Carrie Lewis, a Robert Half recruiting manager in New Orleans, says she wishes she could tell candidates how to prepare for a job interview the same way some people do for public speaking, by imagining the hiring managers in their underwear — but “being nervous and giggling is probably a bad combination,” she admits.
Still, there is something to be said for using creativity to lessen your nerves before that terrifying interview for a finance or accounting job. While the butterflies may not go away completely, there are some things you can do to help calm your pre-interview jitters before your big entrance.
What’s the best advice for how to prepare for a job interview? Sure, you need to think about how to answer tough questions. But you also need to chill. Here are some quirky ideas for having fun, followed by more serious tips from our recruiters, as you de-stress, wipe your sweaty brow and prepare to thrive in the interview setting.
1. Count backward and breathe
If you’re in accounting, you're already good with numbers. Why not use them to your advantage? Count backward from 50, focus on the numbers, and find your breathing return to normal — voila! (You don’t have to count out loud if you’re in public. It still works.)
2. Get silly and walk like a penguin
Public speaking prompts nervousness a lot like getting grilled in an interview, and a presentation coach who calls herself the Impromptu Guru on YouTube recommends you “do the penguin” to release tension. Scrunch your shoulders up tightly to your neck and waddle around like a penguin. If that makes you feel silly, consider it a win!
3. Have a good belly laugh
What cracks you up — cat videos, re-watching the movie Office Space, listening to a comedian like Mike Birbiglia or hanging out with your most amusing friends? Relaxing with humor has been linked to reductions in stress hormones, so make a funny face in the mirror and know that every little bit helps.
Go ahead and indulge yourself in some accounting humor, too!
Now for more serious advice
Now that you’re breathing like a yogi, we’ve collected some tidbits from our recruiters, starting with Judy Billings, vice president of Robert Half Financial & Accounting.
- “Preparation is a process — and the key to a successful interview.”
Billings advises that you practice answering questions you might be asked and to write down questions you can ask the hiring manager. From past experience, you might know that nervousness manifests itself in different ways. If it causes your hands to sweat, for example, you’ll know to bring a handkerchief.
- “Past performance is the best indicator of success.”
Another suggestion is to prepare by using a tool Billings calls the “T” account. Set up a spreadsheet using your current or previous job description at the top. Then create two columns below it. On the left, itemize “What I’ve Done,” and on the right, “How Well I Did.” List the meaningful things you’ve accomplished, quantifying them with specific results, such as “saving the company half a million dollars” or “cutting three days off the closing.”
More words of wisdom
Lewis, who is also a CPA, remembers her interview for her job at Robert Half. “I was nervous,” she says. “I wanted the job, and I told the interviewer, ‘If you don’t like my dark-blue suit, I have them in all other colors.’”
- “It’s OK to admit your nervousness at the interview. It shows you care.”
If you suddenly go blank or stumble on a question, you can always say, “Please forgive me. I’m nervous, but I’m so excited to be here.”
- “Many times, the hiring manager is as nervous as you are.”
Lewis reminds us that the interviewer is just another human being like you, who may also be uncomfortable in this setting.
Still nervous? At Robert Half, we can help you improve your resume, find jobs, and prep for interviews.