We’ve all been there. After weeks of submitting resumes, you finally land that crucial interview. Unfortunately during your time to shine, nerves take over. You can barely hear the questions. Your mouth goes dry; your mind goes blank. You’re certain your accelerated heartbeat is audible. Later, when someone asks how it went you honestly don’t remember. All you know is you survived. Which means your anxiety has scored another win.
At least you aren’t alone. One poll revealed that some 92% admitted to be stressed out by at least one thing during a job interview. The number one concern? Being too nervous! It doesn’t have to be like this. That fight or flight response triggered by anxiety is super helpful when you’re trying to outrun a rabble of rabid raccoons. It’s far less valuable when you’re trying to remember exactly how you increased sales by 17% in the third quarter. Truth is, nerves can be managed. So, here’s how to remain calm during an interview.
The Boy Scout motto definitely applies. The more preparation you do, the easier it will be to remain calm. So do your due diligence on the company where you hope to work. Find out as much as you can about their challenges –– especially the ones particular to your department. Then see what solutions you can craft. Learn all you can about the interviewer as well. Write down questions to ask during the interview along with bullet points covering areas you may be asked about. Take the time to have a trusted friend conduct a practice interview with you. If the interview is being conducted remotely, then your practice interview should be as well—– ideally using the same videoconferencing platform.
Another suggestion on how to remain calm during an interview is to visualize it going really well. As hypnotist Harley Sears explains, “Research shows that experiencing success increases our confidence, even if that experience is imagined.” So find a comfy, quiet corner of your home, close your eyes and create a mental story. Picture yourself driving to the office, checking in with reception, meeting the interviewer. Imagine answering the questions succinctly and confidently. See yourself getting a job offer. Or as Sears puts it, “See yourself as calm, focused, and prepared…”
Then, put away all of your electronic devices at least an hour before bed. Get a good night’s sleep.
Start the Day Right
Don’t skip breakfast. During job interviews, a growing tummy is always an unwelcome participant. You don’t want to deal with a debilitating sugar crash either. So choose something simple and filling, like steel cut oatmeal which has water-soluble fiber which gives you a sense of fullness and take longer to digest and absorb than other types of oatmeal. Fresh fruit is awesome as well.
Plan on doing a brief guided meditation before you leave –– a proven anxiety buster. There are tons of online resources. Just getting your mind and body into a serene place will help.
Although too much coffee can make you jittery, some research suggests that first cup of coffee or black tea is calming. It’s also great for mental focus, so if you are a coffee drinker, have a cup or two.
At the Interview
If the interview is remote, you can do all these steps at home. Otherwise, plan on arriving fifteen to thirty minutes before your appointment. This will reduce the anxiety we all have when we’re racing through traffic. You don’t want to check in too early. Instead, take a short walk around the neighborhood or office park. Light exercise can help reduce stress. As you stroll, practice belly breathing. In an effort to look skinny, we’ve all gotten in the bad habit of sucking in our tummy. Unfortunately, this makes our breathing more shallow. Instead, breathe in slowly through the nose for a five count, expanding your stomach (it can help to put a hand on your navel as you do this.) Hold the breath for five. Then exhale through your mouth for another five. Do this a few times before you check in. Deep belly breathing encourages your diaphragm to expand completely with oxygenated air. It slows your heart rate and can even stabilize blood pressure.
When our anxiety takes over, it triggers the amygdala which floods our system with stress hormones and completely circumvents the more evolved frontal lobes —– part of the cerebral cortex, our advanced and rational brain system. That’s why it’s hard to focus during times of stress –– or at least on the things we need to focus on. By practicing deep breathing, you can calm the amygdala. Then during the actual interview, take a slow, quiet breath before answering a question. Not only will this quell any lingering anxiety, it allows you to set the pace.
Believe it or not, once you’ve mastered remaining calm during an interview you may actually start to enjoy them. Either way, you’ll greatly improve your chances of getting an offer.
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