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How to Avoid Interview Stress
Do you experience severe interview stress? This article is for you.
The interviewer is buttoned-up, formal and not smiling as warmly as you would have liked. The interview chair is hard and unwelcoming, your palms and face are sweating profusely, your normal eloquence has given way to stuttering and stammering and you have begun to tremble from head to toe. If you are one of the multitude of jobseekers who begin to hyper-ventilate at the very thought of interviewing for a new position and to whom the interview is a source of unlimited stress and trepidation, the following are some basic tips to help you through your interview woes:
Imagine the interviewer is more stressed out than you are
A technique favored by many to alleviate their own stress is to remind themselves that the interviewer may be more nervous and stressed out than they are, especially if he is not a seasoned HR professional and does not normally interview new candidates. The interviewer may not feel very comfortable assuming a role normally reserved for the HR department and may be more anxious than you are as a result. In this case you can shift your focus to alleviating the stress in the room and lightening the mood realizing you are both new to this role and that both sides will win by making the interview as smooth, fluid and informative as possible.
Imagine yourself in the interviewer’s shoes
It helps to remember when sitting in the interview spotlight that the interviewer himself is a busy man with deadlines, a job and a boss to report back to. By mentally envisioning the interviewer as a professional just like yourself who has taken time out of his busy routine to give you an opportunity to interview for the job, you can begin to empathize with the interviewer, relate to him and feel a sense of gratitude that you have made it as far as the interview stage. Remember, getting this far is already an accomplishment and the fact that the employer has given you such a generous block of time means they are interested in your profile, abilities and qualifications. Convince yourself that the difficult part is already over (providing you have not lied on your CV) and the interview itself is just a platform to build a rapport with the team and articulate in person what they already know from your CV.
To take this a step further, you may want to put yourself in the employer’s shoes – imagine you are in full control of the interview and the aim is to deliver to the employer all the answers he needs to sell you to the rest of the team clearly and succinctly. You can even go so far as to imagine that you already have the job and are just getting to know the interviewer as a professional colleague – this technique really works to alleviate the stress of the moment and reveal your real work persona and interpersonal skills.
Know your subject matter
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Your subject matter is primarily yourself and your professional achievements, interests, skills and qualifications, particularly as summarized on your CV and as they relate to this particular job. The interview is not the time to start racking your brain for the answer to “How long did you work for ABC Motors” or “When did you join DEF” – you should know your employment history and CV like the back of your hand and be able to explain or expound on any aspect of it immediately. Remember, you are the world’s best expert on this subject matter and for the length of the interview you are completely in control of the subject matter, have an edge over the interviewer with this knowledge, and can deliver the relevant facts and figures with utmost confidence.
Read interview books
Reading interview books will give you that extra self-confidence you need to appear calm at the interview and anticipate some of the more common questions. By eliminating most of the ‘shock’ value of the interview and feeling yo u are armed with answers to most questions that can come your way you will feel much more relaxed, comfortable and in control of the interview.
Practice and prepare
Nothing beats practice and preparation for confidence building. While knowing yourself is the fundamental building block in the successful interview formula, knowing the job, the industry and the company come in a close second. Research these areas extensively so that the next time you are seated across from the interviewer you have a detailed knowledge of what it is they are looking for, how recent market events have shaped and influenced the company in specific and the industry in general and what it is about your profile that is uniquely relevant to the job in question and can directly influence the bottom line. Once you can see yourself as a vital piece of the puzzle by virtue of the unique skills, attributes and value-added you bring to the specific role, you can tailor the answers to all interview questions accordingly. Practice your answers bearing in mind at all times what the employer is looking for based on your research activities, and keep repeating and fine-tuning your answers till you have perfected both the content and delivery. Ask some-one you trust to assume the role of the interviewer and aim to perfect the answers to all the common (and any anticipated uncommon) questions you are likely to come across in the interview.
Don’t dwell on your mistakes
Remind yourself that everyone is fallible and that should you stumble or falter with a particularly difficult question, you can quickly recover. The secret is not to make a big issue out of a bad or outright wrong answer but to quickly take stock of what went wrong, regain composure, take remedial action if possible then refocus and move on to the next question. Keep a professional front at all times and don’t let yourself get mired in any interview traps or potentially harmful comments you may inadvertently have made. It helps immensely to remember that flexibility will win the day and that should you inadvertently slip, you have the wit and intelligence to make it up with well-rehearsed, honest, sincere, exemplary answers to other interview questions.
Laughter is the closest distance between any two people and a good smile (a close relative to laughter) can melt many a concrete professional heart. Aside from endearing you to the interviewer, showing you are pleasant and breaking the ice, a polite smile will actually make you feel happier and will lift your spirits. Aim to smile as sincerely and as often as is possible during the interview and watch how your mood and temperament lighten up and the interview takes on a more positive light.
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