When I was in middle school, I was part of the Gifted & Talented program also known as the GT program. Basically they grouped all the nerds and put them in all the same classes that were more advanced. In those classes, one of my friends, let’s call him John, was at the top of the class in the grade rankings. He was the school valedictorian if there is such a thing for a middle school.
Problem was, taking a test was a big deal for him. He would get so nervous that he would literally vomit before a test. On more than one occasion I saw him get beet red, sweating profusely, shivering like he was in the middle of a snow storm, and cry his way through a pop quiz.
A similar situation happens to many people during interviews. Even though everyone gets a certain level of nervousness, a portion of the population suffers from severe episodes of nervousness.
I decided to write down the 6 step process I recommend people follow to help them control and reduce the way nervousness affects them during interviews.
Fail to plan, plan to fail. Planning doesn’t have to be stressful. Instead of thinking of all the things you have to do, focus instead on the process. Just like a cake recipe, you go from one step to the next which leads you to the end result. Consider the planning phase the read through of the recipe.
Something I have found very useful to calm my nerves before interviews is to remove all the uncertainty from the situation. Many people get nervous because they’re afraid of what the other person may think of them. These thoughts run through their heads until all we imagine them yelling “Get out!” in the middle of the interview.
What if instead of wondering what they may think, we do some research to get to know them better?
Looking through their LinkedIn profile will give you some excellent clues on how they think and what they may ask you. Write down what schools they went to, the companies they’ve worked at and things you find interesting. For example, if they got a degree in engineering but are now doing accounting, that career change may be something you can write down as interesting and ask them about. Length of time at jobs, similar companies you’ve worked at and anything you think you two have in common. These are always good points to bring up during the interview.
You can also look at their facebook and other social media profiles to get a better idea of who they are. I like to do a general google search and see what else there is about them online.
I’ve done this with all my other clients and it’s always amazing what we’re able to find. One time we found a company newsletter that had a full article on the hiring manager and his how he did beekeeping as a hobby. My client brought this up during the interview which immediately turned the interview into a conversation. Obviously the hiring manager was excited to talk about beekeeping as well as impressed that someone took the time to really prepare for the interview.
Now instead of meeting a stranger, you’re meeting someone you kinda know. This makes the whole interview a less daunting event.
Obviously practicing is important however there is a difference between practicing and rehearsing. I don’t want you to memorize answers. I don’t think memorizing helps calm nerves because you might then worry about messing up your script. Instead, create your Interview Theme which is how you want the interviewer to see you and practice the answers you think those answers would be to the questions.
Aside from our practices, you should practice on your own whenever you have some free time. You can record yourself, do it in front of the mirror, with someone else as long as you’re able to practice out loud.
You can use this free copy of my book to learn the framework to answering the most common interview questions.
You want to practice so much, you’ll be able to improvise.
Visualization is something I feel strongly about. I consider it part of your preparation since you are mentally practicing several scenarios in your head. If any of those scenarios or even some you haven’t thought of, come up, you’ll be able to react accordingly because you’ve “been there before”.
Below is an excerpt from the book The Power of Habit which has that story I use often during my one-on-one coaching sessions about Michael Phelps and how he thought about his perfect swim every day since he was a teenager until he won 23 Olympic gold medals.
“When Phelps was a teenager, for instance, at the end of each practice, Bowman would tell him to go home and "watch the videotape. Watch it before you go to sleep and when you wake up."
The videotape wasn't real. Rather, it was a mental visualization of the perfect race. Each night before falling asleep and each morning after waking up, Phelps would imagine himself jumping off the blocks and, in slow motion, swimming flawlessly. He would visualize his strokes, the walls of the pool, his turns, and the finish. He would imagine the wake behind his body, the water dripping off his lips as his mouth cleared the surface, what it would feel like to rip off his cap at the end. He would lie in bed with his eyes shut and watch the entire competition, the smallest details, again and again, until he knew each second by heart.
During practices, when Bowman ordered Phelps to swim at race speed, he would shout, "Put in the videotape!" and Phelps would push himself, as hard as he could. It almost felt anticlimactic as he cut through the water. He had done this so many times in his head that, by now, it felt rote. But it worked. He got faster and faster. Eventually, all Bowman had to do before a race was whisper, "Get the videotape ready," and Phelps would settle down and crush the competition.”
This is something I also feel strongly about. There is research that shows Power posing has immediate effects on your testosterone levels. Just 2-5 mins of power posing can help you raise your testosterone (which helps you with focus and quick thinking).
“High-power posers experienced elevations in testosterone, decreases in cortisol, and increased feelings of power and tolerance for risk; low-power posers exhibited the opposite pattern.”
There are several moves you can try and the easiest is the superman/wonder woman pose. This is where you stand up straight, shoulders back, eyes forward, feet shoulder width apart and hands on your hips (see wonder woman pic below). Your head should be straight almost like if you had a string attached to the crown of your head that someone is pulling up.
Breathe either with your eyes open or closed in this pose. I like to do it with my eyes closed and visualize but you can also just stare at your reflection or just straight ahead.
Look at this video ( It’s only like 10 mins long.):
It has a great presentation on how to correctly breathe. Practice this in the days leading up to your interview as well as the day of.