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How to Gracefully Handle Interview Jitters

It's all about prep...

by Janna Kefalas in Interviews, Job Search

It’s a bizarre clash of conflicting emotions…on the one hand you’re absolutely THRILLED to finally get an interview after weeks (or months) of job hunting. But on the other hand, quite frankly, you’re scared s***less!

You’re thinking…what questions are they going to ask me? How many people will be in the room? What’s my competition like?

Just entertaining different interview scenarios in your head is enough to make your palms sweat and heart palpitate.

We know that employers are more likely to hire candidates who appear calm, clear-headed, and confident in their ability to do the role, but how exactly do you get to that mental and physical space?

Here are 4 interview prep tips to squash those teeming butterflies:

#1 – Do Your Company Research

You might be thinking, “How will researching the company help me calm my nerves?” Don’t I just need to meditate?”

Well yes, meditation is an excellent idea. But what I find is that comprehensive preparation is really what breeds confidence and a sense of calm.

So start with the company first. You probably did a fair amount of research when you initially put your cover letter together and applied for the position. Now it’s time to go further.

Aside from their website, take a look at their social media pages. See how they (and others) talk about the company and its mission, goals, new products/services, etc. The more you know about the department’s pain points, the more you’ll be prepared to address them. Additionally, check out photos of the office and employees. What’s the overall vibe?

It’s also helpful to go on sites like Glassdoor and Indeed and search the company name. Sometimes previous candidates will post a list of questions they were asked or other tidbits about the company culture, etc.

And lastly, do some research on the employees who are going to be interviewing you. Check out their LinkedIn profiles and see if you have anything (or know anyone) in common.

There will undoubtedly be moments of small talk during the interview, so you may have the opportunity to mention these commonalities. Trust me, the interviewer will be impressed you did your homework, not creeped out. 🙂

Being able to visualize yourself at the office, talking with employees you already know a little bit about can help quell those pre-interview nerves.

#2 – Do Your Own Preparation

If (like me) you’ve had that recurring nightmare where you have to take a final college exam in an hour and you never, EVER attended class, you know how utterly terrifying that can feel.

Similarly, trying to walk into an interview room cold, with little or no preparation, is recipe for a nervous breakdown.

But doing company research is only one part of the equation. You’ll also want to spend a few hours preparing the most common interview questions:

– Tell me about yourself.
– Why are you interested in working for us?
– What skills and experience do you have that make you a great fit for this role?
– Tell me about a challenging problem you had to solve.
– Tell me about a difficult or unpopular decision you had to make.

Aside from these questions, planning out how you’d tackle some technical job-specific questions you might be asked (or required to demonstrate) will give you a feeling of competence and poise.

Yes, this requires some real time and effort on your end, but remember:

Preparation = relaxed self-assuredness

Winging it = stomach knots, shaky speech & rambling answers

How do you want to show up that day?

#3 – Plan Out the Big Day in Advance

Once you’ve done your company research and interview question prep, you’ll want to focus on walking through the day beforehand so that you leave nothing to chance.

This means planning out and trying on the outfit you’re going to wear the night before. Make sure it’s flattering and comfortable (no missing buttons, stains, or itchy tags).

Have a few copies of your resume printed and stored in a nice portfolio (ideally with a pen and pad of paper). Also, throw some tissues, breath mints, and a comb or brush into your bag.

Map out the route to the interview location and inquire about parking in advance. Allow PLENTY of time for traffic, getting lost, finding a parking spot, etc. The more time you give yourself, the less likely you’ll have that “Oh jeepers, I’m gonna be LATE!” panic attack.

#4 – Use Your Nerves to Help You

I know this may sound counterintuitive. You might be thinking, “Aren’t I supposed to be calming my nerves?” And yes, meditation and deep breathing can really help with a racing heart and clammy hands. (I recommend parking your car a good 30-40 minutes before the interview so you have time do this and look over your interview notes.)

But I think there’s one important concept we overlook. The reason you feel so nervous before an interview (or any other major event) is because your brain and body are just doing their job.

Your brain is conditioned to keep you alive — it’s hardwired for survival.

That means when you do something it views as risky, it’ll quickly send you bodily signals to communicate, “Are you sure you want to do this?? It seems WAY too dangerous!!”

Even though you’re not likely to get eaten alive in the interview (even though it does feel that way sometimes), your brain knows there’s a chance you could be rejected…even humiliated.

Therefore, it’ll do everything it can to keep you safe and comfortable. It’s just trying to help, after all.

So, sitting in your car before the interview, you can give your brain a quick pep talk and say, “Don’t worry, little brain. I know you’re just doing your job trying to shield me from pain and rejection. But this interview is an excellent opportunity. If I get the job offer, great things will come of it. And if I don’t, no problem, I won’t die. I won’t be banished from society. I’ll just try again…it’ll all be fine.”

Yes, you may feel like a crazy person having a conversation with your brain, but you’ll be surprised what a calming yet motivating effect it can have.

Combine this with all your prior preparation, and you may be utterly shocked at how focused and centered you feel walking into that interview room. You got this!