I’m excited to launch a new segment today called “Ask the Young Professionista.” Each week I’ll select a question from my readers on how to ace your interview, spruce up your resume or anything else related to landing your dream career.
Send your question to TheYoungProfessionista@gmail.com or leave it in the comment below — I read every one, and I may answer it in an upcoming blog post.
 Question: Interviews make me nervous. When the panelists are staring at me, expecting that I give a smart response or when I start to freak out because I don’t immediately know the answer to the question I’m being asked, should I tell them I’m nervous to break the ice? Will they find me more likeable?
The Short Answer: No and no.

The Long Answer: Interviews are bound to bring you some level of anxiety no matter how much you’ve prepared or how great of a fit you are for the job. Knowing that you are being judged by an interviewer or panel who is the barrier between you and a job you really want can cause you to doubt the amazing talents you have to offer. No matter how nervous you are, DO NOT admit it to your interviewer. Nothing positive can come of it. As a hiring manager or interview panelist, I’ve seen it dozens of times. The candidate starts squirming and I think to myself, “Please don’t say you’re nervous. Please don’t say you’re nervous!” The stand out candidates push through the nerves and regain composure, but the candidates who flop begin to sheepishly giggle and admit, “I’m so nervous!” Candidates think that the revelation will magically alleviate the tension, but there are only two potential outcomes here and both are terrible:

 

Outcome 1: The interviewer smiles and says “It’s ok.” The candidate begins to freak out because the interviewer just acknowledged that she noticed how nervous he was. The candidate begins to turn red and has difficulty recovering.

Outcome 2: The interviewer is puzzled and says, “I couldn’t tell you were nervous.” Just like in Outcome 1, the candidate begins to freak out because he made an unnecessary revelation and worries that the interviewer will continue to think he is nervous. The candidate begins to turn red and has difficulty recovering.

So, what are you supposed to do instead? Here are some quick tips on how to snap out of being nervous and refocus on letting your amazing self shine during an interview:

  • Tip 1: Remind yourself that everyone gets nervous during an interview. Let me be blunt: You are not special. Well, at least when it comes to being nervous during an interview.
  • Tip 2: Feel free to take a pause. When you start to get nervous because you were just asked a hard question or lost your train of thought, take a moment to pause. Silence is powerful. Don’t take its power away by filling it with “ums,” “uhs” or “you knows” (I guarantee that if you start doing that during an interview, your interviewer will get distracted. If she’s anything like me, she may start counting the word weeds and focus less on the content of your answer). It may feel like an eternity to you, but it is only seconds to an interviewer. Take the time to jot down and organize your thoughts. The interviewer would rather have a thoughtful response than a hurried mess.
  • Tip 3: If you get nervous and stumble, let it go and move on by either reiterating your response in a different way or closing your response and preparing for the next question. Don’t let that blip define you. Oftentimes, candidates get so embarrassed when they give a less than stellar response, they fumble through the rest of the interview. Stand out by recovering with a confident responses on other questions.
  • Tip 4: Practice! Although you may not know the exact questions you will be asked on the interview, practice sharing your experiences in a way that highlights your strengths. The more comfortable you get with your responses before the interview, the more relaxed you will be during the interview.

Now it’s time to ask you: When nerves strike during an important event, how do you keep your cool? Leave your best tip in the comments below. If you found this blog post helpful, please share it with a friend.