It's totally understandable feel nervous before an important job interview, and it's especially hard for people who are shy or hesitant when meeting new people or in unfamiliar situations (and believe it or not, that includes most of us).
Here's a little interview advice to help to make sure that you give the best impression, even if you are feeling shy and unsure of how to sell yourself with confidence.
1. Be as prepared as you can possibly be.
When it comes to interview secrets, preparation is number one on the list. The more you understand about the job, the company and the situation, the better you'll interview.
Take as much time as you need to read and understand the company's website. Start with the executive bios to get a feeling for the management, and read the press releases, which will show you company milestones.
Not sure what something means? Google it and brush up. See what kinds of jobs the company has posted. Google the company name and see what comes up. Read employee reviews on www.GlassDoor.com to know what other people think about working there.
Preparation gives you confidence, and is what makes the best candidates stand out.
2. Know exactly why they should hire you, and write it down.
Interview power comes when you are able to see yourself through the hiring manager's eyes. If you were in their shoes, what would you be looking for?
See yourself with a realistic eye. No time for false modesty here. Make a list of skills and personal qualities you predict they will want, and then make some notes about how you are a match, with a note about a story that illustrates your point.
What's so great about you that the hiring manager will care about? Your loyalty? Dependability? Eagle eye for details? Magical way to get a customer to sign on the dotted line? The fact that you get along with everyone?
Write your answers down and keep your folder or portfolio in front of you during the interview, and then you don't have to worry that you'll forget something.
3. Get your answer to "Tell me about yourself" ready in advance.
There are many versions of this question, and sidestepping a straight answer by saying, "Well, what would you like to know?" is lazy. Anticipate the question and plan your response in advance.
The right answer will be two or three sentences and it summarize your background and what you're looking for now. Again, write this in your notes, so even if you feel nervous and freeze, you'll be able to answer the question.
Give the short summary, not your whole life story. (As an example: "I got started in selling computer equipment, and then discovered that I loved the travel and pace as a consultant on IT projects, so I went back to get a computer degree, and I've been working with XYZ company for the past five years until they closed their office." )
Their next question will show you where they want you to elaborate. Don't be curt; one or two-word responses appear arrogant or disinterested. It's a conversation, so hold up your end.
4. Look for a personal connection to make them remember you.
People hire people they like, so look for connections to make them like and remember you.
For instance, if you notice a photo of a dog on their desk and you volunteer at a dog rescue center, you can use that small connection to make yourself memorable. "Oh, that's a cute dog; I've rescued two dogs myself" establishes a commonality, and what follows will usually be a moment of personal connection.
Don't go on and on, and avoid potentially sensitive topics, but don't underestimate of this kind of "small" talk, which can often be the most important part of the interview, so it really isn't small at all.
5. Make eye contact, smile, and watch your body language.
Shy or nervous people look down, pull their shoulders in, and hold their face tense. Their body language is a dead giveaway to their mental state.
To communicate confidence, sit up straight, relax your shoulders, keep your feet on the floor, and don't fidget. Remember to breathe deeply, and most important, look the interviewer in the eye and smile. Everyone looks much better when they're smiling. Practice in the mirror to see what I mean.
If you are feeling especially intimidated by the interviewer or the situation, it really can help to picture them in their underwear.
Actor Glenn Morshower (24, CSI, The West Wing) shared his own interview advice once when I saw him speak. Believe it or not, he conquers audition nerves by putting food in his underwear, so every time he starts to take himself seriously, he remembers he's got a slice of bologna tucked into the waist of his shorts and lightens up. Weird? Yes. Does it work? He swears by it.
With this preparation, you should be able to show the best side of yourself without having shyness get in the way.