Landing the big interview may seem like the hard part — and indeed, it’s a big part of the whole — but knowing that, well, everything is riding on how you perform in the interview is enough to make anyone a bit rattled in the hours leading up to it. As Dr. Tamar Chansky, author of “Freeing Yourself from Anxiety,” explains, “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).”
Keep calm, though, for there are steps you can take to ease your nervousness and ensure that your interviewer sees the very best you (and not someone fleeing a tiger).
1. Re-prepare. It’s important that you demonstrate familiarity with both the position and the organization, so do your homework beforehand, and then brush up in the hours leading up to the interview: Review the firm’s products or services, what the main functions of the company are, and who the competition is. It is also helpful to research the person or people who will be interviewing you — view their LinkedIn profile, and find out what their role is within the company. Doing these things will also serve as a distraction from your nervousness, so it’s a win-win!
2. Rehearse your performance. Hone your interviewing skills once more. Practice in front of a mirror so you can observe your posture, facial expressions and eye contact. Remind yourself to stay on target and not digress into long-winded responses that will take you off-topic — and possibly even into unplanned, potentially rambling territory. And while you don’t want to memorize answers to the questions you’re likely to be asked, do outline the points you want to get across and give some thought to the overall impression you want to convey, as well as to the one or two questions you’ll want to ask about the employer and the role the successful candidate will play.
3. Consider the interview a conversation, not an interview. It helps if you view the person interviewing you as friend, not foe. Get yourself into the mind-set that you and your interviewer will just be having a friendly conversation to get to know one another and ascertain whether you will be comfortable working together. Remember that having a dialogue means that you also need to be an active listener and really consider the question being asked before answering.
4. Employ relaxation techniques. Doing so will calm you down and steady your nerves so that you enter the interview clear-headed and exuding confidence, which will make you both a better speaker and listener (see No. 3). Find out which natural anti-anxiety mechanism works best for you — meditation, strenuous exercise, or some other, preferably holistic, method. Also, put down that extra cup o’ joe. Your adrenaline will have already kicked into high gear, and too much caffeine is anxiety inducing and could result in excess chattiness and the dreaded “sweaty palm syndrome.” Finally, arrive early. Being late is an added stressor you don’t need at this time.
5. Remember your strengths. Anxiety tends to make even the most confident of us feel like unqualified sad sacks. Remind yourself beforehand why you have been summoned and you will exude confidence during your interview, which will in turn reassure the interviewer why you were chosen to come in. Nichole Lefelhoc, associate director of career development and internships at Mansfield University, advises “Be confident in your abilities. There’s something about you that has already caught the interest of the potential employer. Think about these attributes and make sure you touch on them during the interview.” It may also prove helpful to repeat to yourself the mantra of “Saturday Night Live” character Stuart Smalley, right before going in, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!”
6. Finally, dial down the pressure. Remind yourself that you will be okay if, after the interview, a job offer is not forthcoming. There are few “once-in-a-lifetime opportunities,” which means there will be plenty of other job interviews for which you can practice all of the above until you make perfect — the perfect, most relaxed job interviewer, that is.