Dear Work It Out,
How can I gain self-confidence for a job interview?
I am desperate to get a job. I am applying for a position at a business process outsourcing company, which is essentially a third-party service provider to other businesses. I am really embarrassed about my employment history, all from BPO companies.
I admit that I was impulsive to resign in the past, and this job-hopping affects my chances of being hired. I've lost my self-confidence and worry that no other company will hire me.
Please help me gain confidence and give some tips on how to properly explain to the interviewer that I am willing to change my attitude towards work.
Job interviews are nerve-wracking no matter your circumstances. You are essentially submitting yourself to be judged in half-hour increments by strangers who have the power to control your financial future. Who wouldn't be anxious?
And when you have a legitimate weakness — like having to explain a spotty job history — it can be even harder to go in with confidence.
The good news is projecting self-confidence in a job interview is something you can prepare for, control, and even fake. Here's how.
Everyone knows you should prep for an interview, but most people think that means just looking at the company's website and the interviewer's LinkedIn profile. Instead, I'd recommend you deeply research the business, as well as all the logistics associated with the actual interview. The more knowledge you have, the more in control you'll feel. Here are some steps you can take to feel confident and well-versed:
- Read recent news articles about the company going back a few months
- Take a look at the company's most recent financial report
- Familiarize yourself with the product
- Ask for each interviewer's name and title, and research their career backgrounds and recent contributions to the company
- Use LinkedIn or your network to connect with a current employee to get some background on the company's culture, values and business priorities
- Print out extra copies of your resume and work samples to bring with you
- Map out the route you're going to take to get to the interview, and consider doing a practice run to ensure that you'll be able to get there early and stress-free
- Prepare and practice answers to the interview questions you expect to get
- Lay out your outfit and materials the day before, and check the weather
Hiring managers have already reviewed your resume and advanced you to this point, so the primary purpose of the interview is to fill in the gaps and assess if you're normal. Seriously! If you can prove that you are a generally smart, high-functioning person, you will have passed a major test.
Studies show that about 30 percent of hiring decisions are made within the first five minutes — and 5 percent are made in the first 60 seconds — so you have to look the part. Your appearance not only influences your interviewer's perception of you, but it also affects how you feel about yourself. Ideally, you've talked to a current employee or looked around the campus and have an understanding of how casual or formal the company is. Then, dress slightly above that to show respect.
Use a firm handshake, smile, make eye contact, sit tall and lean in to show you're engaged. Be present in the moment, and really listen. Rather than think about what you want to say in the future, focus on what the hiring manager is saying now and react in kind. It should be a fluid, back-and-forth conversation. And bring a lot of energy! If you are excited about the position, the interviewer will get excited about you.
Considering the importance of your first impression, as well as your own nerves in the beginning of the interview, it's a good idea to carefully plan your opening. If you can ace the first question, it will build your confidence for the rest of the interview.
Most interviews start the same way: some small talk and banter, followed by some version of, "Tell me about yourself." This open-ended question is a great way for you to take control of your story and start building the case for why you're perfect for this job. Start by offering a brief overview of your career history, including why this field called to you and some of the successes you've had. Be sure to connect the dots about the job moves you've made and why. Finish by describing what you want next, and why you're especially suited to this role.
On the surface, the interviewer just wants to learn more about you and what you want. Beyond that is a second test: whether you can concisely talk about yourself without rambling and including unnecessary details, and show through your words and body language that you are a fit.
You need a plan to tackle the elephant in the room, or else it will eat at your confidence before, during and after the interview. Know your perceived weakness — the thing that may raise an interviewer's eyebrow — and prepare to address it head-on.
In the case of frequent job-hopping, yes, it will likely be a red flag — but not an automatic elimination. Be transparent, and focus on the positive. You could acknowledge that you've worked at several places that weren't the right fit, but say you've learned X, Y and Z along the way and are now looking to settle in for the long-term and put those skills to work.
Your job is to ease the hiring manager's fears. In this case, they may worry that you've been fired multiple times, that you run when things get hard or jump at any new opportunity. If you're able to make a compelling case about your commitment to this job, they are more likely to want to invest in you.
It's normal to worry about all the reasons interviewers may want to eliminate you, but it's important to remember that they are also looking for reasons to hire you. The secret that no one tells you is that hiring managers always go into job interviews hoping that it will work out. Like dating, they too are searching for The One.
Since hiring is time-consuming and draining and always a little risky, managers want to find someone great as soon as possible. If you go in with confidence and make it easy for them to say yes, everyone will be relieved they've found their match.
Have a pressing career concern or question? Email me anonymously at firstname.lastname@example.org. Submissions may be edited for length and clarity.
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