Job interviews can be nerve-wracking. You’re literally putting yourself in a position to be judged by a stranger with decision-making powers over your life. You’re also being compared either favourably or unfavourably with several of your peers. That’s a lot of pressure.

Since seeming competent and confident are the keys to winning the day, here are some straightforward ways to combat job interview jitters.

    Prepare in advance. Know your key strengths and be prepared to talk about them in ways that can benefit your potential employer specifically. Think about what your weaknesses might be, and have a story ready that can describe a shortfall along with a positive action you’ve taken to overcome it.

    Know why you want the job – and why you left your last job. Employers interviewing for most jobs are going to want to know these two things. Be ready to express your enthusiasm for the job you’re interviewing for – and to demonstrate how you’d be good at it. Don’t be nervous that you might have to explain why you left your last job or are preparing to leave it now – this will almost certainly come up. So be prepared in advance with a good story to tell that puts your career transition and growth in a positive light.

    Look the part. Plan what you’re going to wear in advance. Make sure your outfit is appropriate for the company and the role, and dressy enough for an interview. Be sure that it’s clean and pressed the night before. Also choose something that you feel looks good on you and is comfortable to wear. Don’t wear something new for the first time that day. There’s enough other stuff to think about on the interview day without having to be feel awkward in your clothes.

    Know the route – get there early. Showing up late for an interview can be deadly. And worrying about being late is one stressor that’s easily avoidable. Take a dry run out to the company’s location in advance so that you know the route and know how long it takes to get there. On the day of – leave early and give yourself extra time. Don’t actually go in to the building any more than five to ten minutes early at the most. Use the extra time to take a walk and mentally prepare.

    Remember that this isn’t an interrogation. While there is a power imbalance inherent in the job interview, it’s not as one-sided as some people think. You need a job. The interviewer needs someone to do a job. You are there with the skills to do that job. Therefore the interview is really a conversation between two people who each have something that the other one needs, just trying to get to know each other and see if they can work together. Enjoy the conversation. Have prepared answers, but be yourself. The interviewer is probably nervous too.

The other thing to keep in mind is that since nervousness about not succeeding is a self-fulfilling prophecy, the opposite can also be true. By acting confident you come across as more friendly and competent – and are therefore more likely to succeed. Knowing this, the ability to act confident – even if you’re faking it – should actually make you feel more confidence. (We’ve said it before, fake it until you make it.)

Peter Harris
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