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Work can be stressful. Being out of work can be very stressful. And looking for work is stressful as well. There are few things (a visit to the dentist, for example) more sweaty palm inducing than sitting through a job interview. Whether your angst is attributable to the importance of getting the job or because you’re uncomfortable talking about yourself, it’s normal to feel nervous about a job interview.
So, what can you do to settle those interview jitters?
Plan a plan. Even if you’re one of those people who pride themselves on your ability to think on your feet, winging it is definitely not recommended.
- Research the company.
- Research the industry.
- Research the job.
- If possible, research your interviewer.
If you possess the information available, you’ll reduce uncertainty, permitting you to stay focused and increase your confidence. The more you know, the more you can show. Be prepared and you’ll look prepared.
Coaches in sports often stress that you’ll play only as well as you practice. The same can be said for interviewing for jobs. In other words, rehearse. Either in front of a mirror or with a friend or colleague, conduct a mock interview. Be mindful of the following:
- How you speak. Too fast? Too slow? Does your pitch rise when you get nervous? You can train yourself to control those tendencies.
- Your posture (comfortable, erect so as not to restrain your breathing)
- Body language (Arms crossed? Fists clenched? Furrowed brow?)
- Do you have any nervous habits or tics (e.g. rapidly bobbing a leg up and down on the ball of your foot or absent-mindedly playing with your hair).
- Anticipate questions and prepare answers for them. This is particularly important if you’ve been fired from a prior job or there are gaps in your resume because you will be questioned about them.
Dress for success to reduce the stress. Better to be overdressed than underdressed. No matter how cool and hip you think you are or the company you’re interviewing with appears to be, don’t make the mistake of demonstrating that you “get it” by showing up at a job interview as if you’re already working there. Here is another way that some research can come in handy: For example, if you’re a guy and you wear earrings, it might be a good idea to find out if the person conducting your job interview is conservative about that kind of thing.
Be. On. Time. This goes without saying, doesn’t it? Rushing so that you’re not late is not likely to help you relax.
A job interview is a conversation. It’s not a confrontation. It’s not an interrogation. Remember that. The person with whom you’re meeting is trying to find out what you can do for them, not to them. Think of it as a chance to acquaint yourself with someone you’ve just met. Engage, listen, think, learn.
Eat right. Get plenty of rest. Trust us, if you’re tired or experiencing some intestinal distress from that ill-advised double cheeseburger and fries you had for lunch, you’ll feel it and it will impact your ability to handle the stress. Not to mention, you probably won’t look your best.
Breathe. Pause. There’s no shame in taking a breather, by asking your interviewer to rephrase a question, or having a sip of water to gather yourself if things seem to be getting away from you.
It’s important. It’s not life or death. A job interview is only that. An interview for a job. Even if it’s your first, it will certainly not be your last. Keep it in perspective.
And good luck!