Tips to Turn a High-Pressure Interview Into a Low-Pressure One

Two men in job interview
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Interviews are stressful, to begin with, but it can be even worse when you’re interviewing for your dream job.

What can you do to maximize your interview success while under pressure? Some easy techniques can help you relax and put everything into perspective, according to Dr. JP Pawliw-Fry, an internationally renowned expert, trainer, and speaker at the Institute for Health and Human Potential (IHHP) and author of Performing Under Pressure.

Know How Your Brain Works

Worrying about what can go wrong diminishes processing power in your brain. Its working memory capacity fills up, and you lack space to think when you're fretting about something.

You'll need all your working memory capacity to think, answer questions, and connect to the interviewer, so concerns generated by pressure are a detriment to your performance.

Welcome Anxiety

Instead of pushing away anxious thoughts, try welcoming them instead. Expect that you’ll worry. It can escalate into a cycle that leads to mental rigidity if you get upset when you feel the inevitable anxiety begin.

Think of anxiety as a sign that your body and brain are getting ready to perform instead of judging it as being bad. Being nonreactive diminishes anxiety’s energy.

Be Open and Expansive 

Engage in a “power pose” where your body is more open and expansive—your arms are open as opposed to closed across your chest, or you're standing straight with your shoulders back instead of hunched and folded forward. Your body will respond by increasing testosterone and de­creasing cortisol.

Many people wrongly believe that these shifts are associated with aggression, but lower cortisol and higher testosterone actually just makes you feel more confident. It'll help you take risks that would normally be constrained by fear; remove the emotional wariness that can result from uncertainty; and help you perform more cognitively rather than emotionally. This can be critical to interview success. 

Find a private place to do some proactive power-posing about 15 minutes before the interview, even if it's a bathroom stall. Subjects in a research study who performed two-minute high-power poses before an interview appeared more confident.

Write Down What You’re Feeling

Write down whatever you're feeling about 10 minutes before the interview begins. Research has also shown that doing so can clear out or lessen distracted thinking in your WMC. It can also increase your insight into the source of the pressure.

You'll get better at seeing anxiety as simply part of the experience, not something that has to take over the situation. You can deal with it much more effectively when you learn to recognize it.

Find Perspective

Think back to high school and college. Remember how many tests you had to take? How many times did you think that each one was the single most important exam of your life?

Many people need multiple opportunities to succeed. Think about it: Oprah Winfrey was fired from her first job as a news anchor in Baltimore. Steven Spielberg was turned down by the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts several times, and J. K. Rowl­ing was rejected by 30 publishers who told her that her book about a young wizard wasn't saleable.

Each of these individuals probably felt like Oprah did at the time, that she “blew her one and only chance.” We actually get multiple chances to succeed. Keep this in mind, and you'll probably find that your life is less pressured. Depressurize before the interview by telling yourself, “I will have other interviews. This is not my one and only chance!”