7 Strategies to Stay Cool, Calm and Collected During a Job Interview
Few things are more stress-inducing than job interviews. You know you can do the job, you just have to make a good impression and show the hiring manager and the people you’ll be reporting to that you have what it takes to be a great team player.
So what can you do to calm your mind and make sure that nerves don’t get in the way of a potential opportunity?
1. Know the basics.
Whether you’re going into a phone interview, a more casual informational session or have a marathon day where you’re meeting all the higher ups, study up. It will make you feel more at ease if you have that information in your back pocket.
“Know the company, know the job, know the job description. Have a five-minute elevator pitch for when they say, 'tell me about yourself,'” says career coach and counselor Eileen Sharaga. “The best way to mitigate anxiety is to be prepared, to understand do you really want this job? Are you qualified for this job? Is it a real stretch for you?”
Knowing that will help you anticipate what the person on the other side of the table will ask.
2. Practice, practice, practice.
Whether it’s with a friend, family member, mentor, coach or even your pet, make sure that you don’t go in cold. Run a series of mock interviews so no question catches you off guard.
“What we know is that practice helps to support the neural connections in our brain that are associated with [a given] behavior so that your responses sort of become a habit,” says career coach and counselor Dr. Cicely Horsham-Brathwaite. “When you are in a situation that has higher stress, i.e., an interview, you are able to more easily respond because you strengthened those neural connections and toward that behavior.”
3. Take a step back.
Sharaga says that as much as you might want the job, don’t let a sense of desperation creep into your interactions. And if it becomes evident that something is actually a good fit, approach it with care. You don’t want to have job hunt again in six months because you didn’t listen to your gut.
“Operate like a consultant. You're interviewing them as much as they're interviewing you,” Sharaga says. “You want to make sure this is the right fit, that this is the right environment.”
4. Self-efficacy is everything.
In psychology, self-efficacy is essentially a person’s belief that they are capable and can execute on and accomplish the goal in front of them. Horsham-Brathwaite says that this internal drive can sometimes get lost in the job hunt shuffle, but it’s important to hold onto it.
“Be clear about your skill set and abilities. Particularly if you're interviewing for a position that is outside of what you have specifically done before, [have a clear] sense of your transferable job skills,” Horsham-Brathwaite says. “Having a deeper sense of confidence helps people to go into the interview being able to communicate that they are a good match and that they belong in that environment.”
5. Don’t twist yourself into knots.
If all goes well, it’s entirely possible that before the process is over you may have interviewed with multiple people at the company over three or four sessions. But if you’re finding it to be a slog and having a hard time maintaining the same level of enthusiasm, listen to yourself and try to figure out why.
“When people put everything on a resume, they want to be all things to all people, but it doesn't work that way. Or they want the job so badly they'll play themselves down and say they'll take a lesser salary or lesser job,” Sharaga says. “You have to be authentic. You can't fake it.”
6. Put your game face on.
You’ve made it to the big show: in the office, wearing your interview best, going to meet the big decision-makers. Even if you’re thrilled about the prospect of joining the company, it can be a long and tiring process. But there are a few simple tricks you can use to stay fresh.
“Utilize the moments of downtime to your benefit. That can be while you're walking from one session to the next and taking some deep, meditative breaths that no one has to [know about to] help calm and center yourself," Horsham-Brathwaite says. "[Remember that] not only are they evaluating you, but you're evaluating them. Are they people that you feel energized around? Or are they people that that may not feel so comfortable and may in fact be draining."
7. Treat every opportunity seriously.
While an informational interview could be just that, three weeks or three months down the line, a real job could materialize. Horsham-Braithwaite recommends approaching that coffee with as much seriousness as a last-round interview. “Interviews at all levels are opportunities for interpersonal engagement and connection.”