Ah, the job interview – often anticipated with equal parts hope and dread. There are few things that cause as much anxiety as a job interview. The stakes are so high for such a brief interaction.
If you find yourself on the verge of panic during your next job interview, try these five tricks to take the edge off and increase your chances for success.
1. Do. Not. Memorize.
Prepare, yes. Memorize your answers, no. Rehearsed sounds rehearsed. You’ll make less eye contact and, worse, if you trip up over your words you’ll begin to panic. And not panicking is the name of the game here.
When you prepare for your interview, use bullet points and ONLY bullet points. Never write out and rehearse full sentences. It’s the kiss of death. You’ll sound like a robot or you’ll forget your place.
2. Have an anchor.
Bring a pen with you. This is not for notes. Place the pen somewhere in your field of vision as you settle in. Every time you see the pen remind yourself to breathe. Slow down. The pen is your visual anchor.
You can use this trick to help you deal with anything in an interview, by the way. If anxiety isn’t your problem, try using it to remind you to smile more, stop slouching, make eye contact, or anything else. The trick is to use a designated object in your field of vision to remind you of just one thing. It’s a handy little trick, and your interviewer will never know.
3. No cramming.
NO preparation the night before or day of the interview. I know, I know. It’s hard to let go of the compulsion to prepare right up until the last minute. But cramming didn’t work when you were in school and it’s not going to work now. In fact, it will likely work against you by raising your stress levels even more. Finish all of your interview prep the day before the interview and do something relaxing that evening.
4. Keep it real.
One of my clients used to spend job interviews in panic mode, desperately trying to forecast what the interviewer wanted to hear. He was so focused on this that he spent very little time actually paying attention to the question, making eye contact, or giving thoughtful answers. He usually tanked, but when things went well it was because he let go of the quest for the perfect answer and just gave a real one.
The best answer to an interview question is always a true one. As Brené Brown has said, “Who you are will always trump who you think people want you to be.” So you might as well keep it real right from the start. If your interviewers don’t like what you have to say it just means the fit isn’t right, and you don’t want to end up at a job where the fit isn’t right, anyway.
5. Two magic words: “for example”
People who are nervous tend to give interview responses that are too short and too vague. “Managed a team” can mean many different things. So can “top sales rep”, “research”, “creative projects” and “proposal writing”. You need to fill in the blanks for your interviewer. How were your creative projects different than the person they just interviewed? Be more specific in your responses by giving examples, even when you’re not asked for them. Examples tell a story, and everybody loves a story, including your interviewers.
Here’s a trick that will help you weave an example into every response: Say your answer to the question asked and then say, “For example…” and weave in a part of your story that’s relevant.
Let’s say you get asked the question, “Do you prefer working in a team or independently?” They’re not asking for an example here, but you’re going to give one anyway. A possible response: “I’m more of an independent worker. I like to take something and run with it. For example, I was regularly given my own research projects at Company X because my boss knew I could be trusted to organize the work and do a thorough job on my own. My last research report led to a brand new initiative that ________.” (You see where I’m going with this.) The “for example” trick is easy to remember and it works like a charm.