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How to Calm Your Nerves Before a High-Stress Interview

Career Advice |

Interviewing is one of those tense, palm-sweating, heart-stopping experiences that can make going to the dentist seem like fun. It’s full of pitfalls: What if they don’t like me? What if I don’t know the answer to a question? What if they challenge my answers? What should I do if they’re rude or ask me inappropriate questions?

So, yes, you should be nervous. But now you’ve got to get smart about how to prepare for interviews and have a strategy for getting through the unexpected. (Click here to Tweet this idea.)

Study up and try to expect the unexpected

My new book, The Essential Job Interview Handbook, starts with these preparation tips:

  • Research the organization or company carefully and go beyond what you find on their website.
  • Create a chart or map where you list the job requirements on one side, and put key words to remind yourself of how you match them on the other side.
  • Add your list of questions for the interviewer at the bottom of your map. You never want to miss an opportunity to ask questions; it’s a key tactic to prove you’re interested in a company. (And bring this map with you to the interview — it’s fine to have a “cheat sheet.”)

So, that’s good, but you’re still a wreck. You’re afraid your nerves will undermine your chances of getting the job. What can you do to make sure you don’t bomb the interview?

Focus on being your real self

Try to think of your nervousness as energy. Learn how to use it up or burn through it so it won’t hurt you. Get off to a strong start by dressing appropriately. Make sure your grooming is perfect, and greet the interviewer with a smile and a firm handshake.

Sit on the front two-thirds of your chair with good posture: shoulders back, your hands on the desk or table in front of you (if there is one) or resting on your thighs. Put energy into your voice; this will make you interesting to listen to since you won’t be mumbling. Good volume and inflection will make your ideas come alive.

Lastly, learn how to gesture to emphasize key points. Let’s say you helped with a large project as an intern; show “large” by moving your hands away from each other. If you reduced expenses, lower your hands. We do this naturally, but under the intense pressure of an interview, we tend to forget.

These tips will help you show the interviewer who you are. Be yourself — your best self — and if that’s not who they want, that’s OK. None of us is right for every job.

If you’re a go-getter, let them see that. If you’re quiet, make sure you share how you’ve been effective — quiet people are often excellent listeners. If you’re good at motivating others, show them through your facial expressions, voice and gestures just how you do that.

Interviewing is the gateway to getting a job. Learn how to do it well so they can see who you are and why you’d be a great addition to their team.

Jean Baur is the author of The Essential Job Interview Handbook.

Brazen Life is a lifestyle and career blog for ambitious young professionals. Hosted by Brazen Careerist, we offer edgy and fun ideas for navigating the changing world of work. Be Brazen!

How do you stay calm before an important interview or meeting? Let us know your suggestions in the comments below!

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3 Comments

Great advice! Preparation leads to confidence which leads to success.

2y

I also recommend taking a breath before answering a question so that you don't say the first thing that comes to mind. When I am nervous I tend to joke, so taking that breath reminds me to stay focused.

2y

I really like these tips and think that they are a great start to preparing for an interview. The "cheat sheet" is particularly helpful.

One way that I prepare for interviews is to do something that I enjoy and am good at on the day of my interview. Whether it's exercising and proving to yourself that you kick butt on the elliptical, cooking a recipe you know is awesome, or anything else you are skilled at, it will make you feel accomplished and confident!

2y
Brazen Life

Brazen powers real-time, online events for leading organizations around the world. Our lifestyle and career blog, Brazen Life, offers fun and edgy ideas for ambitious professionals navigating the changing world of work.