Nerves can often get the better of people in a job interview. And lead to behaviour that doesn’t look good to the recruiter.
Nerves are an understandable reaction to the pressure of a job interview. But there are ways to get your anxiety under control so you don’t show yourself up and lose the opportunity to get your perfect job.
And there are things we can do as recruiters to help candidates perform better.
In the second part of my favourite (or maybe that should be least favourite) interview faux-pas, here are some cringeworthy examples of bad interview behaviour. Flirtatious interviewee, anyone?
If you missed my “favourite” examples of really bad answers to interview questions, you can read it here.
Occasionally I come across candidates who are so nervous they giggle. A lot. And at really inappropriate moments.
For example, I was once interviewing candidates for a role as an inspector. A serious position where people would have to have uncomfortable conversations about difficult issues. One candidate kept bursting into laughter throughout the interview, completely undermining their credibility as a candidate for this role.
After all, while I understood it was down to nerves, I had to consider whether this person was likely to respond in a similar way when having those difficult, serious conversations with customers.
If nerves affect your interview performance the way to handle it is to get lots of interview experience. (Sorry!) Nervous laughter is a physiological response to anxiety so you need to get your body used to being in a nervous state. Get your family and friends to interview you in a serious manner to desensitise yourself to being in those sorts of situations. This will help reduce your anxiety and therefore your giggling.
Crying is another physiological reaction to nerves. And yes, I’ve had people cry in interviews. It tends to happen when there’s a lot of stake. Perhaps when people are being interviewed for their own jobs, meaning that if they’re not successful they may be at risk of redundancy.
It can help if you make sure you’re fully prepared for the interview. That way you can focus on the interview question and not get distracted by the emotion of the situation.
3. Taking a really long toilet break
I have had candidates ask if they can use the toilet just before the interview starts – perfectly understandable – but then they take a good 10 minutes. What are they doing in there? Don’t answer that! Thing is, it’s cutting into your interview time and it’s putting your interviewer in a negative frame of mind – which is not a good idea.
Yes, some people flirt with their interviewer. It’s a risky strategy. To you it might be a way to build rapport, but to your interviewer it could be wholly inappropriate. You don’t know where their lines are that you might be crossing. Remember you can build rapport through eye contact and smiling, you don’t need to go further than that.
Calm down, dear!
Anxiety can make you do strange, out-of-character things.
It’s perfectly natural to be nervous about interviews. They’re stressful experiences. And interviewers understand that. The thing to remember is that they’re on your side. They’re looking for reasons to recruit you. Also remember that interviewers get nervous too – there is, after all, a lot riding on them making the right decision.
How recruiters can help
As interviewers, there are two key things we can do to help candidates perform to the best of their abilities at interview.
1. Prepare candidates for what to expect on the day
Make sure they have clear directions to the venue, that they are given information on the length/type of interview, make sure they have a job description and so on. Some organisations, particularly those in the public sector, tell candidates what skills and competencies they’ll be scored against.
Remember that some candidates may not be familiar with the structured interview technique so the more preparation you can give them the better they’ll be able to perform in the interview. This can be an important consideration if you’re trying to improve the diversity of your organisation.
2. Make sure your interviewers are skilled enough to recognise nerves and how to help a candidate calm down
There are some really simple things you can do to help a candidate get a grip on their nerves on the day. When you greet them, smile, make eye contact, offer them a glass of water etc. You can be serious once the interview gets going but you’ll help them perform better if you are warm and welcoming to begin with.
What other techniques do you use to get the best out of your candidates? As an interviewer what else do you do to calm candidate nerves? I’d be interested to hear your tips.