7 Ways To Prepare To Shine In An Interview, Even When You're Super Nervous

Pre-interview tips from a career coach to help you land that job.

Interviewing for a job and landing it with confidence Studio4 | Canva

You've had your resume professionally prepared and sent a handful of applications online. After some back and forth by email, and a short phone screen, you got the invitation. You've been asked to come in for a face-to-face interview! 

You should be thrilled about this, especially been a few months since you got laid off from work, and the job market has been slow. Still, your palms are sweaty. Suddenly, you have butterflies in your stomach. You haven't had an interview in years and have no idea where to start.


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Seven ways to prepare for an interview — so you can truly shine

1. Self-reflect.

Sometimes the hardest questions can be about yourself, like your interests, values, goals, preferred ways of working, and ideal work environment. Take the time to think these items through, not to ace the interview but to ensure this job is a good match for you.

Remember you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. Be clear about what you want. And, at the same time, adopt a practical mindset. If you don't get this job, there will be other opportunities, perhaps one that is an even better fit for you. You will be far more self-aware and ready for when that time comes.


2. Study the organization.

Find out as much as you can about the company. You can get a lot of clues about the culture from the corporate website, executive bios, and career pages.

She is studying up to shine at a job interview Aslysun via Shutterstock

Research the organization to see what's been in the news. Sites like Glassdoor can be helpful to give you a sense of the leadership and potential hotspots. Find out if anyone in your network works or knows someone there; there is nothing like a first-hand account.


Once you've done your digging, consider what questions you'd like to ask the interviewers during the process. Recruiters and hiring managers are always impressed when candidates take the time to learn about the products and services offered, the values, and the most significant business goals.

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3. Anticipate questions and craft your responses.

Be sure to set aside a few hours for this next exercise: write out the questions you think you'll be asked, along with your best possible answers. Take your cues from the job posting, particularly the qualification section, and you can’t go wrong.

Most interview questions are behaviorally based. That means that you'll need to think about situations in the past in which you demonstrated specific behaviors, such as problem-solving or adaptability.


Be prepared to answer the questions in a fair amount of detail, including information such as the context, who was involved, what actions you took, what were you thinking and feeling at the time, what the outcome was, and what you learned from the experience.

And don't forget to write out your responses to challenge questions. These are questions that stress you out the most. When I work with clients on these questions, such as, "Why did you leave your last job?" there is a real turning point for them.

I give them activities to re-frame their situation in an accurate but more positive light. When they nail this, their confidence soars.


4. Rehearse.

Practice makes perfect. And to avoid potential jitters, you must have your responses down pat. Read your answers out loud or even record or videotape yourself. Get a friend, mentor, or coach to help you and give you honest feedback so that your best performance will be in front of the hiring panel.

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5. Visualize the outcome.

It's no accident, Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Michael Phelps, and Muhammad Ali performed so well. They all used visualization before every event. Jack Nicklaus is widely known to have said: "I never hit a shot, not even in practice, without having a very sharp in-focus picture of it in my head."

The same visualization techniques used in sports psychology apply here as well. Never step into a room without having pictured the entire interview from your arrival to your departure.


Master the Art of Engaging Interviews with Powerful Visualization Techniques

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Close your eyes and imagine walking up to the receptionist with conviction to announce yourself, calmly waiting in the reception to be called, firmly shaking the hiring manager's hand, and wearing a genuinely warm smile. Note how you feel.

Now, envision yourself seamlessly answering every question posed to you. Finally, imagine giving your closing statement about why the job appeals to you so much, and what you look forward to bringing to it.

You're done. You've shaken hands again, and now you're heading home, enthusiastic about the opportunity and proud of how well you handled the interview.


6. Dress for success.

There's an adage "Dress for the job you want," and it is true. The interviewer has to be able to picture you in the job.

You can get a sense from the company website about the dress code, but it's always better to slightly overdress than show up underdressed. In general, stay away from anything distracting, such as low necklines, short hemlines, bright colors, or big jewelry.

Classic and comfortable work best for most organizations. But the bottom line is that you have to feel good wearing it. Ask a friend or partner for color and outfit suggestions that flatter you.


7. Get centered.

Before you walk into the building, take a few minutes to get grounded. Sit in your car, on a bench, or in a coffee shop and feel your feet on the floor. Put your hand on your stomach and take a deep breath. Count to four and then exhale slowly. Take about 10 breaths and let your thoughts come and go freely.

Then, pump up your self-talk. You can do this! You're ready! Hold your head high, smile, and act confident. Then, you will be.

Even if you're over-the-top nervous, you can present yourself as a self-assured professional. It takes some preparation on your part, but stick with it, and you'll shine at the interview as well as in your new job.


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Lisa Petsinis is an ICF-credentialed career and life coach who works with women who want to show up fully for their lives and build lasting life skills – like confidence and resilience – that will help them achieve their career and life goals.