4 Less Obvious Tips to Build Interview Confidence

With a glut of interviewing tips available online, I hesitated to even write a blog on this topic. Then again, at almost every turn, actual experience reminds me that even the most confident of candidates can be rattled by the interview process. What is it about telling our own story that is so stress-inducing?

Whether you’re actively engaged in a job search or it’s been years since you’ve made a transition, navigating an interview process can be daunting—not to mention, exhausting. And while the internet is full of great tips reminding us to research the company, practice answers to common interview questions, arrive early, prepare smart-sounding questions and always send a thank you note (all of which is good advice, by the way), I sometimes think the most basic advice remains unstated.

Here are four (basic, yet less obvious) tips to build your interview confidence:

  • Work to articulate your story with clarity. Articulating your experience may seem easy, yet I find it is the clarity part with which candidates struggle the most. Take a moment to outline your story. Rather than jumping into a litany what you’ve accomplished in a given position, take the time to think through the story you have to tell. If it helps, go through the motions by opening a Word document and using a traditional outline to capture your story. For each of your recent positions, take time to note (a) why you were hired, (b) what lessons you learned along the way and (c) what if anything influenced your success or made your accomplishments particularly challenging or rewarding. Chances are, unless you are interviewing with someone who has also worked with a past employer, no one can appreciate the reality of your experience without good context and a clear story line. Set the stage for your audience and do not assume they have the important background details. Articulate the story with clarity and simplicity. And incorporate data where needed to highlight particular successes.
  • Build three takeaways for your listeners. When you think about your skill set and your experience at large, what three takeaways do you want your listener to remember the most? What messages do you want to resonate after you’ve left the room or the Zoom? Write down your takeaways. For example, have you been in a position where you were asked to serve as a change agent or perhaps a culture champion? Have you been asked to manage more difficult clients or improve challenging account relationships? Keep in mind: you will share a lot during the course of the interview but circling back to your three takeaways will help keep your story on course.
  • Call out what may give pause. Before going into an interview, most candidates have a hunch as to what might cause hesitation on the other side of the table. Are you lacking the number of years of experience desired? Do you possess core skills but lack an industry specialization? Either way, don’t wait for the hiring manager to ask the question—be prepared and bring it up proactively. Being interviewed is a challenge, but not every hiring manager or c-suite leader is proficient at interviewing either. And don’t assume—what you think might cause hesitation may not be an issue for the employer at all. If you’re not certain how to address it directly, you can simply ask at the end of the interview if the employer has any hesitations regarding your credentials. Your ability to anticipate and address concerns with confidence can often turn a perceived negative into a positive asset in short order.
  • Remember your criteria matters too. Maximize your opportunity to ask questions that yield information that matters to you. Align your questions with the criteria you are using to determine if the job and company are a fit for you. For instance, will you have the internal or external support for the transformation the company is seeking? Will you have the tools and the budget to achieve success? Does your pace of change or action planning align with the company’s pace? While asking great questions is always in order, your audience will truly appreciate a question or two that goes directly to helping you (and them) ascertain a mutual match.

Navigating interviews and surviving the search process, especially at the executive level, can be challenging. Should you need a coach or thought partner in your journey, check out Occhio’s confidential candidate services. We can’t write a resume or go to the interview for you, but we offer advice and support where you need it most.


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