I’ve been a public speaker for more than 20 years, and a competitive dancer with my wife for at least 10. Whether I’m in front of 3,000 people, or just 3, I still get nervous.
When I was 20 years old I was standing back stage pacing vigorously before giving an hour long presentation for an all school assembly for Naperville North High School, which at the time had about 2,500 students. To add a little more pressure, this was the same high school where I had just graduated a couple of years prior, so I knew a lot of the kids in there…and most of the teachers too because my dad was the Principal! Talk about pressure!
As I was back there pacing, my former English teacher came by to wish me luck. I couldn’t help but tell him how nervous I was, to which he responded, “Good! I’m glad to hear it!” Umm, what?
He told me, “Nerves are a great thing. The fact that you’re nervous says that you care about the outcome of whatever it is that you’re about to do. If you didn’t care, you wouldn’t be nervous.” He said it was those nerves that were going to ensure I did a great job in my speech. They’re going to help me respond to the crowd, to feel their energy and react accordingly. Nerves are a positive energy source to help you do your best.
At the end of that speech, 2,500 people were on their feet applauding! It couldn’t have gone better, and it was because it was the first time I understood what nerves truly were…positive energy.
That still doesn’t change the fact that nerves can sometimes lead to forgetting a detail, especially during an interview.
Keep it Fresh in Your Mind
The night before your interview, write down any accomplishments you’re proud of that relate to this position. Any major challenges you’ve dealt with, difficult projects or people you’ve worked with, and any major awards you’ve won. Grab a pen and actually write them down, don’t just type them into your computer. That will make it significantly easier to remember them under pressure.
If you are a member of www.SpeedUpMyJobSearch.com, watch the Interview Preparation video for 7 fundamental pieces of information you should know about companies before every interview. If you’re not a member, just research the company as much as you can prior to going. Look through more than their website.
Once you know everything you can possibly know about them, then YOU have the advantage! You’ll know all about them, but they’ll only know what’s on your resume. That should be a calming source of confidence for you.
Preparation only goes so far, so here are some additional techniques for you.
In 2004 my wife and I were preparing to compete in the World Hustle Dance Championships in New Jersey, and our coach offered a helpful tip to keep me calm. He asked if I ever get a distracting level of butterflies in my stomach. Absolutely!
He said that’s because my stomach is empty and it’s churning over and over on itself. Eat something! Don’t stuff yourself, but grab a granola bar or something light to give your stomach something to do. It won’t flutter as much, thus it won’t distract you and remind you of how nervous you are.
It really works! We actually won the Advanced “Just Hustle” Division of the World Championships that year (that’s us on the left). Just don’t eat anything thing that might create an uncomfortable situation later, like garlic or baked beans!
When you arrive, stay standing in the waiting area. Rather than pacing nervously, walk over to observe the decorations, or read the awards they proudly display. Take a copy of the company brochure and read it.
Lower Your Shoulders
Many people will lift their shoulders and hold them there when they’re nervous. Consciously be aware of having your shoulders down. This will ease your tension.
Nerves Are Energy
If you have too much of it, you need to release it. There are lots of small, undetectable ways to do that. For example, waggle your jaw slightly. My favorite is always to wiggle my toes inside my shoes. Nobody can see it, but I know that the nervous energy is escaping my body.
Need to Smile More?
If you’ve never met the interviewer before, try to guess in your mind what color their eyes are, then when you meet them and shake hands, you will undoubtedly smile when you see if you are right or not.
Nerves can be a distraction, or they can be your advantage. That extra energy is going to help you think of the right answers, and make it very difficult for anyone to catch you off guard.