Interviews are nerve wracking for most of us. Part of the reason for this is the fact that interviews are unnatural in the first place. Think about it. How often do you walk up to a person in the street, a perfect stranger at that, and they ask “so, tell me about yourself?” Many of us are quite uncomfortable boasting about or selling ourselves, and once you add on behavioral questions to the mix, well, forget about it.
So, how do you overcome the discomfort and unsettling feeling prior to and during an interview? Below are some proven techniques and strategies to prevent clammy hands, butterflies in your stomach, and sweat on your forehead.
Know the Questions Beforehand
There are plenty of resources around these days to help you anticipate the interview questions you might receive before you step foot into the recruiter’s or hiring manager’s office.
Two of my favorites are Glassdoor and LinkedIn. On Glassdoor, people post interview questions and experiences for countless companies and positions within that company. A simple search can provide you with a general feel and expected questions for the job you’re interviewing for.
In addition to conducting a company search on LinkedIn, you can also find people within your network who work at these organizations. While it takes a little more work, reaching out to these individuals for one-on-one conversations about their interview experience and company culture can unearth valuable knowledge and firsthand exposure that will benefit you when you’re in the hot seat.
Strike a Pose
In Amy Cuddy’s famous TED talk, she recommends a high power pose to boost confidence before going into an interview (even if it might be the hidden “Wonder Woman/Superhero” or “Victory” pose in the stall of a bathroom).
There are also certain postures you can incorporate in an actual interview. One of my favorite suggestions is to sit on the edge of the chair instead of fully in it. This forces you to sit upright (just try to slouch from this position) as well as lean forward. Even if you are uncomfortable and nervous in the interview, this posture feigns strong interest and interpersonal skills, especially when combined with eye contact and the occasional smile.
Calm Your Nerves Using a Quick Breathing Technique
Many people like to meditate to decrease stress and nerves prior to an interview, but sometimes those nerves still pop up within a mere few seconds while you sit in the waiting room. At this time, it would be nice to have a quick trick or two up your sleeves to calm yourself down.
One of my favorite strategies, something I use not only before talks and interviews, but also to center myself to be present prior to a coaching call, is called the box breathing technique. With the box breathing technique, you breathe in slowly for four seconds, hold your breath for another four seconds, breathe out for four more, and hold again for four seconds. You repeat this pattern (think of it as a square box, breathing in as the top border, hold as the right, breathe out as the bottom, hold as the left, then back to the top/breathe in) as many times as you deem necessary (five seems to be my magic number). Then repeat it again if you begin to feel the nerves building up again.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Although obvious, it’s still worth noting the importance of practice. The more you anticipate different kinds of questions, and both think out and speak out your answers (things always sound better in our head than what comes out of our mouths, so say it out loud), the better you can avoid curveballs and nerve-inducing questions during the interview. If Glassdoor or LinkedIn doesn’t provide you with some clarity with anticipated questions, prepare and practice the answers to the questions “Tell Me About Yourself,” “What are your 3 greatest strengths and 3 greatest weaknesses,” and “Why Do You Want to Work For Us?” as a great starting point.
There is a point where too much practice makes imperfect, so if you find yourself repeating your answer verbatim, it is a good time to take a break and stop. Memorization or redundancy in answers may result in robotic tones and responses in the interview itself. It’s better to risk a few blunders than lose your personality when speaking with any employer.
Furthermore, I highly recommend your practice concludes the night before your interview. People who continue to practice the day of interviews historically are more nervous because they haven’t allowed their minds to breathe.
Write Down (and Review) a Top Ten List
I like to call this the “10 Reasons Why I Rock” list. Spend some time thinking of the ten reasons you are right for the job and the company. This list can be based on your strengths, personality, values and interests, just as much as it can be based on how you find similarities between your abilities and the requirements listed in the job description.
If you take some time to determine these ten qualities and write them out (we have a tendency to remember things when we write them in addition to reflect on them), not only will it boost your confidence, but it will also give you great ammo to answer any “why are you the best candidate for this position” question.
On top of all of this, don’t forget to be yourself. Be your best self, but still be yourself. Most people have strong enough intuition to determine between the sincere and insincere. Being authentic will take you a long way.