Heading into a big interview can be terrifying, not unlike the feeling I’d imagine you’d have if you were about to jump out of a plane for the first time ever.
Of course, there's little risk of actual death (unless, of course, you're improbably applying for head coach at lion-taming school), but it’s nonetheless an anxiety-producing scenario.
Summon your self-confidence and conjure your courage in five easy ways.
1. Stop the Storytelling
Your brain’s primary job is to minimize danger and maximize reward, so in a situation where there's an unknown outcome—especially a situation where you might screw up—your mind’s going to start telling you stories designed to keep you safe, tales that will help you from feeling the crush.
I'll never get the job, and I'm about to get called on my spectacular lack of suitability. What if the hiring manager hates me? These kinds of opportunities always go to someone on the inside or someone they already know, I have no chance.
Your brain will always spin stories when it doesn't know what will happen, so it's vital that you recognize what your overly analytic mind is doing in creating these works of fiction.
Notice the fear-filled worries and let yourself consider the hilarity of them for just a moment, and then get yourself back to reality stat. It’s the only way you’re going to build the confidence you need for a home-run interview.
2. Return to Your Best
Being at your best means being at the top of your game, the place where you’re buzzing, flowing, and really feeling alive. When you’re in that place, two things are happening. First off, you're simply using everything you've got in the moment (all those skills, all that experience, all your smarts, all your talents, all your strengths and all that instinct) and, secondly, you’re not letting anxiety get in the way of your confidence.
In an interview, these two things combine to give you the sense that this is OK; that you’re OK. It’s sitting in that chair feeling whole and resourceful rather than incomplete and on edge.
To enlist this feeling, try this exercise: Sit and close your eyes, and dive into how it feels when you’re firing on all cylinders. Check in to see where that feeling lives in your body—maybe in your stomach or your chest or your fingertips. Imagine that place in your body being the source of this energy, this flow, this power, this ease. Then, when you need it, just focus on that place in your body, and you’ll return to your best.
Anxious nerves are a physiological response to risk, a response that gets your heart thumping, palms sweating, and thoughts spinning. You're pretty much screwed while this response has you in its grasp, so it's fortunate that you have a built-in stabilizer—a way of anchoring your experience in something steadier and more enabling: your breath.
If, pre-interview, you start to feel the anxiety start to creep in, gently shift your attention to your breath. Pay attention to it as it moves in and out of your body. Keep your attention on the breath, noticing the sensations in your body as you exhale, and even the momentary pause between the in breath and out breath.
Interrupting the script written by anxiety and instead focusing on the breath re-activates your pre-frontal cortex—the part of your brain that allows you to think deliberately, express your personality, and make decisions.
Fully experiencing your cycle of breathing is a way of returning you to a place of acceptance where confidence lives.
4. Normalize Rejection
As experiences go, rejection is a pretty sucky one. Getting dismissed as a job candidate makes you wonder whether you're really as good as you sometimes think you are. You start to question whether you did something wrong or whether there's something about you that the hiring manager just didn't like. The warm wash of shame makes you feel small and insignificant. It’s a really low feeling and no good for your self-esteem.
Rejection doesn’t have to be some big, looming scary thing. If you don’t get asked you back for a second interview, it’s not the end of the world. It doesn’t mean you’re not good enough.
If you get to third round, but ultimately don’t get an offer, it’s OK. You’ll bounce back. Try not to view it as an outright judgment against you personally, but simply as a sign that it wasn’t the right job for you at this point in time.
Try not to let the professional rebuff diminish your value.
5. Humanize the Process
It's easy to enter into the meeting thinking that the interviewer is only there to judge you. Sometimes you might even cast them as the Big Bad—an opposing force who wants to catch you make a mistake or say the wrong thing.
The reality, of course, is that you were invited in because your resume and cover letter caught the hiring manager’s eye. You were asked to come in because someone at the company wants to get to know you. The hiring manager wants to hear more about the experiences he read about on paper, and I promise you no one is looking to see how much shaking you can do in those boots of yours.
Believe it or not, they’re on your side. They want to see who you are and what you can do, and how well you’ll fit in the team and the culture. Their aim is to offer the job to a decent human being who can add value, so consider them as an ally who wants you to land the job rather than an enemy who wants to see you trip up.
By getting in the practice of summoning confidence with these five tips, you’ll become a stronger, more articulate interviewer. Instead of fearing the inevitable job interview, you’ll look forward to it, knowing you have what it takes to succeed both mentally and physically.