How to Overcome Interview Nervousness
If even the thought of interviewing makes you nervous, it's important to get that emotion under control. The interview is your opportunity to be at your best. If you allow nervousness to control your presentation (or lack thereof), your image may be forever shrouded in the cloud of nervousness that will block the interviewer's view of who you are.
Why do we get nervous? Because of the unknown. We are seeking approval, but we are unsure of ourselves and how we will be perceived. We are afraid we won't get approval, which makes us nervous. And to compound the problem, our increasing nervousness makes it even more difficult to gain that approval, thereby compounding the basis for our fears. Uncontrolled, nervousness can destroy our ability to effectively interview.
But it doesn't have to be that way. The following is a simple technique you can apply to overcome your nervousness in any interviewing situation.
The Rowboat Technique
The Rowboat Technique is used by public speakers to control nervousness. It is a simple contraction of the abdomen in combination with rhythmic breathing that allows you to fully overcome your nervousness in any situation. To understand how to use this technique, sit forward in a chair, arms outstretched, as if you are grabbing oars in a rowboat. Take a deep breath, then slowly pull back your arms and contract the abdominal muscle just below the rib cage. As you continue to let out air, roll the contraction of the muscle downward, just above your pelvic region, centering on your navel. Keep your muscles tight until all of the air has been expelled. Count to three (don't breathe in yet!), then inhale deeply. Repeat this simple process two or three times and you will find that your body is completely relaxed.
To better understand the Rowboat Technique, stop by the gym and sit down at one of the rowing machines. You will gain a firsthand feel for the relaxation brought on by the series of muscle contractions and deep breathing that comes naturally during this type of workout.
So how does this technique apply to interviewing? Obviously, you don't want to go through all the visible motions in front of the interviewer, but you can still effectively apply this technique. Simply take in a deep breath through your nose, then contract your abdominal muscles in the "top to bottom roll" discussed above as you slowly exhale through slightly parted lips. Hold it at the bottom, take in a deep breath, and you are ready to go. If you are still nervous, simply repeat the technique one or two more times. Even if you are not nervous at the time, it is always a good idea to use this technique as you wait to meet with your interviewer. During the interview, you can use it while the interviewer is speaking to keep potential nervousness in check.
What if you are overcome by nervousness while answering a question? Simply pause, take a deep breath, exhale and contract, then continue. Your nervousness will be noticeable to the interviewer (due to the pause in your answer), but the five-second drill will also show that you are seeking to control your nervousness. If you are able to successfully overcome, I will never hold that pause against you. I will admire your self-control and the positive, proactive action you took to put the interview back on a successful track.
This technique can be virtually unnoticeable to anyone nearby. There could be people seated right next to you who are completely unaware of what you are doing. Yet you will effectively put away all your nervousness and prepare yourself for your interview.
Why does it work? Very simply, the muscle contractions prevent the introduction of chemical imbalances into your system that can cause nervousness. The deep breathing helps to dissipate any chemicals that have already been released. It forces the body to prepare physically for the upcoming task. The body begins to focus on producing the positive endorphins needed for the anticipated "rowing" ahead. And this exercise will give your mind the opportunity to focus positively on the actual task of interviewing.
You can use this technique in a variety of circumstances in which you need to focus your mind and body: overcoming anxiety, anger, fright, tension, nausea—even a simple case of stomach butterflies. You can overcome interview nervousness, and much more, just by using this simple technique. If you haven't already done so, give it a try right now!