Among the concerns I hear about most frequently from job seekers is how to manage their stress and nervousness before and during interviewing. While not quite a universal problem, it certainly isn’t uncommon. If you are interviewing for a new position with someone you have just met and know little to nothing about your inquisitor, and only a bit more about the company where you are trying to get the job, nervousness is to be expected. Nervousness (in this case) is your body and mind’s healthy way of reminding you of the importance of the task at hand (making a good impression). And, believe it or not, you can manage the anxiety and stress with a few important practices.
Not everyone experiences the stress of interviewing in the same way. Some people have difficulty making eye contact, they’re shy, maybe even a little scared. Interviewing can be an uncomfortable and stressful experience. The stress can manifest itself in a number of ways. Among the many signs, a noticeable quiver to your voice; a leg that starts shaking or vibrating up and down; your mind going blank and getting tongue-tied trying to answer questions; your sweat glands become activated resulting in sweaty palms, brow and/or armpits; responding inappropriately or providing too much unnecessary information; or a combination of these and other symptoms.
So, what can you do to remedy the situation? Here are some things to consider.
First and foremost – preparation. One should never go into an interview without having done extensive research on the company, its senior staff and possibly the interviewer, its key products and services, its corporate culture, and learning about the department where you hope to be working. Investigate their successes, primary focus, affiliations, even their failures and missteps. The more you know going in, the easier it will be to know how best to answer questions, and what questions to ask that will better inform you about whether or not you really want to work for that company. The internet is a great place to start your examination, but the local library’s business section may also be able to provide some important historical information and clues to help you prepare.
Your preparation should also include interview practice. The art of interviewing is a learned skill that gets a little easier the more practice you get. Your ability to comfortably answer difficult questions under stressful circumstances is a major factor in the employer’s assessment of whether or not to bring you on-board. Solicit the aid of your friends to find someone you don’t know to pose as your interviewer during practice sessions. An unfamiliar “interviewer” can create a more realistic simulation for practice purposes than someone you know well. You can direct your interrogator to pull a few queries from my Tough Interview Questions And Answers page if they need help finding things to ask you.
Another way to help diffuse your nervousness is through breathing exercises to keep you calm. Perform these exercises just before you enter the building where your interview is to take place, or even while you are waiting. If possible, find a place to sit quietly and undistracted. Put your feet flat on the ground and take a series of long, slow deep breaths, counting to six or eight for each inhalation and exhalation. Breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. Repeat five or six times. If you’re doing this in the waiting area of the employer, be discrete. A few long, deep breathes will slow your heart rate and improve your focus for the task at hand.
Know where you are going and exactly where your interview is to take place before you leave home. If it means doing a “dry run” before the actual date of your interview, so be it. If you’re driving there, know in advance where you can easily park your vehicle (and any parking restrictions so you don’t have any unexpected surprises – like a ticket – upon your return). If you’re taking public transportation, know the route and stop where you must get off your bus or train, and know the schedule so that you can get there on time. Being comfortable knowing that you can get there on time is an important stress reducer.
Another helpful stress reducer is knowing and understanding what the employer is looking for regarding the job you hope to fill. What are the essential functions of the position? What skills are needed to excel in that role? You may need to read between the lines of the job announcement to effectively determine what they are looking for, but most postings these days include at least the basic requirements and a few hints. Preparing some PAR statements (Problem, Action, Result) that convey how your skills and experience address their needs is a step in the right direction.
Interviews, like resumes and cover letters, are ultimately about only one thing – How do your skills and experience meet the needs of the employer? That is the core of what you must concentrate on in your preparation. Knowing and understanding what the employer wants from their future employees is the basis for everything else. If you want to be who they are looking for, focus your attention on addressing those specifics. That focused preparation will go a long way in reducing your interviewing stress and keeping the cold sweat at bay.
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