Getting an invitation to interview is always exciting—but the second that post-interview invitation glow wears off and the pre-interview jitters set in, it’s all downhill from there. Your anxiety builds and builds, and by the time the meeting rolls around, you’re just a ball of nerves. It doesn’t help that first impressions are so critical.
To make sure you don’t walk into your next big interview a sweaty and nervous mess, here are a few strategies to try out prior to the big day.
1. Meditate and Breathe
You’ve probably read all about the benefits of meditation. If you haven’t tried it, now (before your interview) would be the time. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be this big serious thing with a floor pillow and Buddha statue. Try this quick and simple two-minute exercise a little bit before walking into the interview to help clear your mind and rid yourself of those clammy hands.
2. Eat a Banana
Musicians do this all the time before a big audition or concert. Supposedly, some combination of tryptophan, potassium, and beta-blockers found naturally in bananas calms shaky nerves. While there’s some debate over how true this is, even the placebo effect of thinking a banana will calm you down helps your body actually relax.
The benefit of eating bananas before an interview might be disputed, but exercising for a little endorphin rush is pretty well established. Try waking up extra early and hitting the gym, taking a yoga class, or doing a run around the neighborhood to get an extra little burst of natural energy and to clear your head. It might take a little more effort than, say, meditating for two minutes, but it’s worth it if you want to be at the top of your game for the interview.
4. Visualize Success
It’s easy to let your mind run wild with ways you could completely bomb your interview, but you’re not doing yourself any favors by letting it. You’re much better off visualizing yourself charming your interviewer, nailing all the questions, and being offered the job before you even walk out of the door. Your brain favors proving itself right, so go ahead and be generous with yourself.
5. Do a Power Pose
Your uncontrollable mind obviously has a lot to do with getting worked up over an interview, but as it turns out, your body has some control over this, too. According to Amy Cuddy, professor at Harvard Business School, positioning your body in stance of power or powerlessness actually impacts the way you behave. To take advantage of this, do a “power pose” for two minutes (watch the video for samples of poses) prior to your interview. You’ll magically be more calm and charismatic.
6. Smile Like You Mean It
Want to be cheerful on the big day? Force yourself to smile. Can’t do it on your own? Put a pencil between your teeth. Like power poses, smiling tricks your brain—the physical act, even if it’s forced, will prompt you to actually feel happier. It’s a neat little pick-me-up from your brain for when you’re feeling a bit down.
This is all great advice for getting the most out of your brain and body, but in the end nothing will trump practice. The more practice you can get answering interview questions (start with these) aloud, the more confident you’ll be when the real thing happens. End of story. Certainly do follow the tips and tricks—even professional performers do it, after all—but don’t make the mistake of relying on them for the actual meat of your interview. Confidence comes from ignorance or experience. Source yours from the latter.
Lily Zhang serves as a Manager of Graduate Student Professional Development at the MIT Media Lab where she works with a range of students from AI experts to interaction designers. When she’s not indulging in a new book or video game, she’s thinking about, talking about, or writing about careers. Follow her musings on Twitter @lzhng.More from this Author