I was bubbling over with excitement as I told a friend that I had just landed a great job. “Well, of course you did,” he said, “You’re good at that sort of thing. I get the jitters just thinking about an interview.”
“So do I!” I responded. His eye roll and smirk told me all I needed to know.
When it came to interviews, I was one of those people who made it look easy. As in most cases, however, it wasn’t easy for me – not at all. I’m a basket of nerves, even on a good day! Still, when it came to interviews, he was right and he helped me see that I handled my anxiety differently. I over-prepared.
I would research on the company, and anticipate and rehearse every possible question and my answers. I’d read and reread the job description, etc. And, I did something else that I didn’t know at the time was helping me perform well in interviews. I visualized success.
As I reviewed possible questions and answers, I pictured the environment in my mind. I imagined what the office might look like. I saw the person smiling and asking a question, and I heard my answer come out perfectly, just the way I wanted.
It was like a mini-movie in my head. It turns out this approach was a key to my advancement in all kinds of ways. And there’s science behind it.
Imagining the Worst Doesn’t Help With Interview Jitters
I’m sorry to say that most people prepare for interviews by worrying. They worry about questions they won’t be prepared for. Or their qualifications. Or the competition. This is a wasteful use of mental energy and actually hurts performance because it erodes confidence.
Mike was a classic example. When I asked about his pre-interview rituals, I realized he was focusing on every possible negative outcome – some perceived flaw he’d have to explain, his uncertainty around answering a difficult question or the other candidates whom he assumed were far more qualified than he. Then he told me about his nerves.
“What can I do about my nerves? I’ve always got the jitters when I interview. I feel like all they’ll notice is my hands shaking!”
As I explained to Mike, his focus trying to plan for what could go wrong was exacerbating his nerves and anxiety. Instead, I urged him to focus on what was going to go right.
The Best Pre-Interview Ritual for Handling Jitters
The very best way to chase away the jitters is by focusing on what will go right. Think about it – if you are paying attention to everything that could go wrong you will trigger your brain to power up the defenses. That means it will release adrenaline and other hormones to prepare you to flee or fight. Heart racing, heavy breathing, sweating, shaking – you know the symptoms! This is actually a great way to sabotage your interview performance.
Instead, what might happen if you visualize success? Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps attributes his domination in the sport to his visualization practice, and you can use the same techniques. Imagine the day going smoothly and just the way you want from the moment you wake up in the morning, to the moment you hit “send” on your thank you note that night. In your mind’s eye, picture everything you can as vividly as possible. See yourself driving to the interview and finding a great parking spot. Hear the music you want to listen to as you go. Feel yourself smiling and making eye contact as you greet everyone you meet. Visualize how great it feels as you answer every question with confidence. Listen as you find just the right words to project yourself exactly as you would like to be seen.
For best results, begin doing this several days before the interview. Do it as you conduct your research and when you check out the LinkedIn profiles of the people you’ll meet. See them smiling and welcoming you. Write your own screen-play of success in your mind.
You can find out more about the power of visualization here.
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