Everyone gets nervous during an interview, be it their first or their twentieth. When you’re in the hot seat, your palms start to sweat, your voice gets shaky and your face is flushed.
You get so nervous, but why does it happen to so many candidates? According to Dr Tamar Chansky, author of Freeing Yourself from Anxiety, “when we perceive that we are in a high stakes situation, the brain doesn’t distinguish the high stakes of a job interview – where it would help to be calm, cool and collected – from the high stakes of being under threat from attack (say, from a tiger). The body responds the same way – gearing up to run or fight for our lives. We experience a myriad of highly inconvenient and uncomfortable reactions which would make complete sense if there really were a tiger there.”
“I think that nervousness prior to a job interview is caused mostly by the fact that there’s so much at stake. Getting a job, especially one you really want, can certainly impact your self-worth and general happiness. It enables you to pay your bills, save money, have health insurance, and do something every day that you look forward to doing. It makes you feel like you are contributing to the greater good of the company; that you are a part of something bigger than yourself,” adds Andy Teach, author of From Graduation to Corporation.
Don’t worry though because below are 10 tips for staying calm during an interview:
Ashley Strausser, associate director of the Center for Career and Professional Development at Otterbein University says, “my biggest piece of advice to students is always do your research. Research the organization. Know their products, what they do, and who their competitors are. You should also research the folks who will be interviewing you. View their LinkedIn profile and learn about their roles within the company. Knowledge is power. The more you know, the more confident you’ll be in responding to their questions.”
Doing your homework will give you a sense of comfort knowing that you know your stuff and will most likely not be caught off guard if you get asked questions about their company and culture etc. It also shows that you’re hardworking and that you really want the job as well.
Planning is a part of being prepared. The lesser details you have to worry about on the day of the interview, the better it will be for you and your nerves. Strausser says, “don’t wait until the last minute to print out copies of your resume. What if your printer runs out of ink? Lay out your clothes and do your ironing the day before. You don’t want to pull your dress shirt out of the closet an hour before the interview only to realize it has a huge stain on it. Map your travel route and check the traffic reports. Give yourself plenty of travel time and arrive to the interview 15 minutes early. Nothing will get you frazzled faster than being late.”
If you have your whole day planned ahead, then there is lesser room for something to go wrong. You will not have to worry over unnecessary things, which will add more stress to your already stressful day. Make sure that all you have to concentrate on that day is the interview, and nothing else.
You do not have to memorize model answers to common interview questions, but just keep in mind your main points that you want to make and the message that you would like to bring across. Chansky adds, “sometimes anxiety can make thinking about an interview so unpleasant that we underprepare, and then we really have a reason to be nervous. Practice makes prepared.”
Strausser suggests that you should conduct a practice interview. “Like with anything, the more we practice, the more skilled we become. If your voice trembles when you are nervous, conducting practice interviews will help you become more confident and keep your nerves in check. If you are unable to conduct a practice interview, then practice in front of a mirror paying special attention to your posture, facial expressions and eye contact.”
Arrive early and relax
As mentioned earlier in the article, being late can be one of the most nerve wrecking things, especially if you are late for an important interview. Being late suggests that you are not responsible and don’t really want the job. Getting to the interview early will give you time to gather yourself and calm yourself down. You have time to breathe and center yourself instead of rushing into the interview room.
Kim Heitzenrater, director of career and leadership development at Sewanee: The University of the South, says, “remind yourself that this is a conversation to determine fit on both sides.” So go early, give yourself time to relax and get rid of the nerves before going for the interview.
Think of your interviewer as your friend
Chansky says that, “the person interviewing you isn’t a friend, yet – but thinking of them as hostile or the enemy is going to get your adrenaline going so fast is will leave your good senses behind. Learn what you can about the person interviewing you – and make them into a human being rather than being a rejection machine. You’ll be able to relax more and be yourself when you remember that they need you; they want to learn about you to see if you’re right for the job.”
Your mind can be a very powerful tool and just thinking nice things about the interviewer can make you feel more calm and collected.
Take your time and breathe
Nichole Lefelhoc, associate director of career development and internships at Mansfield University, says, “a deep and full inhale followed by an equal exhale brings more oxygen into the blood, which is a natural relaxant. When we’re relaxed we can think more clearly.” Also, just take your time. If a question catches you off guard, you do not have to answer immediately. Lefelhoc suggests, “take your time to formulate your thoughts, which will allow you to provide a well thought out answer that’s more likely to impress the employer. If you need to make quick notes to keep yourself on track, go ahead and do that.”
Accept the fact that mistakes can and might happen
Chansky says, “employers aren’t looking for perfect, they’re looking for flexibility and resilience. Taking the pressure off the perfection valve will help you perform better and will show your future employer that you can have grace under fire. If you can do it in the interview, you can do it on the job.” Remember, nobody is perfect. You just have to try your best and show how well you perform under pressure.
Keep all these tips in mind before going for your next interview, and hopefully your nerves will be kept at bay. All the best for acing that interview!