How to Stay Relaxed During a Job Interview

Skip the sweaty palms and nervous laughter, and put your best foot forward.

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Whether you’re an interview virgin or have simply been “interview celibate” for awhile, that first interview in a new job search can be stressful. From the sweaty palms to the rambling stories to the nervous laughter, it takes a great amount of self-discipline to harness your energy when trying to impress an employer. And since it’s something we don’t get to do regularly, it’s easy to find yourself out of practice when you’re hunting for a job.

By now you’ve researched the company, picked out a winning outfit, and are planning to arrive 15 minutes early. Good thinking! But how will you stay calm during the interview?

[See 9 Tips to Make Your Resume Stand Out.]

Keep the following tips in mind during your next job interview, and your skills, experience, and personality will do the talking:

Know you’ll be OK no matter what. As badly as you want the job, you’ll have other opportunities. There are few "once-in-a-lifetime opportunities." Don’t put undue stress on yourself by believing that one mistake will change the course of your life. This is the first of many job interviews you’ll go on in your lifetime. Adding unrealistic weight to the interview situation only adds pressure. Even if you never hear back from the company, life will go on.

Remember we’re all human. Don't forget that the interviewee once sat on the other side of the desk to get the job they currently have. You’re both breathing the same air and are more alike than you might realize. Don't assign superhero status to the interviewer. Speak to them the way you would talk to one of your friend's parents; be respectful, polite, concise, and natural. Accept that they’re in control (at least partially) and all you can do is represent yourself as honestly as possible.

[See Answering High-Pressure Interview Questions.]

Be personable. The interview is not just about your accomplishments and the skills you bring to the table to help an organization meet their goals. It's also an exercise to assess your personality and determine whether you're a match for the company's culture. Nothing is easier than being yourself. If you attempt to change yourself to match a company’s culture, you’re doing nothing more than trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. It’s a futile exercise that ultimately ends with both parties being unhappy.

Convey confidence. Give yourself a confidence boost before the interview starts. Avoid colloquialisms such as, "I'll do whatever it takes to get the job done." You don’t want to appear cocky or like you’re owed anything, but just like a first date, the stench of desperation is a turn off. Calmly and firmly state your answers, never putting yourself down and never begging for the opportunity.

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Use calming techniques. The more relaxed you are during an interview, the clearer you will be think—making you a better listener and speaker. There are many natural ways to keep calm, and it's your job to identify which anti-anxiety mechanisms work best for you. Some people will be at their best if they meditate before the interview; others would prefer to exercise vigorously to get rid of stress. If you don’t know what helps you relax in stressful situations, your first homework assignment is to figure that out.

Don’t make the mistake of confusing excitement with anxiety. If you’re fearful of a job interview, tell yourself that you’re feeling a certain way because you’re excited. You could have a new job, bigger paycheck, and better boss in your future, and those are all things to be stoked about. Be true to yourself and your first interview can’t go wrong.

Andrew G. Rosen is the founder and editor of Jobacle.com, a career advice blog. He is also the author of How to Quit Your Job.

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