I like to think of myself as a relatively level-headed person. Few activities get me emotionally charged. As a child, I liked climbing the tallest trees and swinging from a flying trapeze (seriously). I have stroked snakes, tarantulas, and a human brain– on purpose! Public speaking is old hat by this point in my professional life. These examples just show that I’ve managed to overcome many of the top 15 most common fears as listed here.
Yet, nothing makes my hands shake like an interview. In fact, nothing in recent recollection makes my hands shake except an interview. I sit in the waiting room and wait to be called into an office. I am prepared, researched, and armed with printed copies of my resume. Nevertheless, my mouth is dry and my heart is racing.
I have tried deeply breathing (quietly, to not attract the attention of anyone else in the room), distracting myself, drinking water, and dumping my thoughts on paper. These are useful techniques, but not a cure for my anxiety in the moment.
The best solution I’ve found is to wait for the curtain to rise, give my best performance, and take a bow–figuratively speaking.
The most useful tool in my belt for interviews is my experience with performing back in school. I was involved in choir for four years in high school and cast in multiple plays during elementary school so I racked up quite a bit of time literally standing in a spotlight. I’ve sung solo for an audience of 300 people– that is 600 eyes on me alone– with only a musical track and a microphone for support. Not only did I survive, I adored it.
Some key differences: on stage, I could not actually see all the members of the audience because of the bright lights, much less maintain eye contact; I had practiced word for word and note for note what I presented; I was in control. In an interview, face-to-face with one or a small group of interviewers, I acquiesce that control. It is a private audience instead of a public one, so I must alter my performance. The role has changed, but the practice translates.
My advice for other young hopefuls on the job hunt:
- Don’t Panic. You are performing as the character you were born to play: yourself. As long as you are genuine, the interviewers will gauge if you are right for the job.
- Maintain Professionalism. My choir once had a set that coincided with an earthquake. No one faltered; the members joined hands and kept singing.
- Take Your Bow. When the interview is over, thank your audience and give them your biggest smile yet. You survived. I applaud you.