There’s nothing like an interview to throw an otherwise calm and collected individual off their game. Being interrogated by someone who holds the power to either give you a job or send you home empty-handed can be intimidating. And, of course, when a person is intimidated, they typically underperform.
Cognition can be confusing, jitters can be jarring, and it can be difficult to remember things like learned skills and experiences—let alone your full name—as you sit under the judgmental gaze of that seemingly all-powerful hiring manager.
If you’ve found that you struggle with interview anxiety, here are a few tips to take with you the next time you suit up and head out to meet with a hiring team.
Stress Is Normal
First things first, you need to understand that even successful people feel stressed at times. It’s a very normal emotion, and there’s nothing wrong with it. In fact, trying to completely eliminate stress isn’t a great idea—especially since it’s practically impossible to do so.
Rather, it’s something you should strive to understand and manage. Many of the tips below are ways to directly do that, but the first step is making sure that you’re approaching your interview anxiety with a realistic, management-oriented focus rather than an agenda of eradication. If you feel stressed, step back, take a deep breath, and remember that it’s a perfectly normal reaction to your situation. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to take steps to manage the stress.
Go in Prepared
It’s always wise to go into an interview prepared. Take the time to research and learn about the company where you’ll be interviewing. Look up things like their public announcements, earnings calls, social media posts, and even take the time to look into which specific personnel within the company might be interviewing you.
In addition, go over any questions you might have as the interviewee and make sure you’ve gathered all of your documentation ahead of time. Preparations like these are excellent ways to stay calm before the interview day officially arrives.
Practice Makes Perfect
The truth is, it’s hard for most people to talk about themselves without coming across as either insecure or narcissistic. Learning to talk about yourself in an accurate, reasonable manner is a learned skill, not just something the lucky ones are born with.
That said, the simple act of practicing your responses to classic interview questions can help bolster your confidence. This handy list of common interview questions from Glassdoor can help you get comfortable with a plethora of different inquiries you might hear from a hiring manager. Go over them, and don’t just think about the answers. Speak them out loud, as if you’re actually in an interview, answering a person in real time.
Dress to Impress
Your clothing can make a huge difference in your appearance. It can send messages to those who see you and can also instill a sense of self-empowerment. In fact, professional attire has been shown to literally broaden perspective and increase abstract thinking for the wearer. In other words, an excellent way to beat those nerves is to dress thoughtfully for each interview you attend.
It’s always recommended to arrive at an interview on time. In fact, it’s best to get there early. That doesn’t mean you should hang around the secretary’s desk for a half hour before the interview, of course. If you arrive early, simply wait in your car or a nearby coffee shop until it’s time.
While this helps demonstrate your responsibility, it also can help you stay focused and calm, rather than feeling stressed and anxious because you were delayed by traffic, couldn’t find the building, etc.
Finances Are Taboo
It never looks good to show up to an interview more worried about your own compensation than the job itself. Money and benefits are topics that should be saved for a later time, if and when you’re offered the job.
This interview strategy is typically brought up as a way to help increase your likelihood of nailing the interview. However, it’s also quite helpful in reducing performance anxiety as well. Knowing you don’t have to open up the can of worms that is financial negotiations can take a load off your mind and ease the pressure and anxiety of an interview right from the get-go.
It’s easy to feel the need to oversell your qualifications in an interview, but any savvy hiring manager is going to see through that facade, anyway. So don’t try it. That’s not to say you shouldn’t highlight your strengths, though.
Be confident about what you do know, be professional, and show genuine interest. Simply being your professional self can go a long way in helping the entire experience feel less like a performance. And, of course, if it feels less like a performance, it’s likely to help calm those unwelcome butterflies.
Nailing the Interview
Taking some time to create an interview preparation strategy can be a great way to maximize your confidence and help calm anxious thoughts. And, of course, poise and confidence directly translate into a better chance of success in each and every interview.
If you can manage to implement some of these tips and can avoid being sidelined by those pesky nerves, you’re much more likely to impress the hiring manager in your next interview.
Jessica Holbrook Hernandez