Nail your Interview, Part I: Manage Your Anxiety

In this series, we’ll cover some tips to get you ready to shine in your job interviews. While this series was written specifically with interview preparation in mind, the tips are applicable to other speaking situations as well, such as presentations, networking events, and business meetings.

It’s unfortunate that in order to get a new job, we have to go through the agony of job interviews. It’s natural to be a bit nervous, even if you know you have the right skills and experience for the position you’re applying for. Don’t let your nerves hold you back—let them fuel the fire and drive you to do a thorough job of prepping for your big moment. We’ll talk more about how to prep in our next installments of this series. For now, though, let’s tackle over-the-top anxiety that can limit your success.

Remember that at the end of the day, your interviewers are just people, too. You may have heard people say that imagining your audience members in their underwear can help with your nerves. I take a different approach. I just remind myself that whether I’m talking with new grads or CEOs, they are all just real humans with their own unique successes and challenges. Each of us have things we are proud of, things we regret, goals we’d like to accomplish, things that stand in our way, people we don’t like very much, and people who are important to us. Dig deep and find some confidence—don’t let yourself be intimidated by the person or situation.

It’s easy to let our nerves take root and to put pressure on ourselves to be perfect. Worry and stress will not help you get the job, and in fact, may keep you from showing what you’re capable of. Breathe and stay present in the moment. Shut down any negative self-talk that only serves to fuel your anxiety. Negative self-talk can be thoughts like “I’m not the most qualified for this position” or “I sound like such an idiot because I’m stumbling over my words.” Put a stop to those thoughts right away. Dwelling on negative thoughts and letting them take hold will only lead you to feel nervous. When you feel nervous, you are more likely to stumble. When you stumble, you will feel more nervous. See how damaging the cycle can be? Let’s break it! Focus on the experience, skills, and traits that will make you a good fit for the position.

Turning your focus outwards instead of inwards can help with anxiety. Instead of obsessing about yourself— Do I look okay?? Do I sound okay?? Do I sound like I know what I’m doing?? —focus on the other people in the room. Do your best to make real connections with the people you meet. Ask them questions, read their body language and their tone, try to learn about them and what they’re looking for, and let them get to know you.

Do your best to prepare and do your best to make a good impression, but don’t let any hiccups get you down. If you say or do something that is not 100% perfect, accept it for what it is—a minor blip on the radar—and move on. Learn from any mistakes and use them to be even better prepared for your next opportunity.

Stay tuned for the next installment in our series in which we’ll give you tips for establishing great rapport during your interview.

— Jane Rupp, Owner/Lead Trainer at VOTW