Job interview nerves. We all get them. Really. So please don’t think you’re alone. Even if you prepared perfectly and have every qualification, it’s easy for doubt to creep in. And for many of us, doubt not only creeps in, it takes up residence in our heads.
But the good news is that you can do some things to help you feel better during the interview — and even beyond. And it starts with the all-important “P” word: PREPARE!
BEFORE the interview starts
One of the best ways to help tame job interview nerves is to PREPARE. Really take time to follow these steps. They can make a huge difference to the way your mind and body react on the day of the interview. Winging it may sound great, but it can leave you feeling very exposed.
- PRACTICE – Take the time to practice interviewing. In the mirror. Or with friends. Even recording yourself. Find common questions, and pretend it’s the interview day. Repeat often.
- RESEARCH – Look up the company. Get familiar with their mission and culture. Set up a Google alert to keep up on what’s happening with them. Find people who work there on Linkedin. Do you know anyone in the company who can help clue you in?
- KNOW YOURSELF & WHAT YOU OFFER – A great way to combat job interview nerves is to be secure in who you are. What are your skills and interests. Accomplishments you’re proud of. What are your goals. Why does this company and job matter to you. What can you do for THEM!
- KNOW THE JOB – Make sure you study the job description and anything else you find in your research. Where do you match, and where do you need to look for transferable skills that can help.
- KNOW YOUR RESUME – I’ve actually interviewed people who have to think hard when I ask them about things on their own resume. Don’t be that person.
- DEEP BREATHING – Preparing your mind as well as body can help. Try a basic breathing exercise each day — morning, noon, and night to begin the easing process. One simple exercise that I like is slowly breathe in for a count of 4, hold for 7, and breathe out for 8. Good for a quickie right before your interview also.
- VISUALIZATION – Whether you believe in these things or not, try seeing yourself in the room. Or in your home if it’s a video interview. See yourself smiling and doing well. Imagine both sides conversing easily. See them smiling and nodding as if they agree and approve. See them saying “You have the job!” Repeat often.
OK. Now that you’ve prepared for the interview, you need to find a way to deal with the actual day-of interview nerves. So let’s look at how you can help yourself there, too.
DURING the actual interview
As simple as it sounds, you need to be fully present in the moment. You’ve done what you can. Now you need to trust yourself to do your best. And yes, that can include a few mistakes or imperfections. If you let your mind wander to “what’s next? or what was just said, you lose the connection. And so much of it is about making a good connection.
When we interview people, we look at the whole picture. But when we are being interviewed, we often focus on each and every tiny detail. Not to say interviewers don’t notice them too, but again we are looking at whether you’ll be a good overall fit for the job and the company. Robots are perfect. But we hire real people, ones that we’d enjoy working with.
Look, you’re going to be nervous. Please don’t put added pressure on yourself not to be nervous. We factor that in when interviewing a candidate. Your only job during the interview is to allow yourself to listen to what is being asked and answer as best you can.
Interview nerves AFTER the interview is over
Unfortunately, interview nerves don’t end after the interview. There may be that post-interview feeling of relief … “I did it.” But so often, we are already second-guessing our answers and searching for clues as to exactly how we well did.
Well, the best advice I can give you is not to drive yourself crazy trying to figure out what you can’t know for sure. Or what they may not even know yet. These things take time. And there are a lot of internal considerations that affect the decision.
Just know that you may not hear from them for a while. And that’s ok. If you’ve sent a polite thank you note, give them time. You don’t want to seem high maintenance by following up every few days. I once got an offer after I had heard nothing for two months. Especially in tough economic times, there can be delays.
How to look at interview nerves
One thing about job interview nerves — as real as they feel: you can’t touch them or hold them in your hand. We create them because of fear and insecurity. And because interviews can mean so very much to our lives and future.
But if we create them, we can also learn to dial them down. In fact, rather than trying to vanquish them, it helps to know they will be with us, and yet we can still move on and do our best. Actors do that.
When I was in a play (in one of my many lives), I would almost shake behind the scenes. But when it was my time on stage, I just reminded myself that I prepared as best I could. And then I threw myself into it, fully present and doing my best to enjoy the give-and-take.
Cut yourself a break when you interview. Take some deep breaths beforehand. Remind yourself that you prepared, and you don’t need to be perfect. Just listen and talk as if you were speaking with anyone really interested in you. Because in that moment, they are.
⇒ More posts to help: Job Search & Interview Resource Center!