I have an interview coming up, and my friend who works at the company keeps offering to help me practice. I know it’s really nice of him to offer, but my gut is telling me not to do it. Practicing makes me uncomfortable, and I feel like I’ll be more relaxed and authentic if I go in fresh.
Should I trust my gut, or take my friend up on his offer?
I want to commend you for asking this question. Every day I speak with clients who tell me they prefer not to prepare for interviews.
Just like you, practicing makes them uncomfortable. They get this gut feeling that tells them…
- “Practicing is going to make you more nervous.”
- “Practicing makes you sound rehearsed and inauthentic.”
- “If it’s the right job for you, you shouldn’t need to practice. It’ll just happen!”
But I have news for you (which I think you already know):
I don’t think it’s your gut talking...
...I think it’s your fear.
And if in reading this a slight pang of anxiety just confirmed for you that yes, this really is about fear, I want you to know two things:
1. Your fear is perfectly normal
In my decade of coaching job seekers, I haven’t met a single person who doesn’t get nervous thinking about and walking into an interview (including myself!).
Even when I kick off interview training with my most accomplished, articulate clients, they’ll take a hurried breath and confess, “Whoa, I just got really nervous.”
This fear comes from a valid place.
We all have interview fantasies -- of walking in and just clicking with the hiring manager, and shelling out picture-perfect, authentic responses that flow oh-so-naturally.
But practicing for an interview exposes you to the possibility of not living up to that fantasy.
It exposes you to the possibility of saying something that indicates you’re not worthy of the job; or of investing all this time and energy practicing and getting your hopes up, just to be rejected.
If this is the tradeoff, what kind of human being would choose the discomfort of practicing over the comfort of fantasy?
I’ll tell you who:
The kind that gets hired.
Which leads me to the second point I want you to know.
2. Your fear (and your interview prowess) will get better with practice
Countless times, I’ve seen my clients go from so-so to WOWZERS in the interview room. Because winning in the interview is a skill you can learn -- and need to learn if you want to land the job.
The problem is, most job seekers don’t practiceenough to turn self-doubt into self-belief.
They start practicing, feel the fear, give a subpar practice performance, and then they give up, concluding that a bad practice experience means practice is bad.
But you wouldn’t expect to master any new skill in one shot, would you?
That’s why an entire week of my Land Your Dream Job program is focused on mastering the art of interviewing. We go deep, because learning the optimal approaches to storytelling, relationship-building and other details significantly increases your chances of landing the job.
But before I cover some of those strategies here, please let this truth sink in:
Simply commiting time to practice will get you 80% of the way there. It is by far the most ignored -- and yet most important -- aspect of interview prep.
My favorite practice regimen
If you’re ready to face your fear and start setting yourself up for interview success, here are my quickest tips for leveraging that practice time most effectively:
- Always, always, always talk to that friend! A friend or contact at your prospective company will have invaluable insight to help you calm your nerves and prepare effectively -- like the questions you may be asked, what the company is looking for, the motivations of your interviewers, and what to emphasize about your background. Who knows, they may even put in a good word with the hiring manager!
- Build your story bank: You need at least 6 pre-rehearsed, succinct, and relevant stories you can share as examples. That way, whether you’re asked “Tell me about a time you failed,” or, “Tell me about a project you managed to success,” or even a curveball question, you can easily select and slot in a story you’re ready to tell.
- Use this response format: I’m happy to share my simple formula for crafting organized, relevant, compelling responses to any question. That way, every answer can be tailored to the specific opportunity at hand, and leave your interviewer with a clear message to remember: they should hire you!
- Practice until you feel it in your bones: Compile a short list of likely questions (from today’s most common interview questions, the company’s Glassdoor profile, and your conversation with your friend). Then, practice responding to each question at least 5 times. The point isn’t to memorize your responses (yes, this comes off inauthentically in the interview room), but to practice to the point that you know yourself -- your relevant stories, skills, opinions, goals. That way, you’ll have no trouble busting out your nuggets of authentic wisdom and gold, no matter which question is asked.
Yes, this may sound like a lot....
...That gut-imposter voice in the back of your mind might be piping up again with something like, “mmm, doing this is definitely going to make you more nervous!”
And yes, at first it might make you more nervous.
But I promise -- those voices you hear are just your inner demons talking (we’ve all got ‘em!). And the more you practice, the more you shush those slimy suckers and show them who’s boss.
With practice, your fear will be replaced by a sense of curiosity, comfort, and confidence in your ability to bring your whole, best self to the interview -- and land the job you deserve.