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4 Ways to Stay Calm During an Interview

Let’s take a look at a fairly common scenario: You get that long-awaited call or email, informing you that you have been short listed for an interview. This is your big chance to make an impression. The receptionist takes you through to meet the head honcho; a sharply dressed middle-aged man seated behind a mahogany desk.

Firm Handshake- check.

Taking a seat opposite your potential employer you smile confidently and then BAM:

“So what are you good at?” he asks.

You know what you want to say to this. You prepared your answers in advance. The answers. They won’t come out. You panic. Mind racing, you try to say something intelligent.

What follows is an interview that wasn’t so great, and plays back in your head over and over for the rest of the day.  It’s the stuff every job seeker’s nightmares are made of and it has a common name: stage fright.

Suffered by seasoned actors and amateurs alike, stage fright is simply the irrational fear of failing the impending performance. The important thing to remember is that it is a temporary physiological response to a perceived threat- such as the head honcho and his rather direct questioning- and it can be overcome by following these 4 tips:

  1. Understand your body.  When we perceive a threat, our body floods with adrenaline, activating the ‘sympathetic nervous system’. This bodily response is known as the “fight or flight” syndrome- a naturally occurring self-preservation mechanism. Racing heart, sweaty palms and shaking of the legs- all readying us to flee the scene of potential danger. Our logical brain is switched off hence our loss for words. When we learn to recognize our body’s signals for what they are, we can train ourselves to flick the switch to our logical brain back on.
  2. Breathing. And how do we flick this switch? It’s very easy: we need to consciously activate the ‘parasympathetic nervous system’. This can be done with slow, deliberate breathing. It reverses the flood of adrenalin, restoring peace and order in the body quite quickly. It is wise to commence this breathing pattern on the way to the interview room and even while the interview is taking place. Oxygen is a good thing for the brain and calm breathing leads to calm thinking.
  3. Establish eye contact early. As soon as you are greeted by the interviewer, make calm and direct eye contact. Maintaining this from an early point in the interview will help you find your confidence, getting you off to a great start.
  4. Learn to talk about YOU. The interviewer’s aim is to learn as much as possible about you. Many people struggle to answer questions about themselves, becoming nervous that they will give the ‘wrong’ answer. Practice self-reflection with a trusted friend beforehand. This will not only get you in the swing of speaking about yourself but also help you pinpoint what you perceive to be your strengths and weaknesses. Being able to speak confidently about yourself is an art and once you have perfected this you will find it much easier to stay calm and positive during the interviewing process.

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