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Poor performance in an interview can sabotage a candidate’s chances of getting hired.Studio4/Getty Images/AFP/Getty Images

Ask Women and Work

Question: I’m job-hunting and my biggest hurdle is interviewing. I get so nervous beforehand and end up self-conscious, awkward and tongue-tied during the interview. I just don’t think I present well and it’s sabotaging my efforts to land a new job. How can I get over my nerves and leave a good impression, and show them I’m someone they should want to hire?

We asked Emma Hunt, head of people and culture at Boxhub, to tackle this one:

This advice may sound basic, but thorough preparation is key. Research the company, the people that you’re meeting and the kind of questions you might get asked during the interview. One of the scariest parts about interviews is not knowing what you’re getting into and preparation will eliminate some of those unknowns.

One effective way to prepare is through role playing. Practice common interview questions with a friend or family member who you trust – someone who won’t just say, ‘You’re doing amazing,’ but will tell you if you’re not answering something very well or your body language is too passive. If you don’t have access to that, practice in a mirror. Also, there are tools, such as Google’s Interview Warmup, where you can practice answering interview questions. It’s algorithm-based, so it can analyze how you’ve done and give you tips and feedback.

If an interview is in person, jot down some notes and bring a notepad in with you. Interviewers will almost always ask you if you have questions at the end of an interview, so prepare those beforehand. That’s especially important if you get nervous and decide to shy out and say, ‘I have no questions.’ That will definitely work against you in an interview.

One thing I commonly see is that when people feel anxious, they often forget to actively listen to questions. As a result, they don’t actually answer what’s been asked. Don’t formulate a response as soon as a question begins; hear it out to make sure that you are answering in an appropriate way. And slow down. If you feel like you’re about to word vomit an answer, take a breath and say, ‘I’m going to take a moment to think about this.’ Interviewers see that as you being thoughtful.

Watch your body language. Everyone has different nervous quirks, but be aware of non-verbal messages you may be sending. Don’t sit back with your arms crossed. If you’re feeling your hands twitching, put them under the table and twiddle your thumbs. If it’s possible for you, make eye contact with your interviewer.

It might take time and a lot of practice to become better in interviews. You may not be able to insert these tips into interviews straight away. But there’s another important thing to keep in mind: It’s not easy to get an interview. If you’ve gotten one, it means that they see something in you and they want it to work out. Interviewers are not there to try and trip you up, they want it to be a good interview. It’s a conversation at the end of the day, so try to go into it with that positive mindset.

Submit your own questions to Ask Women and Work by e-mailing us at

This week’s must-read stories on women and work

Sofi Kassam on turning her passion project into a $10-million business

“The typical South Asian wedding can last anywhere from two to seven days, and the expectation is that you have a different outfit for every event over that period,” says Sofi Kassam, founder of The Saree Room. “Bridal wear is where all the money is when everyone talks about weddings, but the people attending weddings get lost in this industry.

“As a guest, the norm for finding an outfit—something that’s $500 or $600—is to go to a friend’s aunt’s basement and spend an hour trying on things they bought in India and brought back to resell, or to go to a South Asian store, which can be intimidating because there’s haggling involved.

“I started The Saree Room in 2015 with Adam Meghji, our CEO, as a passion project. At the time I was pursuing a career in fitness and working at a boutique gym in Toronto. Within less than a year, I realized the demand aligned with my passion and I was able to work on it full time.”

Read how Ms. Kassam and her co-founder shifted customer behaviour and set their business apart from its competitors.

More sleep or a vacation aren’t enough: The seven types of rest you need to avoid burnout

Lina DaSilva started her business, Toronto Shine Cleaning, in 2019. By 2020 she was facing extreme burnout.

“Burnout for me was like a shadow that gradually, yet persistently, crept in,” she says. “I felt like a machine that was running on low battery. There was a constant sense of exhaustion, not just physically, but emotionally and mentally too.”

So, Ms. DaSilva decided to book herself a vacation in Banff, Alta. She took two weeks off to surround herself in nature and take time away from the constant calls and emails.

Yet, when she came back home to Toronto, she says “the underlying issues remained unaddressed.” She was still exhausted.

Ms. DaSilva, like more than three-quarters (78 per cent) of Canadian workers, according to a survey by the Harris Poll on behalf of Express Services Inc., say they’ve felt burnt out in their careers at some point.

Read why you can’t just “vacation” burnout away.

Self-taught interior designer Brigette Romanek believes every home has a story to tell.

Her job is to draw that narrative out, which she does by sitting in a space and feeling its energy, by finding out what makes her clients happiest, and by learning what pieces they can’t part with. Then, once she has gathered that intel, she usually goes for a nice, long walk.

“It’s hard for me to turn off,” explains the former singer, luxury handbag designer and now, one of the most sought-after interior designers in the world. “Walking, for me, is relaxation, exercise and it’s my fuel. It’s when I get things done,” explains Ms. Romanek, on the phone from New York recently where she was doing interviews to promote her new book called Livable Luxe.

In the six years since she started her studio, Romanek Design, Ms. Romanek has clocked a lot of steps. She has designed homes for Gwyneth Paltrow (a close friend), Demi Moore, Joe Jonas and Beyoncé.

Read how Ms. Romanek found her career calling after a couple of false starts.

In case you missed it

Newcomer women often struggle to pursue their careers in Canada. These programs are helping them succeed

When Rikhita Nair moved from India to Victoria, B.C., she had nearly a decade of experience as a PR and communications specialist working with startups in tech, e-commerce and higher education. Eager for a job, Ms. Nair says she applied “like crazy to just about anything that remotely matched my abilities,” focusing on marketing and communications roles. But her efforts didn’t result in any opportunities.

“I quickly realized that this approach wasn’t working out so well,” she says.

Ms. Nair says she was “mentally prepared” for a long job search, taking into account the state of the economy and layoffs in the tech industry. “But it became particularly challenging after eight months. The constant rejections in job interviews began to take a toll on my confidence. Sometimes, I believed I had performed well having reached the final stage of the interview, only to be turned down, which was demoralizing.”

Read the full article.

From the archives

When is an emoji appropriate for business communication?

Nova Nicole uses Slack differently now. A leadership development facilitator who works in the tech industry, Ms. Nicole is no stranger to digital messaging at work. Since the onset of the pandemic, however, she’s noticed a distinct shift in the way she uses the platform.

“We use it for everything; it’s our main form of communication,” says Ms. Nicole, who is based in Blue Mountain, Ont. “But I do find it casual [compared to methods like email], so I work hard not to use it in lieu of conversation and connection.”

Usage of communication tools such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Google Chat exploded during the early days of the pandemic when companies had to quickly pivot to remote work, and these apps remain popular among the 26 per cent of Canadian workers who still work remotely at least some of the time.

Read the full article.

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Stacie Campbell/The Globe and Mail

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