6 ways to calm your nerves and ace your interview
Next time you have a job interview, take a few deep breaths before walking in. Research shows that anxious candidates perform at a lower level in interviews than their relaxed peers. And not only are you stressed to the point of distraction about the interview, but the simple fact you're nervous — and probably showing it with sweaty palms and jittery energy — might mean that things won't work out for you, creating the worst sort of vicious circle.
Don't let your interview nerves sabotage your chances. Use these tips to make sure you get the big break you deserve — and give interview anxiety the boot.
1. Recognize the Telltale Signs
The emotional twitchiness that comes with interview nerves quickly translates into physical symptoms, which can undermine your confidence and also indicate your level of anxiety to the interviewer. Whether it's feeling flushed, avoiding eye contact, or fiddling with your clothing, we all have our own personal range of mannerisms that come out when we are feeling the heat.
Understanding how you tend to react when anxious is key. If you're not already aware, ask colleagues, family, or friends what they think. Chances are, they've noticed the small nervous ticks you turn to, even if you have not.
Interestingly, research shows that speed of speech — speaking unnaturally slowly — is the only indicator that both interviewers and candidates agree is a telltale sign of nerves. All other habits tend to be a personal cocktail of small things that vary among individuals. So if you're facing an interview and not sure where to start, then practicing pacing your speech in answers can help you overcome this most common of giveaways.
2. Harness the Jitters
Feeling nervous, to a certain extent, is actually a massive advantage to you. As long as your anxieties don't become so severe they're paralyzing, you can use the nervous energy to focus on preparation for your big day.
3. Do Your Research
If you already have an interview lined up, find out how many interviewers there will be, and whether there will be any pre-work or exercises to complete on the day. If you can find out the interviewer's name, then Google them. Knowledge is always power. Learn all you can about the company, including what others in the same field — industry insiders and the trade press — think of the business, for a balanced view. Simply following the right people on Twitter will glean you a whole lot of information that might come in handy.
4. Plan Your Answers
Learn how to answer some of the most common interview questions, to make sure you're feeling confident. The STAR technique is useful for planning out answers to behavioral questions, as it forces you to think of the Situation, Task, Actions, and Results of any given example you might choose. Draft a list of the questions you might predict, and sketch out answers, including the relevant examples you might share. And plan how you might phrase any less-than-perfect experiences you've had along the way.
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You have your answers scoped out, now you just need to get them into your head. Try posting the key questions and your possible answers in places you will see them often. Think about the inside of your fridge door, or the bathroom mirror. Then start using your down time to run through your answers. Do them in your head if you have to, but out loud is far better. If you're in the shower, or in your car, talk an answer through.
6. Keep a Sense of Perspective
And finally, cut yourself a break. Everyone sits in an interview thinking scary thoughts. Pretty much everyone has interview nerves, and learning to cope is a useful skill that pays dividends outside of the interview room, too. Ask yourself: What is the worst that can happen? And consider whether anything that comes to pass today will still feel important in 10 years time, to get your fears in perspective. Most importantly, take a deep breath, and keep smiling. You'll knock 'em dead!
How do you get over your interview jitters? Share with us!