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Managing your interview nerves

 
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For some, being nervousness can be so strong at interview that it can seriously impair their performance. This need not be the case. Lykke Pedersen, MSc., gives advice on how to get your nervousness to work for you.

Keep practicing and stay positive

Sweaty hands and a pounding heart. Most people know the anxiety that can occur before and during an interview. For some anxiety strikes upon hearing that they've been invited to interview. Other report it first, when they sit in the chair in front of - maybe - their future employer. Many manage to control their nervousness. But for some of us the adrenaline shock and anxiety takes control and causes so much trouble for us that it affects the interview.

The "good" nervousness

Generally there are two types of nervousness: The good and the bad. The good is the state where you are focused and "pumped up" to deliver - and it's certainly not a bad sign. The butterflies in the stomach is the body's signal that you are ready for the task. The good nervousness is actually evidence that you take the job seriously, and it is absolutely a good sign. For you MUST be focused when you go to the job interviews. If not, you are not interested enough in the job - and the interviewer will soon find out. It never becomes routine to go to job interviews, regardless of how many you are invited to throughout your career. If you are really interested in a job you will feel the nervousness rise - even at interview number 100

In this way, the good nervousness actually helps to improve your performance at the interview.

The "bad" nervousness

Some people also experience nervousness as incredibly distracting. Adrenalin, which normally helps to increase our performance levels are in these cases cause the system to collapse. Nervousness takes over and you find it hard to create inner peace and calm. Imagine a huge supertanker that has set course, not to return. The result is that the mind flickers and you become confused and lose track. You find it harder to express yourself and may forget what you want to say. Your heart starts to beat, sweat trickles on your forehead, palms and down your back. At worst, you give a poor impression at interview.

What causes "bad" nervousness?

"Bad" nervousness can be caused by several things. Maybe you've been to an interview before that went poorly, and you don't manage to focus on wiping the slate clean and seeing this interview as a new task. Studies show that there must be ten good experiences to erase one bad one. You can also experience "bad" nervousness if you are under great pressure from expectations - either your own or from your surroundings.

Applying for a job at a coveted and prestigious company, you can easily find yourself being nervous. Maybe your family have high expectations for your career, and you're afraid to disappoint them if you do not get the job. Additionally, you may experience more pressure if you only have been called to just this one interview, even if you have sent maybe ten applications. The picture will no doubt be quite different if you are called to ten interviews, then you will probably not be so nervous about this interview failing - for then there are nine other opportunities. Unfortunately, that isn't the picture most of us face. It is therefore important that we focus on getting our jitters under control.

Don't be nervous about looking nervous

Many people suffer from the illusion that everyone else can see when they are nervous. More recent research, however, shows that we almost never look at a person and can see that they are nervous inside. If you tend to be very nervous, keep in mind that it is not certain that the interviewer can see it. In addition, the professional interviewer will be well aware that people get nervous at interviews and they won't take it as something negative, as long as it is not extreme.

Five tips on how to handle the "bad" nerves

1. Be well prepared

It is always good to be well prepared - both in terms of knowledge of the company and questions you might get asked. But it is also important that you are well prepared to present yourself. You can prepare a 20 minute "sales pitch" that you present to your parents or friends. In short, consider carefully what you have to say. You have the opportunity to sell yourself, so grab it!

2. Think about the possibilities

Look for opportunities to give the interviewer a good experience, so that they remember you as something special. See the interview as a unique opportunity where, with an hour of good performance, you can secure your dream job. You have to think in possibilities, not limitations. You can also work to expand your comfort zone, so you know in which situations you feel good, and when you become insecure and nervous. A safety zone is best described as some mental limits within which you feel safe and comfortable, outside of which, you feel insecure and uncertain. The mental limits you set for yourself, often determines your performance. Take advantage of the interview to challenge your comfort zone, so that it expands every time you go to the interview.

3. Prepare your introduction thoroughly

A good start usually leads to a good interview. It is therefore important that you practice the start to the interview. Make small talk, or if you've read a newspaper article about the company recently, then comment on it. This way you have also helped the interviewer and have paved the way for a two-way rather than one-way conversation. It is also completely legitimate to say that you are nervous. That way you may loosen up some of your nervousness. It is certainly not a good idea to try to hide the fact that you are nervous - either initially or throughout the interview.

4. Be positive

You must believe in yourself and that everything is positive - so that you gain confidence. Nervousness depends mostly on your self-esteem, so try to go into the interview with the idea that you have something valuable that the company can benefit from. Also, remember that it rarely ends in disaster.

Imagine the worst thing that could happen and think about how you can prevent that situation. But mainly you need to focus on the good things: Pick out great experiences ( where you have handled a difficult situation well) and try as much as possible to forget the bad.

5. Accept your nervousness

If you tend to get very nervous at interview your first step is actually to accept that nervousness is a part of you. It is in most cases natural and beneficial. If you get sweaty hands, take a handkerchief in your bag. If you get shaky hands hold on to your chair outside so you get the feel of solid ground and security. If your breathing is fast take a few deep breaths. Do not soothe anxiety with alcohol or drugs. It only makes it worse. Anxiety is a phobia. The only way to combat it is to accept it and work through it.


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