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Conquer Interview Jitters

Ask The Expert

By Barbara Mitchell

Q: What can I do to stay calm during an interview? I often find myself second-guessing my answers to questions, and then I get nervous and don't present myself well. Any tips for me?

A: Let's face it—job interviews are highly stressful, especially if you really want the job. So I totally get your question. Here are some suggestions.

Plan, plan, plan! Start by being fully prepared for the interview. This means doing your research on the organization and your potential boss. Know your strengths, and have your examples ready to showcase those strengths. Plan what you're going to wear ahead of time so you aren't rushed the morning of the interview. Know where you're going so you don't get lost on your way. (I know people who do a dry run the day before, just to be sure they can time their arrival right.) Try to get a good night's sleep before an interview and, if possible, make the interview the focus of your day. Don't try to do too much in the hours beforehand.

Once the interview starts, try not to judge your performance. Stay in the moment. Focus your attention on the interviewer and the questions you're asked.

You also may want to visualize yourself at the interview or, even better, visualize yourself starting to work at the organization. Play out ahead of time how you will greet the interviewer—imagine yourself smiling and responding easily to the questions you're asked. Planting positive thoughts can make a difference in your performance. Professional athletes use this technique with great success.

Just before you go into the interview, breathe. A slow, deep breath relaxes your body, which in turn helps relax your mind. You can also do this during the interview as long as it doesn't look like you're stalling for time.

Once the interview starts, try not to judge your performance. Stay in the moment. Focus your attention on the interviewer and the questions you're asked. If you prepared well, you know what you want to say, and you should be able to relax and sell your strengths. Focus on letting the interviewer know why you would be perfect for the job and how your skills will benefit the organization. If you find yourself getting nervous again, take a sip of water, or stop for a deep breath.

If things don't go as well as you hoped, take some time to honestly evaluate the situation. Maybe it wasn't you—perhaps the interviewer was distracted or unprepared. But if you weren't on top of your game, consider what you'll do differently next time.

Best of luck to you. If you prepare well and follow these tips, you will be in a good position to make a great impression.

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR and The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook. Do you have a question you'd like her to answer in "Ask the Expert"? Send it to [email protected]

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