You found it – the job you really want to go after. You got your name in front of the right people and waited. Then the call finally came – they want you to interview for the position!
Yes! You did it! You got the interview!
Then it hits you: This is your ideal job. You really do not want to blow it.
It is about this time that your nervous system conspires with your brain to start creating worst-case scenarios. Then the rest of your body joins the fun – the sweats, shortness of breath, faintness, and rapid heartbeat, among other things.
If this is what happens when you’re just thinking about the interview, what are your central nervous system, cerebrum, and respiratory system going to do to you when you actually sit down to interview? Give you excessively sweaty palms, a limp handshake, the fidgets, flailing hands, a rambling mouth, and an aversion to eye contact? The telltale signs of nerves.
Before your body and mind take you hostage, take a minute to back up and re-board the success train if you want to be able to go to that interview as the calm, cool, collected professional you are.
Everyone gets nervous, and a bit of nerves is expected during an interview. However, nervousness to the point of not being able to function is another, career-sabotaging thing. Confidence is critical during the job search – and especially during interviews.
To gain confidence, or at least exude it when you’re not completely feeling it, here are 10 actions you can take:
Do your due diligence on the position and company. Find out as much as you can about the company’s mission, values, and activities. Look beyond web reviews and landing pages. Dig deep.
Plot your route to the interview. Incorporate extra time in case of traffic and plan alternative routes in case of unexpected delays. Drive the route a couple times beforehand if possible to become familiar with it. Try driving it around the same time of day you’ll drive to your interview in order to prep for the usual traffic patterns.
In the days before the interview, determine what you will be wearing for the interview and set it out to make sure it is in tip-top shape. Print out extra copies of your resume and any supporting information or materials that you will be taking with you.
Do a little research on typical and difficult interview questions and practice answering them in front of a mirror. This will allow you to evaluate your body language and identify any tells of nervousness, which you can then eliminate before the interview.
Do not create preplanned, word-for-word scripted responses to any interview questions! Instead, use note cards to jot down key words and concepts you want to express in your answers and practice incorporating them naturally into your responses. You want to appear confident, and a rehearsed, memorized answer signals a total lack of confidence.
Also practice relating why your strengths, skills, and expertise make you a natural fit for the organization. Be ready to give examples of how you do what you do, when you have failed, and when you have succeeded. These are the sorts of scenarios you’ll need to recall in order to answer behavioral questions.
Easier said than done. However, this is when you use your respiratory system to your advantage.
It is not always easy to take deep breathes, but counting as you breathe forces you to concentrate on your breathing and not the runaway thoughts in your head.
Breathe in for a count of three and out for a count of five. A difference in numbers also helps you concentrate on your breathing and the feeling of your body relaxing.
If you are a “hand talker” (like me), know that this nervous habit will more than likely pop up during the interview. One trick I use is to press my thumbnail into the padding of my index finger. This makes me aware of any potential hand movements and is not detectable by the interviewer.
If you’re a leg or foot twitcher, sit with your legs together and both feet firmly on the ground. If you tug on your hair for reassurance, do the thumb/finger thing. Know what your body naturally does and prepare a counter that eliminates visual nervous clues.
You are there for a reason. Someone saw something in your background, qualifications, or strengths that led them to believe you might be the right fit. You have what it takes to be there.
Remember also that an interview is a two-way conversation. You are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. They may love you, but what if you do not like what you see? Perhaps you do not get the warm and fuzzies when hearing about the company culture or future plans for the position
Lastly, remember that the interviewer is a person. Listen for clues from the interviewer to see if there any common interests or experiences you can work into the interview conversation.
When asked a question, take a beat to breathe for a count of one or two (in your head). This prevents you from blurting out an answer and gives the impression that you are invested in the process and carefully thinking about each response.
During the interview, there will be times when the interviewer does not immediately respond to your answer to a question. This pause usually triggers nervous bells, causing most people to begin talking again in an attempt to give the “right” answer and elicit a response. At best, this comes across as rambling; at worst, as mindless babbling.
Just because the interviewer does not immediately respond does not mean you did or said something wrong. Perhaps they are just thinking about your answer. You might have brought up a point they had not considered before. Perhaps you have blown them away and they are thinking of you for a whole new position – a bigger and better position!
Who knows? The point is you don’t, so allow the pause.
Odds are you are going to feel like you made a mistake at some point in the interview. It happens to everyone. You are human, and humans flub things up. The most common flub I see is when an interviewee goes off on a completely unrelated tangent when answering a question.
When the realization hits that they are nowhere in the vicinity of the original question, panic sets in. This is when you need to employ the “stop, drop, and roll” technique:
- Stop trying to talk
- Drop any thought of trying to backtrack
- Roll with it. It’s as easy as saying, “I have no idea how I got here, but let me get back to your question.” Then, answer the question and get back to step one (stop talking).
The less you make of the situation, the less likely the interviewer will be to fixate on it. Instead, they will remember you handling yourself in a calm, professional manner with the ability to laugh at yourself but get back to business.
A little preparation, deep breathing, and self-administered pep talks will help take the interview process from a “Can’t blow it” situation to an “I’m going to rock it because I have what it takes” experience. That is the confidence that wins an interview and lands the job.
Lisa K. McDonald, principal and owner of Career Polish, Inc., is a brand strategist, certified professional resume writer, and career coach.