fish in your hand?
Well, an interview is the first date of the business world, and that handshake is crucial to a great first impression.
Make sure your hands are dry, and approach with enough pressure so your presence is known, but not enough pressure to crush your interviewer's hand.
Maintain eye contact — no matter how painful it is.
For introverts and extroverts alike, eye contact is a hard thing to maintain. When you're feeling nervous, your first inclination is to look away from whomever you're talking to.
Fight that urge. If you maintain eye contact with the person on the other side of the desk, you're substantiating all of the claims you're making about yourself. You'll show that you're being truthful and have the confidence to back up what you're saying.
Subtly compliment the people who interview you.
If you walk into your interviewer's office and like a painting on the wall, tell her you think it's a nice touch. If you like her necklace, tell her it's beautiful and ask where she got it.
Nothing puts a person at ease more quickly than a genuine compliment. It'll take the inherent awkwardness out of the moment and start you off on a good foot.
Ask a lot of questions.
What most people don't realize about the people on the other side of the table is that, 99% of the time, they are just as nervous as you. Interviewing is a skill that needs to be honed, just like the act of being interviewed. It takes years for managers to master it.
With that in mind, put your interviewer at ease by taking some pressure off her plate. Ask your own questions. Make her explain her role and how she ended up where she is. It'll demonstrate how engaged you are with the company, and make your interviewer much more comfortable.
Always send a thank you email.
No matter how well you think you did, or how badly you think you screwed it up, always send a thank you email to follow up. No exceptions.
A thank you email is your last chance to cement a good impression. Reference a moment from the interview to show that you were paying attention. Also, use the thank you email as an opportunity to ask about next steps and allay your post-interview anxiety.
You may be an introvert, but you know you're the right person for the job. Approach the interview with that kind of confidence, and your dream job will follow.