Applying for a new job or a promotion can be really daunting, especially if you’re shy. Even if you’re great at what you do, the idea of having to prove yourself in a pressurised situation, in front of people you don’t know, can feel incredibly intimidating.
You may find the mere thought of performing in a job interview when you’re a shy person rather perturbing, but you must not let that deter you from achieving your professional potential.
In order to come up with ideas, solve problems, understand customers, fix things, improve things, organisations need diversity. Not just diversity of gender, race, sexual orientation and religion. They need diversity of thinking; different ways of seeing the world, of processing information, of thinking, of asking questions, of solving problems. They need cognitive diversity. They need you!
The following tips and ideas will help you prepare for your interview, feel more comfortable and confident on the day, and ultimately increase your chances of landing the job!
PREPARING FOR YOUR INTERVIEW
DISSECT THE DESCRIPTION
The key to success lies in understanding what the employer is looking for. And that is detailed in the job description. Analyse in detail each of the skills they are looking for. List them. Now work out which of your experiences and success relates to each of these points. Try to find a few examples for each skill, which you can discuss when asked.
Find out as much as you can about the company in advance of your interview. Look at their recent successes, trends in the industry as well as challenges which may be affecting the company. Check out any recent reports, white papers, publications as well as trade journals, articles and press coverage. Demonstrating that you know your stuff shows commitment, preparation and deep thinking.
ANSWER ME THIS
Think through all the interview questions you’ve been asked in the past.. and what do you notice? They’re kinda similar. Why do you want to work for us? What’s your biggest weakness? Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Yada yada yada. Prepare responses to these classic questions ahead of time… so you don’t get caught out.
If you tend to freeze or get embarrassed when asked about your achievements, why not take a professional portfolio with you to your interview, to give you a calm confidence on the day. Prepare a one-page sheet which sits at the front of the folder – with a brief description of your 5-10 main professional achievements. Behind your summary sheet, include examples of your work, case studies, awards or reviews which are relevant to the job. Being able to talk through your achievements without getting embarrassed or having a temporary brain block, makes it easy for you to literally show your interviewer how amazing you are.
You know they’re going to ask you if you have any questions for them at the end of the interview. So prepare some. Don’t just ask random stuff, make these relevant to the organisation. Come ready with at least 5 questions in your mind; or written neatly on a card. No awkward silences or winging it for you.
We all know the power of first impressions. It’s a massive cliché, but it’s true. Rather than relying on your ability to pull it out the bag on the day, practice, practice, practice. Recruit friends and family to help you work on giving a solid handshake, making eye contact and smiling. You are going to feel rather silly, but it’ll be worth it.
Practise your interview technique with a friend you can trust; someone who knows what they’re doing and has time to spend running through a full interview with you a few times. Take it seriously, though, no mucking around. Get them to ask you questions and practise running through your answers.
DRESS FOR SUCCESS
Plan your outfit ahead of time, so you’re not panicking on the day. Go for something smart, which feels like you… and is comfortable. Check you can sit down comfortably, without revealing too much of anything. (!) And steer well clear of colours that show sweat pages. No pale blue shirts, under any circumstances. If wearing a tie or heels makes you feel more powerful and confident, then wear that! Make sure everything is washed and ironed ready for the big day. Don’t forget the little things. Polish your shoes. And your nails. You want to make sure you look like you made an effort.
In a bid to avoid any last minute panicking, or traffic debacles, work out the best way to get to the interview, allowing loads of spare time, just in case. The goal is to avoid delays and stress, and arrive there early, cool calm and collected.
Nothing will derail you. You are more prepared than a boy scout. Pop a spare pair of tights or a tie in your bag, just in case you have a misshap. Take a plaster if you’re worried your shoes might rub. A spare phone charger. A bottle of water. A packet of tissues. Think ahead. If you’ve got all your risks covered, you can focus on dazzling in the interview.
Set yourself up for success with a visualisation exercise. Run through this exercise in the run up to the interview and on the day too… Close your eyes, and imagine yourself arriving at the office, meeting your interviewer, shaking their handing confidently, sitting down with good posture, running through all the questions, making eye contact, smiling, laughing even… imagine every single step. Imagine all the questions you might be asked. Imagine yourself doing a being the amazing, warm, lovely person that you are. Imagine dazzling them with your achievements.
ON THE BIG DAY
In the spirit of avoiding a mad panic, aim to arrive at the venue early. Give yourself a good few minutes to chill out, get used to the environment, gather yourself and your thoughts and make yourself comfortable.
BREATHE FOR CALM
Remember to breathe. While you’re waiting and during the interview, you can use your breath to calm yourself and steady your voice. If you feel yourself panicking before the interview, try breathing in for 5 or 6 and out for 5 or 6 to regulate your breathing and bring about a sense of serenity. If you feel stressed before you answer a question, be sure to take a deep breath before answering. This will help you gather your thoughts and avoid rambling. Remember, your brain and body need oxygen to function!
Water is your secret interview weapon. Sipping water will help to calm your nerves and stop your mouth from drying out. Plus; taking a sip of water gives you a moment to think and gather your thoughts. Sneaky!
NICE TO GREET YOU
When greeting your interviewer, shake their hand, make eye contact and smile. Your handshake needs to be firm, and confident, but not so hard that you break the other person’s hand. If you look away or down, they will immediately question your confidence and commitment. All this can be tricky for shy people. Which is why you need to practice – a lot, until it becomes more comfortable for you.
Good posture gives the impression of confidence. If you’re leaning back in your chair with your arms folded, you’ll look like you’re not bothered and you don’t want the job. If you slump down in your seat, with your shoulders hunched, you’ll look nervous and lacking in confidence. Imagine a thread running through the top of your head up towards the ceiling. Imagine it’s holding your spine straight making your taller. If you lean in towards the interviewer to show them you are engaged in the conversation and you really want the job.
Clearly, staring intently at your hands during the interview is more comfortable than looking your interviewer in the eye. However, in order to bag the job you’re going to need to build some rapport, and that is done by making eye contact and smiling from time to time. The goal is to show that you’re a friendly kind of a person, who knows how to get on with people, is interested in what they’re saying and is happy to be there. After all, you want to show that you want the job! If it doesn’t come naturally to do this, try wearing something subtle and secret on your hands, like a nail varnish or cufflinks, which when notice them, they remind you to look up, make eye contact, nod and smile.
Don’t rush your answers. Before you answer a question, take a breath, talk more slowly than you think you should, and pause every now and again! Nervously, garbling answers in the fashion of someone who has verbal diarrhoea is not going to get you the job.
If you’re not sure how to respond to a question, rather than saying erm… or looking blank, use a phrase like “That’s a good question,” or “I just need a moment to structure my thoughts,” to buy you a little bit more time.
Avoid wearing rings or jewellery or accessories that will encourage you to fiddle nervously. Put your papers to one side, so you don’t fiddle with them. Tie your hair back so you don’t fiddle with it. If you find yourself fiddling with your fingers, try clasping your hands together in the manner of someone who is engaged and concentrating on the matter in hand.
At the end of the interview, it’s important to leave the interviewer with a final good impression. If you shuffle off, mumbling and looking awkward, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Instead, make eye contact, smile, shake hands firmly and tell them you’ve enjoyed meeting them and that you’d really love the opportunity to work with them.
AFTER THE INTERVIEW
When you come out the interview, take a moment to reflect on the experience. Perhaps head to a café, and while it’s fresh in your mind, jot down what went well, any questions you might have and what you could improve on for next time.
Before you down tools for the day, send a follow up email thanking people for their time. Mention something specific that you enjoyed about meeting them and tell them you’re looking forward to hearing from them soon. It pays to be polite.
When you’re done, be sure to take some time for yourself to relax and recover. Maybe head to the gym, go for a walk, do some yoga, or meet a friend for a chat and a glass of wine. You deserve it!