How to Keep Your Calm in a Job Interview

A professional interview panel quizzes transitioning service members in mock job-readiness interviews during a 5-day transition readiness seminar at Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany. (Photo by Verda L. Parker)

Stress is a strange thing. It makes our heart beat faster, our palms get clammy and our face get flush. Stress can cause our vocal cords to tighten (making our voice sound squeaky), our breathing to become faster and our body to sweat.

Lovely image, right?

Stress isn't only what happens when we're afraid or when something bad is about to happen. We can feel stress before our wedding day, as our project goes into final testing or when we interview for our dream job.

Managing stress and keeping calm during a job interview is crucial. If you approach the interviewer with sweaty hands, an unnaturally high-pitched voice and appear to have just run a marathon because you're breathing so hard, you'll likely send the wrong impression about your confidence and qualifications for the job.

Here are my favorite tips to keeping your composure and staying calm during a job interview:

1. Limit Caffeine Beforehand

You might think a quad-espresso is a good idea to get you sharp for the interview, but likely it will give you a surge of energy that intensifies the stress you're already feeling.

If possible, taper the caffeine the day of the interview, relying on your natural adrenaline to elevate your energy level.

2. Come Prepared

Have printed copies of your resume with you, in a professional-looking portfolio. You can hand them out, if needed, and will have something to reference during the conversation. Also, bring notes from your research, and your questions, to the interview.

Make sure they are neatly written down (not on your smartphone) so you can refer to them. Remember, the person sitting across the desk from you can see what you have, so make sure your notes are clean and not full of scribbles or coffee stains.

3. Practice a Mantra

No, it's not corny to tell yourself positive affirmations before you head into the building for the interview. Sit in your car, or someplace quiet and private, and remind yourself of your positive traits.

Tell yourself that you are competent, confident and approachable. Repeat to yourself that this interview is as much about them learning about you as it is for you to evaluate them. You are worthy of a great job, and if this is the one, it will become obvious to you.

4. Focus on Your Breathing

Practice taking slow, steady, deep breaths into your abdomen. When nervous, we tend to breathe from the top of our chest and take shallow breaths, causing us to get lightheaded and anxious.

Pull your breaths down to your belly button and slow them down. Even doing a few of these every few minutes will calm you down if you feel stressed.

5. Smile

A job interview is a formal and important occasion. It might not feel natural to smile, but if you can (when it's appropriate), it will communicate that you are approachable.

The interviewer will expect you to be nervous and may be nervous themselves. If you smile, you put both of you at ease in the moment.

The interviewer is hoping you'll do well. They brought you in for the meeting and made time available to evaluate your fit in the company. They want to see you succeed and are not looking for you to fail.

Your confidence will shine through, and you'll show your best qualities, if you can work on remaining calm during the job interview.

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