Are you nervous about your upcoming job interview? Don’t try to calm down. Get excited instead. Much has been written about how to banish pre-interview jitters, but a better strategy is to use that energy to enhance your chances of success.
Reframe your feelings
The trick is “anxiety reappraisal,” as described in a March 23, 2016 article in The Atlantic. It’s as simple as reframing your emotions by telling yourself, “I am excited,” rather than, “I am nervous”. The article discusses several studies that found this technique boosted success in accomplishing a variety of tasks.
This works because both anxiety and excitement are strong and aroused feelings. With both, your heart beats faster, your cortisol surges, and your body prepares for action. The only difference is that excitement is a positive emotion and anxiety is negative. (Calmness also is a positive feeling but it’s low on arousal and, therefore, not nearly as powerful.)
So, when you feel nervous, repeat to yourself at least three times, “I am excited!”
Combine this state of strong positive emotional arousal with an “opportunity mindset,” focusing on all the good things that can happen if you do well in your interview, as opposed to a “threat mindset,” which dwells on the negative consequences of performing poorly. Start by making a list of all the ways your upcoming anxiety-inducing interview could go well and how it might benefit you.
Next, visualize success. Research shows that experiencing success increases your confidence, even if that experience is imagined. Take some quiet time to vividly imagine yourself as poised, focused, competent, and prepared, easily answering any questions throughout your successful interview. See yourself impressing the interviewers and getting a fantastic offer. Envision it in as much detail as possible. Allow yourself to feel strong, confident, and proud while visualizing your stellar performance. Your brain favors proving itself right, so be generous with yourself.
Talk yourself up
Give yourself a pep talk—or several—in the days leading up to the interview and immediately beforehand. Tell yourself all the things you need to hear, such as: you’re brilliant and articulate, you really know your stuff, you’re the best person for this role, and you’re going to wow them and get an offer. If you can find a private place to do so, such as in your car before heading into the interview, deliver your pep talk out loud (that makes it really stick) and say it with gusto!
Thinking happy thoughts helps put you in a positive state of mind for the interview. And, smile—even if you have to make yourself do it. Smiling tricks your brain. Scientific studies show that when you’re feeling stressed or flustered, even the most forced of smiles can genuinely decrease your anxiety and make you happier.
Listen to music
On the way to the interview, listen to your favorite upbeat songs to give you a lift and make you feel powerful. Music can connect you with your best self and allows you to fully experience your feelings in the moment. Remember “Eye of the Tiger” from “Rocky III”?
Play whatever music gets you in the right frame of mind. True story: I had a candidate who was so nervous in interviews that he came across as being stiff and humorless. The prospective employers were impressed with his credentials and expertise but concerned about the personality fit. I advised him to sing “What’s New, Pussycat?” to himself in the car before going into the next interview. Heaven knows where that inspiration came from, but it was the most ridiculous song I could think of at the moment. He followed my directions which made him laugh and he aced the interview. He’s still with the employer almost ten years later.
Before entering the interview location, strike a power pose. According to Amy Cuddy, professor at Harvard Business School, how you position your body impacts the way you feel and behave. She says that standing with your hands on your hips and feet wide apart (like Superman or Wonder Woman) for just a couple of minutes makes you feel much more excited and increases your commanding and charismatic presence in the interview. Although there was some pushback on the power pose research, Professor Cuddy stands by it. So, give it a try.
Turn it around
Still got the jitters? Good. Don’t fight it; embrace it. Turn that negative energy into a strength by channeling it into excitement. Tell the interviewer that you're revved up because you're excited about the opportunity and convinced that you're a good fit for the company and position. A candidate who’s full of passion and enthusiasm is hard to resist.