Top tips on coping with job interview nerves
If you suffer from nerves in an interview, chances are you’ll have heard the advice: “just picture the interviewer naked.” I’m not sure where this gem comes from, but it’s not very sound advice. If you do go down that path, at best you’ll be slightly distracted. At worst you’ll, ummm….let’s just leave it there.
You’ll get that advice when people want you to relax. It’s meant to humanize the interviewer and reduce them to someone you may relate to. But there are better ways to calm your nerves in interview than mentally undressing your interviewer. Here are a few to get you started.
Understand what the job is really about.
Nerves can come from being in the dark. So do your research. I have written about this in quite a few other posts, but I feel I need to repeat myself this after this past two weeks. I have helped two clients with government applications and selection criteria. The language on the position description so was woolly, I had to ring the contact. For the first job, the advertisement turned out to be different from what the manager had specified. For the second job, the role was an IT programming role, however the way the employer had written the advertisement, made it sound like a project management role. Big difference in the skills the employer requires.
If there is an opportunity to check what the role is really about, do so. Even if the position description accurately reflects the role, it’s hard to tell from a bullet list of responsibilities, which responsibilities are a priority. A good question to ask the contact is “what will I spend the majority of the role doing?” Something on the bottom of the list could be more important than what’s on the top of the list and a lot of what you read on a position description can be just fluff and padding.
Once you understand the job, think of examples of where you’ve held similar responsibilities.
Many interviewers now use behavioural interviews. The questions you’ll be asked may sound general and you may be tempted to roll out any old example. But the interviewers will be judging you on the relevance of the examples you present. Leadership, for example, at senior levels, can be more about leading through others. That’s different from managing a team directly.
Pick examples that you’re proud of…
Read this post on body language in interview. Your best examples will make me, as an interviewer, feel like I am in the room with you. They’ll be vivid. Your excitement in delivering them will be reflected in your tone, your mannerisms, and on your face.
Don’t learn your lines. You’ll never remember them, but do talk out your examples. I say this because often when I coach people in interview skills, we do a mock interview. The first time someone talks through a scenario, or an example, that reflection is really obvious in their tone. Do practice, and if you can’t practice with a professional, practice in front of a mirror.
This is excruciating, but it works. James a very good friend of mine recorded me when he interviewed me for his blog. He kindly pointed out that I said “you know” 27 times. OK it might have been 47 but I’ve blocked out the number I was so embarrassed. The thing about this is that I had zero idea I was saying this. When you need to be believed, you tend to use words to seek someone’s approval. In my case “you know” was a shortened version of “do you know what I mean?”
Get a good night’s sleep.
Pull the interviewer into your bubble.
What this really means is that you should try and focus 100% on the interviewer and what they’re asking, without being slightly creepy about it. Make the interview about the other person, not you. So, for example, instead of concentrating on getting your sentences out on perfect order, focus instead on whether the interviewer understands you. Try to understand the intent of the question that the interviewer asks. Check their body language to see if they’re receptive to you.
The bubble idea is a much better trick than picturing your interviewer naked. You really don’t want to share that bubble with someone you might find unattractive!