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Appearing Confident – Interview Tips for the Skilled but Nervous Applicant

Mimi Shankin, AVANT Group, LLC

If you can have just a fraction of the energy and enthusiasm Monday’s NCBiotech Jobs Network presenter Mimi Shankin had, you’ll be sure to ace your next interview. Mimi presented a workshop on How to Have a Confident Interview, Or at Least How to Fake It

Tip number one is to come across as authentic but not desperate.  It’s OK to be nervous, at least a little, but it’s not OK to be freaking out.  You can improve your control with practice, which is what you should do with friends before your real interview.

If looking into the eyes of an interviewer fills you with trepidation, then focus on the top of their head; they likely won’t be able to tell.  If you’re a fidgeter, develop ways to control it such as squeezing your thumb and forefinger together to absorb some of your nervous energy.  Otherwise focus on the moment to calm your nerves. Take a deep breath and think about the air in the room.  Accept being nervous – don’t fight it.  It will only heighten the tension. Rather, accept it without judgment. 

Next, define your fear. Know what it is that you are afraid of.  For example, are you afraid of saying something embarrassing? Or perhaps forgetting to mention a specific skill set you have?  Figure out what you fear will happen during the interview.  Once you’ve done that, determine that you will do your best.  Don’t promise to do better than your best, because that is impossible.  Just do your best, no more, no less. 

Mimi provided tips for when to show up for your interview.  It turns out that being too early is almost (though not quite) as bad as arriving late.  You should arrive no more than 15 minutes early, and no later than 5 minutes early.  Thus, arriving between 5 and 10 minutes before your scheduled meeting is ideal, but you must arrive prepared.  You should know the company’s product, mission and vision. 

To help with interactive skills, Mimi had the audience practice several different scenarios from describing the ideal dinner to explaining how to analyze data, to how to get your point of view across to someone who doesn’t want to listen. During the interview, paraphrase what the interviewer says without offering your opinion. This is a great skill to develop. It is also important to show enthusiasm and interest. 

Having some fear is normal and even beneficial. If you are fearless, you may also be clueless. The trick is to manage and lessen your fear so that you have some measure of control. Give the interviewer your authentic self, the one with the skills and expertise they seek. The one that is the right fit for their team. Let’s go ace that interview!

View Mimi's slide presentation here.


Thank you for posting this Cynthia! I am a huge fan of borrowing confidence. I am thrilled that this is a reoccurring theme as Anne Whitaker, CEO of Synta, also gave us this piece of advice at the Women in Bio event Thursday evening. Two impressive women having shared this same insight is powerful for us all!

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