Career clinic: coping with interview nerves

Question: I am confident in my ability to do my job but I never seem to be able to put this across in interview as nerves get in the way – how do I make sure I convey all my skills and experience in an hour?

Answer: This is such a common question and an issue I often discuss with colleagues and friends. One of the problems is that we so often walk away from such experiences remembering all the things we forgot to say, and forgetting all the good things we did say.

Ideally an interview should enable you to best demonstrate your ability to do the job and to show the skills and experience you can bring to it. It should not be a memory test and the panel should not be trying to catch you out.

One of the keys to performing well at interview is preparation. Being prepared is absolutely fundamental and will have an impact on how confident you feel, which will make all the difference on the day. Of course there are always exceptions to the rule, some people are able to wing it, but in my experience these people are few and far between.

Preparation means very different things to different people so there are no hard and fast rules, though I hope these guidelines will be helpful:

● Ensure you are very clear on the remit of the role, what you can bring to it and why you are applying. These are the foundations of your application.

● Read up on the organisation (visit their website and download any relevant literature) and make sure they know that you have.

● Look at the person specification and make sure you have an example which demonstrates that you have the skills and experience to address each of the points outlined.

● Think about questions you have found challenging in the past and how you could answer these better. Have examples to back you up – it is almost always better to talk about what you “have” done rather than what you “could” do.

● An interview also offers you the opportunity to get additional information, so use it and ask the panel questions. Think about anything you might like to know and take notes if you need to. Asking questions reiterates your interest in the post and a good question can often do as much to impress the panel as a good answer.

Finally and probably most importantly – be honest, as nothing will make you more nervous than the idea of being caught out.

Mary Jackson is recruitment manager for Hackney Council‘s children and young people’s directorate

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This article appeared in the 24 July issue of Community Care magazine.

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