Interviewing Hacks that Help

Mar 3, 2015

What Are You Nervous About?

So, you’ve got an interview! Congratulations! Only the top candidates for each job get an interview. It should put your mind at ease to know that the employer already thinks highly of you. So why do you feel so nervous?

It’s in your DNA. Within us is a “fight or flight” response that developed long ago to help us survive. This response triggers adrenaline, which in turns starts our heart beating faster and gets our muscles ready to run. Once our brains perceive a threat, the sympathetic nervous system takes over and the adrenaline begins to pump. But our brains can’t tell why you sense danger. The brain doesn’t know if you fear an interview or an attack by a grizzly bear. The nervous response is the same.

I’m not psychologist. But I’ve been on both sides of the desk and I know what it feels like to get those butterflies in your stomach. I have found a few interviewing hacks that can help and I’d like to share those with you.

Preparation and Research

The better prepared you are, the less anxious you’ll be. Research the company you are interviewing with. Study their website carefully. Contact the Chamber of Commerce to see if they have any information available for you. Comb business publications and online sources to see if there is any recent news about the organization. Use your networking skills to locate people who could give you the inside track about the company or the person conducting your interview. Use this information to form some really good talking points about what you would do if you are hired.

One of the best interviewing hacks is to practice the interview. There are state career centers all across the country that provide this service. See if you can arrange a mock interview. If possible, record the interview so you get an idea of what you look like from the interviewer’s perspective. Do this several times. You want to make interviewing an ordinary experience so your brain doesn’t perceive it as a threat.

Review your own resume. Read it at least 3 times before each interview. Many times a candidate hires a professional writer to prepare his resume. He glances through it and it looks good, so he sends it out. Later, he may be caught off guard if an interviewer questions him about a date or a statement. Read your resume with fresh eyes. Think of what questions you would ask the resume holder if you were the one conducting the interview.

Another great interviewing hack is to go online and research common interview questions. Try or similar sites and see if others have shared some questions the company asked them. Rehearse some answers. Nothing is quite as frustrating as having to roll your eyes and say “Uhhhhhh” while you stall to think of a response. Have some answers prepared.

Yes, some companies ask what appear to be really stupid questions that are totally unrelated to the job. “If you were a pen, whose pocket would you like to be in, and why?” There may be no right or wrong answers. Companies sometimes just want to see how you think through a problem and if you can theorize more than one solution.

Interviewing Hacks for Nerves

Once you have done your research and mock interviewing, it’s time to work on those nerves. Don’t do any cramming or practicing in the hours immediately preceding the interview. This time should be used to de-stress so that interviewers can get a sense of your personality. You want to appear relaxed and confident.

Wear something comfortable, perhaps a favorite suit you know you look good in. Arrive early so that you have time to check the mirror. Here’s a trick. Be sure to spend a moment and smile at that mirror. You’ll be giving yourself positive reinforcement that you are friendly and composed. And laugh if you like, but here are some unusual interviewing hacks that can help calm your nerves.

  1. Focused breathing. When you get nervous you automatically take shallow breaths or even hold your breath. That’s what happens when you are surprised by a bear. You automatically take a little gasp and then hold your breath a moment. This triggers the nervous system to pump out more adrenaline and that’s certainly not what you want during an interview.

    You can’t control your heart rate or any other part of the sympathetic nervous system, but you can control your breathing. Take a deep breath in as you count to 7. Then hold your breath for 7 seconds. Slowly release, again using a count of 7 seconds. Doing this will send a message to your brain that you are in no danger. The adrenaline will stop pumping and you’ll be able to get rid of those pesky butterflies. And the best part is that you can do this without anyone realizing what you are doing. Try it! It may give you an edge.

  2. Japanese touch technique. An ancient art called Jin Shin Jyutsu proposes that we can use touch to produce harmony and balance in our body. The theory is that different parts of our hands control specific attitudes. The thumb is associated with worry. The index finger is related to fear. By wrapping the fingers of your one hand around the thumb or index finger of the other hand, you are gently balancing the flow of life energy in your body and relaxing negative emotions. Using the thumb and index finger to press the center of your palm, helps control your breathing and brings mental clarity and focus.

    I was skeptical too, when I was introduced to some of these interviewing hacks. Then I thought, “Oh why not!” It’s better than keeping a rabbit’s foot in your pocket. Use this touching technique along with focused breathing. It works for me. And again, no one around you can tell you are using these coping skills to stay relaxed.

  3. Mental Imagery. Have you ever wondered how professional athletes stay calm? They are taught mental imagery. A skier envisions himself at the top of the hill. In his mind, he sees himself making a perfect run. He feels the wet snow against his face and ponders the feel of the trophy in his hands.

    In the moments before your interview, use mental imagery to your advantage. Envision yourself smiling as you walk in and shake hands with the interviewer. See yourself as you confidently answer all the questions posed. Smile as you envision yourself pointing out how you can help lead the company to greater heights. Think these positive thoughts as you calmly wait to be called into your successful interview.

  4. Pray. Are you a spiritual person? It’s okay to say a quick prayer if that brings you comfort. That’s not cheating! Pray that you will be able to put your best foot forward. Pray that you will find the words you need to express yourself well. And pray that if this is not the place for you, that you will be able to discern this during the interview.

Thanks for the Offer

Now you have some hints on how to prepare for an interview and how to put your best foot forward. Use the interviewing hacks above to soothe your nerves. You want to present yourself well. But keep in mind that you are also interviewing your prospective boss. Be sure to get a good idea of the organization’s leadership dynamics and the company culture. You should be alert for any signs that there is political or financial unrest within the company. This might not be the perfect job for you, after all. Take all this into consideration before you accept a job offer.

Here’s hoping you have a great interview experience. And good luck on the new job!

About the Author

Michael Murphy

Michael joined Kimmel & Associates in 2005, as an Associate in the Structural Steel Division. In 2008, he became an Associate for the Heavy Civil Division.

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