By Liz Ryan
I hate job interviews. I don’t mind working. I enjoy it as long as the people are reasonably friendly and competent. I just hate the interviewing part.
I wish there was a way to get a new job without having to interview for it. Something about the interview setup makes me insanely nervous, to the point where I can’t get to sleep the night before an interview.
I prepare for every interview. I prepare like crazy. I spend hours researching the company I’m going to interview with, even if I have two or three interviews in a week (which has happened before). I just hate walking into an interview room and having to answer questions. I fall apart. I can’t put my thoughts in order.
I’m not job hunting now, thank goodness. I have a good job and I hope to stay there for a while, but I know I need to get over my fear of interviewing because it’s inevitable that I’m going to have to job hunt again. What do you recommend?
Take heart! Lots of people hate interviewing, and it’s easy to see why. A job interview is a very artificial situation. It’s not much different from auditioning for a play, except that at least when you audition for a play they give you a script to read from.
In a job interview, you have no idea where the scene is going. Almost every aspect of the interview is out of your control. Many job seekers report that they feel somewhat trapped in the interview room, which is especially weird because they aren’t getting paid. We’re not used to sitting in rooms with strangers and doing whatever they tell us to do. Of course interviews make people nervous!
By now you must have a tremendous track record from the jobs you’ve held. That’s what you need to keep in mind. You are not someone who must beg and plead for a company to give you a chance. You don’t have to impress anyone in your job interviews, ever again.
You can relax. You can take the viewpoint “This is just a conversation about one of my favorite topics — the work I do.
“I like my work and I enjoy talking about it. If the person who’s interviewing me today likes my brand of jazz that’s great. If they don’t like my brand of jazz that’s fine too. I only want to work with people who resonate at my frequency. I don’t have anything to prove today. I can’t fail as long as I get to the interview on time. That’s the only thing I have to accomplish today!”
Most people worry about job interviews because they truly believe that every interview is a precious opportunity not to be squandered. They go to every interview thinking “Please God, don’t let me screw this up!”
That’s too much pressure to put on yourself. Nobody can please everyone. You will delight some interviewers and turn off others. So what? If somebody doesn’t like you that’s their problem, not yours.
Here are ten ways to get over your fear of interviewing:
1) Practice! Enlist everyone you know to mock-interview you, even when you’re not job hunting (like right now).
2) Network. Get out and meet new people and when you do, invite the coolest and most interesting people you meet to have coffee with you. Sitting down with a relative stranger and asking them questions about their life and work (and answering their questions about yours) is the world’s best way to improve your conversational skills, and reduce your fear of interviewing in the process.
3) Visualize. Every time you have an upcoming interview, prepare for it by walking through the interview in your mind. Find a quiet time and place to complete your visualization exercise. To begin the exercise, imagine yourself pulling up to the interview facility in your car and finding a parking space (or getting off the bus, out of a taxi, etc.).
See yourself walking through the revolving door into the lobby and asking for your contact person. Imagine the interviewer coming into the lobby and introducing him- or herself to you. Imagine following them to a conference room, stopping along the way to get a cup of coffee or water.
If you’re not a coffee drinker, visualize yourself saying “No coffee for me, thanks — I’ll just grab some water.” Walk through the entire interview in your mind. It’s incredibly helpful to “see” the interview in your head before you actually get there. Anticipate every question the interviewer is likely to ask you, and practice your answers.
Practice asking your own questions, too. Everything you can plan for in advance, do so!
The more often you visualize an upcoming interview the calmer you will be on the interview date.
4. Reflect on the interviews you’ve been through already. What aspect of the interview or trigger made you feel especially nervous or ill at ease? After each interview and even the mock interviews with your friends, jot down the points in the interview where you felt adrenaline shooting through your veins. Those are the points to prepare for!
Some people get freaked out when they’re asked a question they hadn’t anticipated. That’s normal! Get used to saying “Great question! I’m going to take a moment and think about that one.” The interviewer is more likely to be flattered that you complimented their question than unhappy that you need a moment to think about it.
5. Find other ways to test your muscles. Interviewing is scary in part because every interview is a brand-new setting. You don’t know the characters. You don’t have a script. Find other situations, apart from job interviews, to practice walking into strange situations and dealing with them.
Sign up for a class in your community or sign up to volunteer with a not-for-profit agency. Intentionally make yourself uncomfortable so you can grow the muscles that will help you deal with discomfort more easily. That is not just good for your career, but it’s good for you in many ways!
6. Join Toastmasters, an organization that teaches people how to speak in public. Many if not most people are terrified of speaking in front of a group — until they take the steps that get them over that fear. Learning to speak in public will help you enormously with your future job interviews — try it and see!
7. When you’re lying in bed at night or at any other quiet moment, reflect on the amazing things you’ve accomplished in your life and career so far. You have an incredible story to tell, and interviewers want to hear it! Rather than worrying about whether or not you’ll have the “right” answer to a question that you’ve never been asked before, recall and reclaim your triumphs. Your story is an important source of your power. Feel good about it!
8. Practice asking yourself random interview questions and answering them. Here are a few questions to get you started:
- What do you like about your current job? What do you dislike about it?
- Who are your internal and external customers in your current job? What do those people need and expect from you?
- What are you hoping to learn in your next job?
- What are some of the themes you’ve noticed in your career so far — areas of expertise that you’ve focused on, problems you especially love to solve, and so on?
- What’s the biggest project you’ve worked on so far in your career? What was your role in that project?
9. Before any interview, schedule time to exhaust yourself physically. Your physical state and emotional state are connected. If you have an interview at 11:00 a.m., for instance, try to take the day off work so you can work out in the morning. Work out hard. Don’t take it easy that day, because the more physically depleted you are when the interview starts, the more calm and centered you will be.
10. Finally, tell yourself as many times as necessary “I have no one to please and nothing to prove. I don’t even know whether I want this job yet!” One purpose of any job interview is for an employer to evaluate your suitability for them. The other purpose of the interview — the much more important purpose to you, since you are the star and director of your movie — is for you to decide whether they are suitable for you.
It’s your life, Vincent. You only invite the people into your life who deserve to be there. You get to choose where to work and who to work with (and for). Never forget that!
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This content was originally published by Forbes Magazine. Original publishers retain all rights. It appears here for a limited time before automated archiving. By Forbes Magazine