How to calm pre-interview jitters

When you truly want a job, the excitement over an upcoming interview can turn into a debilitating knot of anxiety in your stomach. This anxiety can have disastrous consequences on your interview performance. When you are too worried about how to act, you are not thinking clearly on how to best present yourself in front of others. In a new survey of 2,000 Americans, almost half said that getting too nervous was their biggest job interview mistake.

You do not have to be one of them. It is possible to channel your anxiety into a more positive pre-interview ritual. Here’s how:

Reframe the story you are telling yourself

For anxious people, one moment you can be fine, the next few minutes you can be feeling the symptoms of a panic attack — dizzy, nauseous, short of breath. To break out of a crippling pattern of anxiety, it helps to take control of the story you are telling yourself. You cannot control the first anxious thought that pop into your head, but you can control how you react to it. Learning to observe your body without judgment is how you can use mindfulness to your advantage. Labeling your feelings positively can be part of this. One recent study found that a positive attitude can help us weather emotional distress.

To harness the power of your anxiety, psychologist Alicia Clark says that you can “tell yourself that the feeling of your heart racing, which you thought was the discomfort of anxiety, is actually a crackle of excitement.”

When you are waiting to meet the hiring manager, tell yourself that your sweaty palms and nervous jitters are a positive sign of your excitement. These signals are telling you that you are passionate about this job. If you are passionate about a role, it means that the job could be a great fit for you.

Write it down

You can also empty out your anxious thoughts about the interview in writing before it happens. This is a method for you to notice the fictions you are telling yourself, and to reframe them. Before the day of the interview, schedule a time to write down your worst-case scenario. You forget your interviewer’s name! You mangle your answers! Spend time outlining what you fear could happen.

This does two important things: when you schedule a time to worry, you can focus on the present moment. In one study, anxious participants who got a scheduled time to worry showed significant decreases in their overall anxiety and insomnia. When you know you have time to worry, you do not have to stay up the night before an interview in a panic.

And second, the act of writing offloads our worries onto the page. One study found that participants who journaled their worries got better grades on a test than those who did not.

Labeling your anxieties helps you take control of your circumstances. When you give your fears names, it helps you put them in perspective and it reduces the power these thoughts hold over you.