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The Job Interview: managing your nerves


Self-Talk 1

“This is a very important interview. The rest of my life depends, literally, on the how I perform in that room over the next 30 minutes. I think I’ve prepared well so I think I will do well. I am very nervous and I am anxious. My throat is dry. My hands are sweating. Where will I put my hands? On the table? On my lap? I think I might fail. I think I will fail”

Self-Talk 2

“This is a very important interview. But that’s all it is, an interview. There is no point in being nervous. After all, it’s just a job interview.  Lots of people do interviews every day. No one is going to die here.  I would like this job but if I don’t get it it’s no big deal.  As long as I don’t fail totally I’ll be happy getting out of there and getting on with my life

Neither of these approaches is very good. In the first scenario nerves are clearly going to get the upper hand and the inner voice will whisper:  “fail” – and will be heard. In all likelihood the inability to manage fear will damage chances of success

The second case shows a person talking down the job (which they want) and, worse perhaps, talking down his or her own ambition and abilities. This seems to be a fallback position which we all have when faced with a significant challenge. We deny to ourselves that we are nervous. We pretend that everything is fine and, for instance, instead of focusing on the challenge we look for distractions to take our mind off it.

The fact is that you have been invited to attend for interview and you have accepted.  You have a right to be there and an obligation to yourself to do your best. Nerves are a natural part of performance (an interview is a performance). So expect to be nervous, don’t let the feeling surprise you or overwhelm you and don’t pretend its not there. And, don’t be so hard on yourself.

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