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How to Put the Smackdown on Pre-Interview Jitters

Lindsay Olson

It's understandable to be nervous when being interviewed for a potential job. After all, this may be where you end up spending a great deal of time, should you get hired. But for some, the nerves get the best of them and impede their success in the interview.

If you're one of those people, these tips will help you reduce your nervousness.

Think about the questions you'll be asked. For many, simply planning out the scenario they can expect in an interview can reduce their stress. Ramon Santillan, founder of Persuasive Interview, suggests making a list of potential questions the interviewer will ask, and writing down well thought-out answers. "Read that answer and then say that answer out loud," he says. "Does it make sense? Does it have a flow? Does it answer the question? If it doesn't, write down your answer again and practice answering it out loud in front of a mirror."

Realize they like you already. If you've been invited for an interview, the hiring manager already thinks you're qualified, and you're one of few who got to the next level in the hiring process. "Be confident in your abilities," advises Nichole Lefelhoc, associate director of career development and internships at Mansfield University in Mansfield, Pa. "There's something about you that has already caught the interest of the potential employer. Think about these attributes and make sure you touch on them during the interview."

Knowing that you've made it far already might help you feel more confident.

Just breathe. It sounds simple, but many job candidates don't think about slowing down their breath as a way to curb the nerves. Barry Maher, an author, consultant and speaker, suggests: "Several times a day, maybe in early morning, at midday and in the afternoon, consciously practice taking six-second breaths: three seconds in, three seconds out, breathing from the diaphragm, but normal breaths, not deep breaths ... with practice you'll soon be able to do it in as little as a minute. And calmer breathing means a calmer body and a calmer mind."

Distract yourself pre-interview. If your jitters get worse just minutes before the interview itself, take one of these suggestions to bring down your blood pressure:

--"Take the most rigorous jog you can handle for 30 minutes, just before you shower and leave for your interview." - Ronny C. Jetmore, principal at Jetmore Insurance Group, Inc.

--"While you are waiting, write down all of the reasons you are the best person for the job." - Denise Winston, financial expert and educator

--"Avoid drinking caffeine before an interview to help prevent the 'sweaty palm syndrome.' Caffeine is anxiety inducing and can make you seem too chatty." - Desha Peacock, director of career development at Marlboro College

Do your homework. The more you know about the people who will interview you, the better prepared you will feel, which can reduce nervousness. "You can do research on LinkedIn, Facebook or just a plain Google Search. Knowing that the hiring manager went to school in Virginia (LinkedIn), wears swimming trunks two sizes too small (Facebook) and has a blog on how to crochet (Google), can help you put a face on the name and helps your mind humanize this stranger," Santillan writes in an email. "Not only that, but you can also use some of the information you find to build rapport. Research shows that you are more likely to be hired if the hiring managers 'connect' with you."

Know that practice makes perfect. Much as you dread job interviews, the more you go on, the better you get at them. Joel Freeman of Strategic Marketing Communications suggests going on every interview you can, even for jobs you don't want. "It's great practice and you don't have to worry about flubbing a question," he says. "Use those interviews to learn how to answer or respond to (i.e., deflect or avoid) questions you never expected or aren't sure about. Just like 'real' interviews, rehearsal interviews are role-playing exercises. You can even find out what questions you have about the job that hit the mark with HR [human resources] and hiring managers."

Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs.com, a niche job board for public relations, communications, and social media jobs.

She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.

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