Stage fright in job interviews - and how to beat it

Stage fright in job interviews - and how to beat it

At last. You've found a great pharmacy or life sciences job on a careers website, written out a meticulously crafted CV and cover letter - and you have now been called to an interview.
 
While the initial response to this development is likely to be delight and perhaps some relief, a common follow-up is nervousness and fear as the big day approaches.
 
Although this is a perfectly normal reaction to a potentially stressful situation, with the body biologically primed to produce a fight or flight response, more severe cases can result in extreme biological reactions such as sweating, palpitations and clamming up.
 
A debilitating reaction to stress
 
This is performance anxiety or stage fright, and it is now considered by experts in psychology to be a genuine phobia. It likely comes about from a fear of underperforming in front of an audience - in this case, an interview panel standing between you and your dream job.
 
However, there's no getting around the fact that, except in unusual circumstances, you're going to need to succeed in an interview in order to win that role. What's more, most jobs now require at least some level of speaking in public, so it's wise to try and conquer that stage fright now if you want to really shine later.
 
But that might be easier said than done. If nerves are able to take over during an interview, you risk not showing the panel who you really are and what you can do. If your mind draws a blank faced with questions like 'how do you see your career progressing over the next decade?', there's a chance interviewers might assume you haven't got a plan or - worse - don't really care.
 
So, with fight or flight pre-programmed and this interview important enough to be a little frightening, how can you beat stage fright enough to give a convincing performance?
 
Luckily, there are a few things you can do and techniques you can apply that should help. Let's take a look at some of them.
 
Rehearse
 
Just as actors wouldn't expect to show up to a play without learning their lines, interviewees shouldn't think they can turn up to an interview and simply wing it. This might sound like a good enough idea in the comfort of your own home, but it's likely to feel very different at the appointment itself.
 
This is where the likelihood of clamming up can arise, so don't let it; prepare meticulously and memorise responses to questions that may crop up. You don't have to stick rigidly to your material, but having something to say should give you a jumping-off point to flow into other comments. Strangely, having a skeleton ready will give you more freedom, not less.
 
Know your own skills
 
It's vital to know off-pat the benefits you can bring to an employer, so learn your top skills, qualifications and other competencies as you would an elevator pitch. Have around 30 to 45 seconds that's all about your best bits and deliver it as confidently as you can. Take note cards along if you must, but don't stare down at them; they should be prompts, not your whole speech written down.
 
When you deliver the 'blurb', address and acknowledge everyone in the room - and don't be afraid to demonstrate your passions and interests. Interesting and passionate interviewees are likely to be a hit with any panel.
 
Know your potential employer
 
Once the interview has covered you in that short monologue, it's vital to concentrate on showing how you can meet the needs of your would-be employer. Do your research on the company and think how your skills and experience relate to what they are seeking. You can then tailor your responses as necessary.
 
Have at least one and preferably two queries prepared to ask when they check if you have any questions, as this demonstrates engagement and also confidence that you aren't keen to just run out of the room.
 
If it all starts going wrong...
 
No matter how much preparation you have done, it's a possibility that you might start to feel anxious and panicky during the interview. If this happens, regulate your breathing by taking long, slow breaths in and imagining the air going straight to your belly as opposed to your chest.
 
Speaking slowly as the air is released will prompt the body to relax and also prevent the voice from becoming tight or shaky.
 
Also, don't be tempted to ask for a large coffee and swig the lot before or during your conversation - it'll just make you jumpy and could exacerbate that sweaty, panicky feeling.
 
Finally, should you start to worry that things aren't going quite right, pull yourself up and tell yourself that you're just going to have to fake the confidence you need to get through this short period of time.
 
Nobody will know and acting like a confident person can have the effect of making you feel that way. After all, David Bowie created his Ziggy Stardust character to deal with what he described as unbearable shyness, while Beyonce has said she becomes an on-stage persona called Sasha Fierce before she takes to the mic to perform live, because she is also struck with nerves.
 
Remember that interviewers are not looking to pick fault with your performance. They need a new employee and they therefore want someone who comes to see them to succeed and get that job to solve their problem.
 
If you beat your stage fright and show what you can do, perhaps that someone could be you. Good luck!