Your palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy. Why? Either you're Eminem about to rap battle your opponent, or you're about to go to a job interview.
If the thought of standing in front of a stranger, asking to be judged on your professional merits makes you want to vomit, you're not alone—according to a study by Everest College and Harris Interactive, 92% of people say they get nervous at some point before a job interview.
Nerves are natural, but if your high stress level makes you appear less capable than you really are, that could be a big problem during your job search.
Take a deep breath and try to relax. Monster talked with some experts who shared their top tips for staying calm and focused, so you can conquer job interview jitters and land your next job.
1. Practice your pitch
One of the questions you're most likely to trip over is also one of the simplest: "What can you tell us about yourself?"
It should come as no surprise that practicing talking about your skills and accomplishments will help you stay calm. But what exactly should you focus on, and how should you practice?
"Your pitch should include your most recent job, two accomplishments, key skills, length of experience, education and languages you speak," says Amy Geffen, founder of Geffen Careers, a career coaching business in New York City. "Write down your pitch, and practice it in front of the mirror and with a friend. After you have it memorized and you become comfortable, say it in a conversational tone."
It's that easy familiarity that can help calm you down when you feel the pressure building in the real-life scenario.
2. Do your homework
You're probably familiar with the feeling of taking an exam that you were underprepared for. It's not a good feeling, obviously, and it's also a total recipe for a stress attack. But on the flipside, you probably also know the opposite feeling—sitting down for a test that you know you're going to crush since you took the time to prepare. That same recipe for success applies to heading into interviews.
Google the company to see if they've made any news headlines in the past year. Of course, scouring a company's website and social media accounts are other ways to do your homework. What is their mission? What are their values? What are their future goals? What's on their radar right now? Familiarize yourself as much as possible with the company.
Company homework aside, your research should also include preparing answers to some of the interview questions recruiters are most likely to ask.
3. Take your time responding to questions (and take notes!)
Which do you think hiring managers prefer: a candidate who fires off a quick response right after the question (and doesn't answer particularly well), or a candidate who takes a moment to gather her thoughts before replying with a concise, detailed response?
"Applicants are often nervous and feel they have to provide an immediate response as soon as the question ends," says Susan Hosage, senior manager, human resources at CTE, Inc., a PA-based construction services company. "Unfortunately, this practice often results in applicants not understanding what information is being requested or the required level of detail."
So if you're asked something you aren't 100% sure about, stay calm, knowing that hiring managers prefer to wait for the right answer than listen to something that's tossed back quickly and nervously.
"Listen to the question—even take notes if it's a long one—and provide a thoughtful response," Hosage says. That way, you'll be able to calmly respond, which is half the battle when it comes to looking like you know what you're talking about.