You’ve got a big job interview coming up. This could be it! Your one shot at the perfect job. Feeling nervous yet?
It’s natural to be nervous about a job interview. Someone is about to scrutinize your appearance, mannerisms, what you say, and how you say it.
If he likes you, it could mean a job offer, a sweet salary, and the corner office. And if he doesn’t like you, you soon might find yourself living in a van down by the river (okay, I’m exaggerating, but it’s exactly the kind of thing you’re thinking when you’re stressing out about a job interview).
So yes, the stakes are high. The other fear factor in a job interview is that someone else is in control. You don’t know what he’s going to ask or how he’s going to behave. For many (especially Type A overachievers), this can cause additional stress.
There is only one way to combat that feeling of helplessness, and any Boy Scout can tell you those two words…
Preparation is the best way to overcome nervousness, along with remembering that a certain amount of nervousness in a stressful situation is healthy. A bit of nervousness and anticipation may actually make you sharper and help you perform better.
If you do your homework, preparation will lead to confidence and confidence puts you in command — and can even make you look forward to the interview. Confidence can help you channel your nervous energy into a positive force.
It’s not so different from being a well-prepared and conditioned athlete before the big game. The more you prepare and practice, the more confident you’ll feel when your career aspirations are on the line in the job interview.
Accentuate the Positive
It’s also important to remain positive in the time leading up to your interview.
Once you have prepared, tell yourself you are ready. Listen to upbeat music on your radio or iPod—stuff that makes you feel good about yourself and reminds you that all is right.
Music and other positive motivators stop when you arrive at the job site, of course.
An unfamiliar environment can add to uncertainty, which is why career professionals generally recommend that you pay at least one visit to any unfamiliar interview location in advance.
Otherwise, you risk the nightmare scenario: getting lost or stuck in traffic and running into your interview late, sweaty, and flustered. Give yourself extra time. If you’re early, you can always stop at Starbucks (one will inevitably be next door to your destination) to freshen up and re-hydrate.
Don’t Give In to Desperation
No matter how desperately you want the job, remember that it’s just one opportunity. Your entire future is not dependent on landing this particular job. You don’t even know that much about the position yet. Sure, it looks good on paper, but it’s not your only option.
From the interviewer’s point of view: Enthusiasm is good, neediness can be a bit awkward. Think about it like a first date. You want to impress and show off your best qualities. You don’t want to seem like a potential bunny boiler who has never been asked out before.
No matter what happens, this interview will be a learning experience that will make you a better job candidate and savvier professional in the long run.
Focus on projecting confidence and putting all of that preparation (see above) to use. You can’t control the employer’s decision making process, but you can control how you present yourself in the interview.
Keep in mind that you are there because they liked your résumé or the impression you made in the screening interview. That’s a compelling reason for you to be upbeat on the day of the interview.
Anti-nervousness techniques — including breathing exercise and mental imagery techniques — work for some. For example, it may calm your nerves to visualize a successful interview. Picture yourself in the interview room making a fantastic impression and try to vividly imagine the strong sense of positive confidence that you will feel. You might also want to explore anxiety-reducing breathing techniques to help you center yourself before the interview.
Once you’re in the interview, remember that a pause and a simple deep breath can do a lot to calm any jitters or sense of panic. If you find yourself stumbling over your words, it’s likely that your anxiety has taken over and you’re talking too fast. Nervousness tends to make you speed up your mannerisms and your speech. It can prompt you to speak before you think it through.
Slow down and don’t be afraid to pause and breathe. If you race to fill every silence too quickly, you’re likely to blurt out something you’ll regret.
Don’t feel self-conscious about pausing. Interviewers expect you to pause and think before answering complex questions.
If your pause starts to feel awkward, it’s okay to say something like, “That’s a great question. I just need a moment to decide on the best example to share.”
You aren’t going to know the answer to every question, and sometimes that’s intentional on the part of the job interviewer.
Some interviewers ask stress questions just to find out how you react. The best way to deal with these tricky questions is to gracefully redirect the question toward a similar topic you are familiar with, preferably underlying your strengths as you do it. Whatever you do, stay calm and collected. Don’t let one tough question change the tone of the interview. Focus on handling the next questions well and ending the meeting on a positive note.
If you follow our advice and put in your preparation time, we promise that your nerves won’t sabotage you during your moment of opportunity.
Google offers their own suggestions for the nervous job candidate:
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Photo credit: Sakurako Kitsa