mug with gold letters saying "boss"

Prepare to tackle interview nerves

You’re a confident and qualified job applicant, but the interview process still feels intimidating. That’s especially true when you’re really excited about an opportunity. You want to do your best and you’re nervous you’ll forget something important or trip over your words. The best way to tackle the pre-interview jitters? Prepare ahead of time! These three tips will have you interviewing like a boss when you meet your (maybe) future boss.

Dress for success

The first step to interviewing like a boss is feeling like one! That can start with what you wear. Besides presenting the best (looking) version of yourself to your interviewer, taking time to put together the right outfit shows that you’re serious about this job opportunity. So, where do you start?

  1. Consider the company you’re applying to. Know what the standard dress is for the place you’re applying to and tailor your interview outfit to that. If you’re interviewing for a position at a bank, you’re going to want to wear something professional and conservative. For men, that would mean a traditional suit. For women, it can be a suit or an appropriate dress. If you’re applying to a fun startup, you may want to show a little more personality while still keeping your outfit appropriate for an office setting. That could mean fun prints and colors, trendy or vintage wear, etc. Not sure what the dress code is for the company? When they call you for an interview, it’s okay to ask the interviewer about it so you’re prepared.

  2. Remember what’s standard “appropriate” work wear. No matter where you’re applying, there are some standards for appropriate work wear. Generally, avoid anything wrinkled, stained, torn, or too casual. That means no flip-flops, shorts, skirts shorter than a few inches above the knee, t-shirts, sweatshirts, or any clothes that have curse words, slang, violent or suggestive images or text in general on them.

  3. Don’t forget the breath mints. Something everyone forgets about before an interview is what their breath smells like. You’re going to be spending a good amount of time talking, often sitting close to the person interviewing you. You may have done the usual dental hygiene routine in the morning, but your breakfast or pre-interview coffee can linger. You don’t want your interviewer to be distracted by coffee breath, so pop a mint or two before you go in. Pro-tip: DO NOT chew gum unless you remember to get rid of it before your interview. It can seem rude and unprofessional to be chewing gum while in an interview.

  4. You can still be you. While there are definitely some rules everyone should follow with interview wear, and you should generally play it safe, that doesn’t mean you can’t still be you. Your personal style is important to your confidence and how you define yourself. Tailor that to the interview! You can add in a few personal touches that work with a business professional dress code, like your favorite necklace, cufflinks, or (work appropriate) shoes.

Dressing your best and being comfortable in your clothes can help you feel and act more confident! When you like what you look like, you stand a bit straighter and can own any interview. Check out this list of “what not to wear” items if you’re not sure what to avoid on the big day.

7 strategies to ace your interview

Your interview outfit is how you can appear outwardly confident, but feeling confident on the inside is super important, too. Preparing for the interview can go a long way in impressing your interviewer. When you’re getting ready, think about the following:

  1. What makes you stand out? Depending on the job and the other applicants, your interviewer could have spoken to several other candidates before you. They’re just as serious about this opportunity, so they’ll do a lot of the same preparation you did. Think about something that makes you stand out from the pack. What makes you different? Don’t say that you’re such a perfectionist, you work too hard. Interviewers are used to lines like that. Honestly think about what makes you you. Do you have an otherworldly attention to detail? Do you have a talent you can bring to the job?

  2. Know the job you’re applying for. You may just be looking for a job to pay the bills while you’re searching for your dream career. That’s okay! Weather or not you’re passionate about the job, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care about the job. It’s easy enough to study the job description and the company website. Know a bit about what is expected of the person hired for the position and what part you’d play on the overall team. You want the job, right? Act like it.

  3. Why are you a good fit for the position? What makes you the right person for the job? Is it your experience? Your personality? Your education? Understand why you’re a good fit for this position so you can clearly explain that to your interviewer.

  4. Prepare questions to ask your interviewer. You might assume that having no questions to ask at the end of your interview makes you seem smart. You understood everything and don’t need to know everything else, you genius, you. But actually, when you don’t have at least a few questions, it seems like you’re uninterested and not serious about the job. It doesn’t take long to write down a list of good questions beforehand. Some easy questions to start?

    • What’s the company culture like?
    • What’s the expected career path for someone in this position?
    • What is a normal week in the role like?
  5. Know about the company. Tying back to number 2 on this list, knowing about the company is just as important as knowing about the job you’re applying for. You may be asked why you want to work there and you should have an honest reason. You should also know what the company actually does. Take time to check out their website, jot down a few notes, and understand what you like best about their mission.

  6. Practice makes perfect. No one starts out great at anything. That includes interviewing. You might be nervous because you really want this job, and those nerves can be distracting. Practice can help you feel more confident about what you’ll say in the actual interview. You can practice a conversation with a friend, or even just in the mirror. A bit of practice can help you feel steadier when the interviewer asks a tough question, so prepare as much as possible.

  7. Be honest. It’s always tempting to boost your chances of getting a job by fudging your skills just a little bit. But being honest is important for a variety of reasons. Besides not getting caught in a lie if you actually do get the job, interviewers have spoken to a lot of people and they’re pretty good at telling when someone isn’t being truthful. Honesty is the best policy.

Know your top interview questions

Part of being prepared is knowing what to expect. The more you know beforehand, the better you’ll feel during the interview. There are a few common questions that many interviewers ask, and some are tougher to answer than others. Check out some of the questions you can expect during your interview and prepare some solid answers ahead of time!

  1. What’s your greatest strength?
  2. What’s your greatest weakness?
  3. Can you describe a time you had to deal with an angry customer/client?
  4. Can you walk through how you’ve resolved a problem on the job in the past?
  5. What are things you’d like us to know about you?
  6. Where do you see yourself in five years?
  7. Why are you leaving your current job?
  8. Why do you want this job?

Remember, be honest but professional! For example, when asked “Why do you want this job?” you shouldn’t say “because I’m fond of not starving” but you also shouldn’t tell the interviewer it’s your dream job if it’s not.

Brush up on your interview skills

Whether this is your first job interview or your hundredth, it doesn’t hurt to continuously brush up on your interview skills. By dressing like a boss, researching the company, and preparing for those tough to answer questions, you can feel confident you’re ready to tackle any new career. Learn more about how to interview like a boss from Penn Foster Chief Operating Officer, Dara Warn, who conducts around 50-100 interviews per year, in her webinar from our Student Success and Career Fair.