We all know job interviews are nerve-wracking experiences. We try to put our best foot forward, but when we get nervous, we often have a difficult time articulating our thoughts and may show such physical signs of stress as sweating or shaking. Here’s how to get your nerves under control.
“People think that they shouldn’t be nervous, and that is the first place where we could really make a difference in how we are going to feel and perform at the interview, because if we feel like we’re doing something wrong [by being nervous], we’re going to be more nervous,” says psychologist Tamar Chansky, author of Freeing Yourself From Anxiety.
Trying to avoid being nervous shifts your focus during the interview to your nerves rather than on what is being asked of you. Recognizing that you will be nervous can help you to prepare for that anxiety so you can acknowledge it when it arises. “It’s not a surprise when it comes up, so it doesn’t derail your attention,” says Chansky.
Feeling prepared is the antidote to anxiety. A day or two before your interview, take some time to learn about the company, research who you’re going to meet, know the interview location (perhaps even driving there a day in advance so you ensure you know the route), and practice how you’re going to answer some commonly asked questions. “The more prepared you feel, the less anxious you’ll feel,” says Chansky.
A moderate amount of anxiety can be helpful in an interview, as it gives you some adrenaline, motivating you to do your best. Remember, nervousness is a universal human experience. If your nerves start to show in the interview, acknowledge them and have some levity about it. “Make some kind of joke about it, so that it becomes a way of connecting with the person you’re talking with,” says Chansky.
Your potential boss wants to see how you will handle yourself in a stressful situation, so acknowledging your nerves and pulling through them is a good indicator about how you’ll manage these stressful types of situations on the job. Allowing your nerves to show a little bit is also a way to show your interviewer that you are truly interested in the job.
When we’re nervous, we often lose focus. Talking to yourself in your head during the interview (saying things like, “I’m so stupid, why did I say that?”) and analyzing your performance divides your attention further. “Go in with the understanding that you’re not going to have that conversation with your anxiety during the interview,” says Chansky. Leaving the self-evaluation for after the interview can help stop your nerves from getting in the way of your performance.
Your nerves will cause your adrenaline to start racing. Caffeine will simply cause you to ramp up further and can make you feel even more nervous. Take some deep breaths before your interview, do a few yoga poses to calm and focus the mind, be sure to get a good night’s sleep the night before, and eat a good meal.