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Lately because my contract with my current employer is coming to an end I've been doing a lot of interviewing and I've noticed one recurring problem. Lately I've noticed a tendency get nervous easily and crack like an egg under pressure in an interview. As a result I'll flub through questions I could normally answer in my sleep. I've noticed its been getting worse as the closer to the end of my contract I get as each job interview feels more like do or die. It also tends to spiral, so to speak, if I get caught off guard with one question I have a tendency to let it get to me and ruin the rest of what could be a salvageable interview.

What are some good methods for handling or relieving pressure in an interview? Are there any good techniques that can be used mid-interview if I feel myself getting nervous to get my mind under control?

  • 3
    Whenever I hear the word "Pressure" I think of the song "Under Pressure" with Queen and David Bowie. – Spoike Jul 22 '12 at 8:29
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Grace under pressure, hmm that's a toughie.

Well I have a couple of suggestions, look into Sports Psychology and how they use visualization to help world class athletes deal with performance pressures.

You could consider going to a psychologist who uses hypnosis as well to learn how to better deal with the interview situation if you feel that it would be easier to learn those techniques from a person rather than a book.

You can practice interviewing with a friend and video tape it. Then watch to see what you want to change and redo it etc (note this is painful and will want to make you run away and hide the first few times, this is normal - push through it). Spend a whole day at this. This gives you the chance to get some successes under your belt too once you have worked out how to respond. Have him ask you some of the questions you have faltered on and have him make up some hard questions that will be a surprise. Once you can handle anything he can throw at you, you may have more confidence in the real interviews. Especially practice revcovering after you have flubbed something.

Breathe deeply when you get flustered and take a minute to think before responding. Also when you mess up a question that you know you know the answer to, consider saying, "I'm sorry, I'm kind of nervous, let me try that again." Or "Wait, that didn't come out the right. What I meant to say was..."

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  • Great point on visualization. Visualize the question and the answer. – MathAttack Jul 21 '12 at 3:54
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Practice, Practice, Practice....

Find a couple friends to mock interview you. Dress up like the interview. Have them grill you one after another, coached to be as tough as possible. Do it for 3 hours. Ask for tough feedback at the end. (Forces pressure) Repeat several times. Amp it up by videotaping you one of the times. This won't help you learn anything you don't know, but it will get you more confident with what you do.

And you'll owe your friends a lot of pizza when it's done.

(Also read HLGEM's answer on visualization)

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4

Feeling stressed before and/or during an interview is mostly to do with your frame of mind a the time.

You have mentioned how this gets worse for you the closer you get to the end of a contract - your frame of mind is that of fear at this point, leading to stressing about the outcome of an interview. To overcome this specific issue, you need to review your past - how you have in fact gotten new contracts near the end of previous ones, how you will find a job, even if this interview will not lead to it. Believe in yourself.

One technique I use often is not to think of the interview as an interview, but as a conversation between myself and a potential client. I view this is as a chance both for both parties to assess each other (for myself, I am in the driver seat - I can reject them if I don't find this to be a good fit).

You need to be able to regain perspective before and during the interview - recalling that there are many potential clients and that you also have a say in the matter are good ways to keep yourself in control.

As others have said, getting lots of practice is also a good thing - your comment about contracts ending and starting suggests to me that you are a contractor/freelancer, which would mean you are getting this practice (that is, you are probably getting to go to many more interviews than people who go into a traditional job). Use these interviews as learning experiences - learn from the ones that are no (and if possible, get feedback to why it was a no - many times it is nothing specific to yourself, you would be surprised).

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4

At the end of HLGEM's answer it's mentioned that when your answer goes awry, to just stop and regroup. I completely agree with that, and want to add to it and answer this part of your question:

Are there any good techniques that can be used mid-interview if I feel myself getting nervous to get my mind under control?

If you are able to catch yourself before you get too nervous, or before your answer becomes too incoherent or just doesn't adequately reflect the knowledge you have, just stop yourself. If it's mid-sentence, just stop. If it's after a sentence, or before you begin answering, just take a moment to collect yourself.

The reason is this: interviews are often as much about how you answer a question as they are about the answer to the question. This is one of the reasons lists of common interview questions often include brainteasers (or, rather, seemingly absurd questions) like "How many times do a clock's hands overlap in a day?" You'd be hard-pressed to find a position in which it mattered to know how many times a clock's hands overlap in a day, but it is useful to watch someone try to answer it: do they jump to an answer (any answer) right away without explanation, and seem resolute in the answer? Do they ask probing questions to clarify the situation before they give an answer? Do they think out loud and work through some possibilities, and present possible answers with pros and cons for each?

So, if I am interviewing someone, and they are giving an answer to a question and say "Wait a second, let me backtrack to be more clear" or "Well, let me collect my thoughts for a moment", what that says to me is that I'm interviewing someone who understands something about careful consideration, clarity, communication, and so on. While on your end you might be thinking "Whew! I have a second to calm down", the outcome is the same -- you go back to controlling your mind, and the pace of your answer, so that you can ensure you give the best answer you're capable of giving.

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2

Anxiety is largely caused by a lack of confidence.

Go through your resume before the interview and look at it point by point. Then remind yourself of what you did in the past to warrant those milestones. You've been there and you've done it so the confidence should come naturally.

If you can't get this done, I recommend you redo your resume before going for any interview.

Once you are confident in what you can bring to the table, remind yourself that you are giving them a chance to let you help them, not the other way around.

When the conversation starts and questions start coming in, remember to slow down.

Slow down your thought processes, slow down your speech, slow down the urge to please.

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