Five proven methods for calming your job interview jitters

A job interview is a stressful situation. You have a lot riding on this one meeting. Being hired for a new job can be life-changing, and whether or not that change happens can all come down to how you perform in a one-hour conversation.

Also, you know for a fact that you are being judged by a stranger and compared with other professionals in your line of work. That can take its toll on your nerves. (And to make matters even worse, one of the things you are being evaluated on is how well you communicate under pressure. So, while it is known to be a naturally stressful situation – you can’t act stressed at all.)

Fortunately, there are some fairly easy ways you can overcome you job interview anxiety. I am an introvert by nature and don’t have an easy time striking up casual conversations with strangers. So, I’ve learned some techniques for succeeding at speaking and media events and job interviews.

Be prepared. It is far easier to speak on topics that you are an expert on. You won’t have to stumble for things to say or struggle to sound articulate when you are well-versed in the material. Job interviews follow a distinct pattern. There are common questions you know you are going to be asked, so plan for them, and have answers ready.

Employers will want to know about your key strengths and career achievements and how these indicate you can be an asset to their team. They will want to hear about your work style, career goals, and why you left or are leaving your previous job. You will probably be asked about a challenging situation you’ve faced on the job, how you handled it, and what you learned. Be prepared to discuss these.

Here’s a cheat sheet with suggested answers to the most commonly asked job interview questions.

Dress for the role. Job interviews are a mental game. You need to be sharp. So, look the part. The last thing you want is to be insecure about what you are wearing. You are naturally more confident in clothes that you know look good on you, are comfortable, and are suited to the event.

For most jobs, a conservative suit is a safe bet for a job interview, but different industries have different standards. Dressing too conservatively for a hip tech start-up might make you look like a bad cultural fit.

No matter how formal the sector, make sure you wear clothes that are clean and wrinkle-free, that fit you properly, and that you are comfortable wearing. So, don’t buy something new and wear it for the first time on interview day. You don’t want to be walking down the quiet office hallway when you discover that your shiny new shoes make an awkward squeaking sound with every step.

See What to wear to a job interview.

Know your route and arrive early. Feeling like you are running late for an appointment is stressful. Why add that extra anxiety to your job interview? Research in advance where the office is, how you are going to get there, and how long it takes. If you are unfamiliar with the area, try it out in advance to be sure that you know where you are going.

Then, on interview day, leave early. Give yourself a buffer zone of time to get to the meeting. Once you are in the neighbourhood, you can use that time to go over your answers and mentally prepare. You’ll perform much better than if you arrive flustered and out of breath from running to get there on time – or worse, late.

Just don’t enter the office ridiculously early. That can be disconcerting to employers, and it can make you more nervous to have to sit and wait in an awkward lobby for a really long time. Walk around the block, calm your nerves, and go in about ten minutes before your appointment.

Prepare some questions to ask. A job interview might seem like an interrogation, but it’s not. Sure, the employer is sitting across a desk from you, asking you questions, knowing that they have something you want. But you also have something they want. The interviewer needs to hire someone with your particular skills to make their company more successful. Is this the place where you want to spend your time and effort?

The interview is really a negotiation between parties, each of which is hoping to find that they can do business with the other. That is far less stressful than being interrogated. You can avoid any awkward silences by preparing some smart questions to ask about the industry, the company, the competition, and the challenges. Ask about the team, the nature of the job, and what the work is like.

People find others who ask questions to be more likeable, and most employers are proud to talk about their team and their company. Plus, you’ll find out valuable information about the working conditions. You might even find that it is not for you.

Just don’t ask questions about things that you could have easily learned from browsing the company’s website. Do your research in advance. Employers frown on candidates who show up at the job interview with little or no knowledge of the company.

Here are questions to ask (and not to ask) at a job interview.

Remember the three-second rule. (This is that the silence between when a question is asked and when you start answering it sounds much longer in your head than it really is.) It’s okay to take three seconds or so to formulate your response before speaking – rather than stammering to get something out right away. You’ll sound more articulate and confident.

And you know what? Sounding confident will actually make you feel confident.

Want to lose those job interview jitters? Show up on time, be confident in how you can describe your work and accomplishments, be comfortable in how you look and armed with some smart conversational questions to ask.

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