In the June 14, 2016 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a seasoned job seeker confesses to blubbering during interviews.
No matter how many interviews I go on, or how successful I am, an old culprit appears in job interviews when I least expect it: the butterflies. You know what I mean. Nervousness. B-b-b-blubbering while I gather my thoughts. The sweats. Clammy palms. This should not happen to someone like me. So what should I do when it does — imagine the interviewer sitting on a toilet with their pants down, like a friend of mine suggests? (It doesn’t work!)
Thanks for bringing up a subject that many people are embarrassed about.
Whether you’re an engineer, a CEO, or a finance jockey, the proverbial butterflies can start fluttering in your stomach during a job interview. Even the best-prepared job candidate can get nervous and come off like a blubbering rookie, and the meeting can suddenly go south. (I’ve never used the porcelain throne image you mentioned, but I know people who claim it works!)
We’ve discussed interview butterflies here on the blog, in Butterflies in your interviews?
I’ve also written about the frightful critters in Fearless Job Hunting, Book 6, Be The Profitable Hire, “Don’t Compete With Yourself,” pp. 2-4, where I suggest using one of several clever gambits to get the interviewer to talk first, while you calm your nerves, and to gain some insights that might help you later in the interview. (For example, ask the manager, “I’m curious — what brought you to this company? Where did you work before?”)
But some of the best insights about dealing with interview nerves have been suggested by readers:
“Just a guess: If you get butterflies in your interview, you’re thinking of it as an interview. Don’t do that. Think of it as a conversation between two professionals on a subject of mutual interest, which is what it should be anyway.”
If you can program your mind this way as you walk into an interview, you’ll be way ahead of your competition — without stumbling. Think of the meeting as your first day on the job. You’ve been hired, and now you need to get to know your boss and understand the work. Don’t behave like a supplicant begging for a job. Behave like an employee discussing your first assignment.
Another reader likes advance planning:
“Use your network to determine who is going to interview you and what their styles are.”
This gives a new meaning to interview preparation. Don’t just study news articles and other facts about the company: research the interviewer! Look the interviewer up online — think LinkedIn and Google, or relevant industry journals. Study the manager’s style and approach. Learn about their background and about other jobs they’ve held, and be ready to pepper them with relevant questions when you need a cognitive break from the Q&A and when you need time to gather your thoughts. This will help you roll with the punches.
Then there’s this assertive approach one reader takes, using the “presentation method” I recommend in The New Interview Instruction Book. (It’s an oldie but goodie, and yes, you can still get a copy.) Don’t just do the interview — control the meeting:
“It’s harder to be confident in an interview when you see it as you answering a series of questions. You’re always anticipating another question that may be difficult to answer in the ‘best’ way, so you’re always on guard. One of the benefits of the presentation method, where you are telling the interviewee what you can do to solve a business problem, is that you are controlling the conversation for a little while.”
My favorite suggestion is from a reader who believes — like I do — that worst-case planning is the best way to avoid nervousness. Always have a last-ditch trick up your sleeve. (I don’t normally suggest using tricks of any kind, but hey, this is a reader’s idea…) It can make you feel virtually invincible, which can change your entire interview for the better, even if you never need to use it. This reader brings props!
“I am the world’s worst conversationalist. When the conversation in the interview begins to fade, usually fairly soon, I whip out my presentation book and point to pictures, graphs, charts, memos, blueprints, schematics, diagrams, procedures, forms, the actual paper napkin with the original concept scrawled on it — everything done in my career created by me.”
In other words, when you get stuck, distract the interviewer while you pull yourself together. Of course, if the props are really good, all the better! Conquer the butterflies before they land.
What do you do to conquer interview butterflies? Post your tricks… er, methods… and let’s debate what works best!