Beat interview jitters by focusing on goal

Interview jitters. The symptoms vary from person to person. Forgetfulness, sweating, stammering over long sentences. Since most employers consider face-to-face discussions to be critical to the hiring process, there is simply no way around interviews. If you want a new job, you have to show up. Make an impression. And beat out every other candidate for the role.

I could tell you to close your eyes and imagine that you’re standing on a sandy beach with waves lapping at your toes. Instead of trying to fool you into relaxing, I’ll remind you of one surefire way to soothe agitated nerves: establish a laser-sharp focus on your goal. Right now, your goal is to learn about the company and determine if you want to work there. If you decide that the opportunity is a good fit, your objective is to demonstrate that you’re the right candidate for the job.

When you nail your thoughts to an objective, everything else falls away. Money woes, layoffs and other outside pressures give you a few hours of peace. Your mind is occupied. Your attention is pinned to something else. In this case, a business meeting that will probably progress like this: you arrive at the office. Shake hands. Ask a few questions. Tell a few stories from your background. That’s it.

This is not an audition for a Broadway play. There is no stage. No spotlight. Nobody standing in the wings hoping that you’ll trip over your dancing shoes. Stop agonizing over your performance and start planning for a productive conversation. About business. About the talents you bring to the workplace.

It’s practically impossible to dissolve into a heap of nerves when you are busy with important tasks. So begin focusing on your goal in the days (or weeks) prior to the interview. Here are a few tips that may help:

•Read, learn and memorize.

Use the Internet and newspaper to gather facts about your potential employer. Study the biographies of top executives. Track recent acquisitions. Try to understand why certain product lines succeeded or failed. You should be well-versed in the company’s culture, trends and priorities before the meeting.

•Know your resume by heart.

When I worked for a recruiter, I was shocked by how many job hunters glanced down at their resumes before answering fundamental questions about their careers. Don’t walk into a meeting without first committing your own experience to memory. If you don’t know your history, you may come across as foolish and unprepared.

•Have examples polished and ready.

Usually, the most successful candidate – the job winner – is able to solve a problem for the company. Use some of your prep time to figure out what the business needs to ensure stability or growth. New customers? Better safety policies? A reliable team to help the organization recover in a tough economy? Once you pinpoint the issue, pull together examples from your past that show that you can make a difference.

If nerves creep up, don’t take a fake trip to the beach. Stay present and keep a clear focus on your goal. Before the meeting, do your research. Once you arrive in the interview room, listen carefully and provide thoughtful, well-considered responses. Do your best. And then go home.

Eve can be reached at

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