Job interviews are like dates. Among other similarities, they both bring on the jitters, regardless of experience level. Just as people in middle age get nervous before a date, even after at least a decade's worth of first dates, most job seekers experience some anxiety before a job interview, no matter how advanced in their careers. Mark Richards, a CFO who also runs CandidatesChair.com, where job hunters exchange experiences and advice, tells me CEO-level candidates confide to him all the time about the pre-interview nerves.
I'm not talking about preparing for the interview. You know what you have to do to get ready for the big meeting. This is about that hour before the interview, after you've done all the homework you can, when you have no time to do more anyway, but all the time in the world to accommodate stage fright. Here are some ways to spend that last hour channeling nervous energy to your advantage.
Rehearse your key messages. If you're at home, practice saying the answers you've prepared to anticipated questions aloud. This is Richards's go-to strategy. "By practicing out loud, I sound more natural," he explains. "It also helps me deliver a crisp message." The point here is to avoid trying to prepare more than you have. "If you haven't done your studying, the last hour isn't going to mean anything," Richards notes. "Right now the best thing you can do is deliver what you've prepared really well."
Study your résumé. Familiarity with one's own résumé is underrated. People often take for granted that they know their own backgrounds and work history. Once they check for typos and errors on their résumés, they rarely look at them again. Then someone behind a desk asks them about an aspect of a previous job -- referring to the résumé -- and they draw a blank. Going over the document before the interview is a good way to remind yourself of details you may have to discuss while quieting the mind.
Visualize the dialogue. Often job seekers avoid thinking about the actual interaction with the interviewer, perhaps because the mere thought of it is overwhelming. Avoidance can lead to panic when face-to-face with the recruiter, however. Visualizing how the scenario might play out helps you approach the interview in a systematic and grounded way. Think of it as a mental dress rehearsal.
Breathe. Ten to fifteen minutes before announcing yourself at reception, sit still and breathe. You don't have to do the whole deep-breaths, touchy-feely routine, but be sure to take real breaths, not the shallow ones we usually take without realizing. It's ridiculously simple yet it relieves stress and calms nerves almost instantly.