A Relaxed Job Interview

How to get and stay calm, well, calm enough.

Posted Jun 23, 2017

Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain
Source: Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain

Even the most qualified candidate can blow an interview if stressed.

My clients have found that the following ritual keeps you calm enough even in a stressful interview:

1. Don’t script your answers. At minimum, you would sound stiff and reveal that you’re giving scripted answers—It's a giveaway even if you just looking upward for a moment to try to remember what you’ve scripted. Scripting also increases the chances that your mind will be so focused on remembering your script that you’ll screw up. Or they’ll ask the question in a slightly different way so your script needs to be adapted, which can throw you off. And of course, they may not even ask the questions you’ve prepped for, which can really throw you.

You’ll be much calmer in the interview if your preparation consists just of having a key talking point or two for the few questions you think most likely, for example, a 30-second story about a problem you faced, the clever or dogged way you approached it, and the positive result. Also have a sense of how you’d answer the one or two questions you’re most afraid they’ll ask, like, “Why have you not earned any income for the last ten years?”

2. The night before your interview, do your usual exercise routine one to two hours before going to bed. Right after exercising you’ll feel energized but by bedtime, your body will fatigue, making you more likely to sleep well.

3. As you put your head on the pillow, remind yourself you don’t have to get that job. There always are others. And if you’ve reasonably prepared and don’t get that job, perhaps it really isn’t the best fit. Then do your usual mind-clearing activity to lull you to sleep: listen to soft music, count sheep, monitor your breathing while thinking your mantra, whatever.

4. The day of the interview, do your usual exercise routine right before you need to shower to get ready for the interview. That will fatigue you, moderating the fight-or-flight response when you’re in the interview.

5. Leave plenty of time to get to the interview, park, find the building, and the office. If you arrive early, don’t go in. Find a coffee shop or bench to hang out at until it’s time.

6. The moment you enter the building or the office, again remind yourself that while you might prefer to get the job, it isn’t essential you do. It may even be for the best if you don’t.

7. Upon facing your interviewer(s,) mentally undress them. Imagine their body’s flaws, their using the bathroom or having unfulfilling sex. All that will remind you that they’re just people, with strengths and weaknesses, like you, like all of us.

8. Adopt a second-beer mindset. Give the answers you’d give if you were on your second beer and chatting with a stranger at a bar. That increases the chances of your being candid rather than a BS-spewing job seeker.

9. If your interviewers are cold-appearing and ask the questions word-for-word from a sheet, it doesn’t mean they hate you. Chances are they’ve been trained, perhaps by an affirmative-action consultant, to be that way to ensure they’re exactly the same with all candidates. You still try to be your real, human self.

To that end, if you are interviewed by a team, it can help to connect with them if, if in your answers, you direct the first sentence to the questioner, the next sentence to the person to the right of the questioner, the next sentence to the person to that person’s right. When you reach the person on the far right, reverse direction.

10. Keep your answers to under a minute, with shorter answers to hard questions, longer answers to easier ones. If you’re completely stumped by a question, take just a few seconds to think about it and if still stuck, say, “I’m blanking. Can we go on?” That way, more of the interview is spent on your strengths.

11. If you flub a question, force yourself to not think about it by focusing the next question, giving a good and authentic answer to it, and making good eye contact with your interviewer(s.)

12. If allowed, ask vetting questions during the interview, not just at the end. Remember, the job interview’s purpose is for both of you to check each other out. And being in that mode will shift your focus from too much self-evaluation, which would be anxiety provoking.

In sum

Realize it isn't a must that you get that job, that you need prepare  only moderately, and be your second-beer self. Do those and you’ll both be calmer and more likely to land the job.

The 2nd edition of The Best of Marty Nemko is available. You can reach career and personal coach Marty Nemko at mnemko@comcast.net.