“I get so nervous when I interview that I freeze.” For most of us, interviewing is an unfamiliar, somewhat intimidating, and uncomfortable experience. It is natural that interviewees feel nervous. There’s a lot at stake. You have invested a great deal of time, effort and money in trying to take the next step in your career. You’re walking into a room all alone to meet a group of strangers who are going to ask you difficult questions and make judgments whether they like you, if you’re a good fit, and if you are qualified and ready. Being rejected is a real possibility.
So, what can you do to calm your nerves and become more effective? You should take some comfort in knowing that the interviewers who are across the table have been on your side of the table and understand your nervousness. They are quite forgiving of a shaky voice and a little perspiration. But how do you avoid freezing? My formula for shedding your nervousness is:
(1) be familiar with each step of the interview process;
(2) be prepared by anticipating many of the questions by preparing and practicing your answers;
(3) learn how to read and respond to the interviewers’ body language and non-verb clues;
(4) find comfort in your knowledge and skillfulness;
(5) stay out of “your own head” (how am I doing; are they liking me) by just focusing on answering the question;
(6) only speak to the individual who asked the question (don’t look at the large group);
(7) plant seeds in your answers that will lead the interviewers to ask a follow up question for which you will be well prepared, thus gaining some control over the direction of the course of the interview.
Perhaps an analogous situation might serve to illustrate my approach. I must confess that sometimes I get anxious when I travel. I imagine that the taxi is going to drop me at the wrong terminal; the flight will be over-booked and I’ll get bumped; the plane will leave late and I’ll miss my connecting flight; upon arrival I’ll be told that my hotel reservation was for last week and they are now all booked up. However, I’m happy to report that over time I have figured out ways to alleviate most of my anxieties. I take a page from my own formula. I familiarize myself in advance with my ticket which identifies the terminal; I try to book non-stop direct flights; I re-confirm my hotel reservation; and if unanticipated problems arise, I have copies of all the documentation and contact phone numbers in my possession—you get the idea.
A good coach will walk you through the interview process step-by-step. You will learn what forms of body language to look for and how you should respond verbally and non-verbally. You will analyze and practice answering the most often asked questions. You will role play and have a dress rehearsal. You will report back as to your actual performance and will get feedback on how you might improve. You will find comfort and self-confidence in the knowledge that you are well prepared, and as a result your nervousness will be minimized.