Have you ever been so nervous during an interview that you temporarily forgot your name or your previous title? It happens.
Have you ever been so nervous that you couldn’t keep that cup of water you were holding from shaking? That happens, too.
Have you ever been so nervous that you just couldn’t shut up? Oh yeah – it happens.
The fact is most people are nervous during job interviews – and some more so than others. How do you keep your nerves under control? Here are ten of my best tips:
Before the Interview
1. First, you must understand that it’s natural to be nervous before and during an interview.
Nervousness can overcome anyone, even the most qualified of people. Even if you are a perfect candidate, you should expect some butterflies in your stomach, sweaty palms, and dry mouth.
2. Call it what it is.
The interview is nothing more than a meeting between you – the seller – and the interviewer – the buyer. Erase the word “interview” from your mind. I try to use the word “meeting” instead – and you should, too.
Both parties have something at stake. You’re trying to sell your product, and the interviewer is trying to buy the best possible product to earn the company more income, increase productivity, save time, and fulfill a number of other needs.
3. Be as prepared as you can be.
You’ve heard this many times before, and if you’re smart, you’ve done something about it. You need to research the job. You should know the description and responsibilities by heart. The same goes for the company.
You must go beyond the cursory reading of the job description and company website. Talk with someone at the company, if possible. If you’re on LinkedIn, peruse the profiles of the people who will be interviewing you.
Professional athletes don’t head onto the field without practicing in between games. Most athletes train six hours a day or more. The same applies to the pre-meeting.
Holding some mock interview meetings or even practicing your answers to questions in front of the mirror are great ways to reduce your nerves.
5. Get a good night’s sleep.
As basic as it may seem, being well-rested is essential for reaching peak performance. Ask any athlete.
Remember the days when you crammed for high school or college exams, trying to mash all that information into your head in one night? Didn’t work too well, did it? Same goes for the meeting. Do your research over two, three, even four days. You’ll retain the information better.
During the Interview
6. Admit that you’re nervous.
That’s correct. Make a brief statement about how you haven’t interviewed in a while and might have some jitters but are very interested in the position. This will explain your slow start until you warm up and get into high gear.
This doesn’t give you the right to completely lose your nerves. Eventually, you’ll have to settle down.
7. Don’t let the difficult questions get to you.
There are bound to be one or two questions that stump you, but try not to lose your head if no answer comes to mind immediately. Remember that you’re having a meeting – a friendly conversation.
Instead, ask if you can think about the questions a bit longer by saying, “That’s a very good question, and I’d like to answer it. Can I think about this a bit longer?”
Just don’t take too long.
Join the Conversation: How Do You Keep Cool in Interviews?
8. Use your research to your advantage.
Some candidates may seem more naturally composed and confident than you do, but your advanced research will show your interest in the position and the company – something any good interviewer will appreciate.
You can subtly demonstrate that you’ve done your research by occasionally starting an answer with, “Based on my research, I’ve learned that …”
9. Remember: You’re not the only one who’s nervous.
Come on. Do you think you’re the only one in the room who’s nervous? Many interviewers will admit that they’re also nervous during the meeting; there’s a lot at stake for them. They have to hire the right person, lest they cost the company a boatload of money.
10. Have fun!
Try not to take yourself so seriously. Be yourself. You’ve done all you can to prepare for the meeting. Now it’s time to just go for it.
If you do everything mentioned above, you’ll be fine. Keep in mind, however, that some parts of the interview may be outside your control. All you can do is go in there and do your best.
Anyone who tells you these meetings are not nerve-wracking must think you were born yesterday. I’ve had exactly two people in eight years tell me they enjoy interview meetings. Those people are either ultra-confident or out of their minds.
Even job candidates who do well at their meetings experience some jitters and recall times when they could have done better. I include myself as one of them.
Bob McIntosh, CPRW, is a career trainer who leads more than 15 job search workshops at an urban career center.