Reduce Interview Stress – Be Prepared

Posted by Pat Tovo

stress in an interviewA cleared job search can be an anxiety-filled endeavor and a transition from the military can add a level of stress to the interview process. When the opportunity for an interview arises, being well prepared can boost your confidence and help eliminate some of the pressure.

Everyone is a bit nervous before an interview. The trick is to turn that anxiety into a bold force that will help you make the right impression. During the interview you want to effectively communicate your abilities and leave a standout impression.

Use the following suggestions to help you ace your cleared interview.


Every interview will be different. Challenge yourself to be prepared for whatever might come your way during your time with recruiters and the hiring manager. Sometimes you will meet first with an HR professional and then get called back for a second interview. Often you will meet with several staff members in the same day. It’s okay to ask how the interview process will be structured. No surprises mean less stress.

Do your homework and find out as much as you can about the hiring company. Obviously you should visit their website but dig deeper with an internet search. Look for reviews by former employees on sites such as Glassdoor, newspaper articles that outline performance and growth, updates from industry organizations.

Does the company have a program to help newly-hired veterans to position them for success? If they do, clearly they value what veterans bring to the table, although if they don’t have a formal program it’s not necessarily a bad sign.

You should also use social media to learn more about the company culture and hiring practices. Often these platforms will highlight less formal information about the organization. LinkedIn is a solid professional tool that will offer details about current employees and leadership along with some background on the individuals you will be meeting with. You should cross reference your LinkedIn and other social network connections to see if anyone in your network is connected to the hiring company. They may be able to provide additional insight into the organization and the position, and maybe even provide a referral.

It’s also important to review the job posting for the open position. Knowing all you can about the role will help you organize your thoughts around your skills that are applicable. Be prepared to discuss your accomplishments and address why you would be a good fit for the organization. Keep in mind, you need to translate your qualifications to civilian language, not military speak.

The job posting will also be a terrific guide as to the types of questions that will be asked. You should be ready to address each job duty and requirement and how your accomplishments solve the employer’s problems.

Anticipate questions and practice your response. If possible, ask a friend to take you through a mock interview. The confidence you project in your responses will leave a good impression with recruiters and your thorough work ahead of time will make the interview less nerve racking.

Make a list of the questions you would like to ask. An interview is a two way conversation. Your thoughtful inquiries will signal the hiring company that you are an interested and savvy candidate.  Many companies these days have programs to help vets integrate seamlessly into their civilian career; you might want to inquire if they have a such a program at their organization.

The Day of the Interview

Okay, the time is here. Take a deep breath and give yourself a rousing pep talk. Keep in mind that your goal is to demonstrate your qualifications and discover as much as you can about the position. While interviewing is a serious process, don’t forget to let your personality shine through. Employers want candidates who not only meet job requirements but who will also make a good cultural fit.

Be sure to arrive on time. Drive the route ahead of time to get an indication of how long the commute will be. Few things are more stressful than getting caught in a traffic jam when you’re headed to an interview. Dress appropriately. You don’t need to be wearing designer duds but you do need to be well groomed with polished shoes and pressed clothing.

Greet the interviewer with a genuine smile and a firm handshake; give your name and a professional but friendly greeting. During the interview sit up straight, make eye contact, and be conscious that you do not fidget. Listen carefully to questions and ask for clarification if needed.

Answer questions in a clear, concise manner highlighting accomplishments but refraining from excessive detail. Never talk negatively about a past employer or supervisor. As the interview comes to an end be sure to thank the interviewer(s), reiterate your interest and ask what next steps will be.

Note: Before the interview begins, remember to turn off your phone. Better yet, leave it in the car.

Follow Up

The follow up to an interview is an important element of the process. It’s another opportunity to recap your qualifications as they apply to the position. It is a solid way to convey your interest in the organization and express a bit of your personality.

Be sure to send a note to each person who met with you. Try to personalize each note with something that came out of the interview so the person realizes you are not sending a generic response. The extra touch will be noticed and appreciated.  Following up via email is fine just be sure to send your note within 24 hours.

Waiting for a response from the company can be as stressful as the interview itself. Fill your head with positive thinking but stay busy researching other opportunities. If the recruiter has indicated a time frame for their process, use that as a guideline for additional follow-up. For example, if you were told it would be 3-4 weeks for next steps, don’t start calling at two weeks for an update.

If this opportunity does not produce the results you were hoping for don’t let that derail your cleared job search. Every interview is an opportunity to get better at presenting your qualifications. It could also lead to other possibilities. Ask the recruiter if you can stay in touch and be sure to keep them in your network of connections. There may be something better suited down the line and you want the recruiter to think about you when that time comes.

Take the time to walk yourself back through the interview process. Where were you strong? Where is room for improvement? Self-analysis will payoff big time for the next interview opportunity. And it’s such enlightenment that will make that next meeting even less stressful.

Pat Tovo guides job seekers in conducting successful employment searches through targeted prospecting, effective resume writing, and polished interviewing skills. She enjoys facilitating workshops and working one-on-one in career counseling.


This entry was posted on Monday, August 20, 2018 9:20 pm

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of updates to this conversation