Answered by Dana, Hiring Expert at ManpowerGroup, on Thursday, May 22, 2014
You’d be surprised to learn how many candidates have the exact same concern, and I am glad to see you brought this up! Nervousness affects candidates at all levels, and I’ve coached lots of people for tough interviews, even for high-level positions. There are some basic things I normally advise so that candidates feel more calm and collected during this critical part of the process, and do their very best. However, the most important step is determining the root cause of your nervousness…
Are you nervous because you don’t feel qualified for the role?
This can be addressed through good candidate preparation, prior to the interview. Take the time to read through the company’s job description or posting carefully, and practice connecting the experiences you’ve accrued to each specific point they describe. Be prepared to talk about what you’ve done previously, as well as how your experiences translate directly to the needs and demands of their corporate role. For example, be ready to describe times you’ve had to multi-task, work under a tight deadline, collaborate with coworkers from other departments, handle something independently, and/or partner with leadership on a special project. Look over your resume carefully, and take note of any transferable skills that your new employer might want to discuss, and what will “wow” them.
Are you nervous because you don’t know a lot about the company, or the interviewer?
Familiarize yourself with the company’s website, and print out their “About Us” section. As you are waiting in the lobby for your interview to begin, it might help to look over the job description one final time, along with a print-out about their organization’s mission, scope, and successes. Additionally, you might find out (or figure out) the name of the interviewer ahead of time. Take a look at their profile on a site like LinkedIn, if possible. It’s always nice to know the background of who you’ll be talking to, how long they have been with the company, if they were recently promoted, etc.
Are you nervous because you aren’t sure what questions they may ask?
Check out sample behavioral interview questions online, and practice some of your answers. You can even print these out, take notes, and have a friend or family member quiz you before the interview date. The point is to get comfortable with giving examples and answers when asked, and to show confidence during the interview, but to not sound like a robot. So be cautious about memorizing any exact phrases or answers. You want the interviewer to sense that you have prepared adequately for the meeting, but you also want the conversation to feel natural.
Lastly, even if you feel uneasy and anxious, try to control any outward signs of your nervousness. Everyone feels this way to some degree during interviewing, no matter how tenured you are in your career, and how much you prepare beforehand. The trick is to maintain composure during the interview, and display your best professional self, while showing enthusiasm and genuine interest in the opportunity.
If you tend to fidget during tough situations, clasp your hands in your lap out of sight, or gently rest them on the table in front of you. Try not to tap your feet, or move around too much in your chair. If you tend to drop eye-contact, do your best to avoid looking around the room, or at anything else which may be distracting you from the interviewer’s gaze. If you tend to choke up when you are on the spot, remember to take a deep breath and pause before replying to any questions. Most interviewers would rather have a candidate choose their words carefully, rather than a candidate who says too much (rambles), or too little (stumbles), and doesn’t seem relaxed.
And don’t forget to smile! The interviewer needs to see that you want to be there, and that you are friendly, flexible, and eager to learn more. That will go a long way.