By Ashly Lewis

Reader’s Digest

Use these tips to walk into that interview with a pep in your step.

Practice the questions you don’t want to be asked


Everyone has questions they dread being asked by a future employer, whether it’s about a gap in your employment history or the reason you got fired.  The key is to face these questions head on before the interview. “We all have questions that we hope the employers don’t ask,” says Amy Wolfgang, CEO of Wolfgang Career Coaching. “Work through them ahead of time so you don’t go in with a level of anxiety of, ‘Please don’t ask me that.’” Try planning out your response to these difficult questions before the interview. Or figure out how to spin a negative employment situation into a positive one. Use these tips to learn how to answer the toughest job interview questions.

Build a vision board


Envision images that inspire confidence when you look at them. Choose a quote that speaks to you, a picture of your role model, or a photo that brings back a happy memory in your life. “I’d suggest including images that make you feel confident, place you in precisely the position you want, and help you imagine success,” says Valorie Burton, author of Successful Women Speak Differently. Need a dose of creativity in your life? This is what creative people do daily.

Do a body scan in the parking lot


Sit upright comfortably in your car seat and start bringing focusing on the soles of your feet pressing into the floor mat, move up to your ankles and become aware of them, then your shins, and so forth until you’re reach the top of your head. “We are ruminating up in our minds when we talk about being nervous,” says Rob Handelman, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist in New York. “It’s our minds trying to solve uncertainty. We are doing our best to control uncertainty, which makes us feel nervous, so we need to bring our awareness back to the present.” Handelman suggests doing a mindfulness exercise, like a body scan, for five minutes a day leading up to the interview so that you’re much less likely to be freaked out by your nerves and insecurities.

Don’t pull a cram session


This isn’t a college exam, it’s a job interview. It’s fine to bring a few notes with you to review ahead of time in the waiting room, but don’t try to remember every practiced response all at once. “At the point when you’re sitting there waiting for the interview, you’ve done your work,” says Wolfgang. “Cramming everything is going to increase your anxiety.”

Keep in mind that there are other jobs out there


There are plenty of jobs in the sea! Don’t go into the interview feeling like you’ll never get another one, because you will! “If you don’t get this one, chances are it’s because it was less right for you than another one,” says Marty Nemko, PhD, a career coach in California and author of The Best of Marty Nemko.

Pump up the playlist


Blast a song that gets your heart pumping and feet thumping on your drive to the interview. It’ll relieve that pent up tension and give your confidence a boost so you can stride into that interview with ease. Two studies showed how hospital patients who listened to soothing music before and after surgery eased their anxiety and reduced their stress levels. If tranquil music doesn’t do the trick to quell your nerves, try empowering tunes like “We Will Rock You” by Queen. Northwestern University researchers found that bass-heavy “high-power” tunes helped people feel more empowered before a meeting or job interview versus the slower, “low-power” classified music.  There are more surprising health benefits of music.

Pose like Superman or Superwoman in the mirror


Place your hands on your hips, widen your legs shoulder width apart, keep your head up and look in the mirror; this is the ultimate power pose. “The interview is a stage that you’re walking onto,” says Wolfgang. “Get your body involved in a pose that feels powerful to you.”  However, the science is divided on just how effective power posing can be. One small study conducted by Harvard and Columbia researchers suggested that power posing for two minutes can increase testosterone levels, which boosts your confidence and decreases cortisol levels, lowering your feelings of stress. Yet another group of researchers from Switzerland and Sweden replicated the study with a larger group of people and found that powerposing had no effect on the body’s chemistry. The one consistent finding was that power posing helped people feel more powerful, so it can’t hurt to try it out. 

Find what makes you unique


Everyone has a selling point that makes them shine. All you have to do is figure it out and own it. Wolfgang says many of her clients have unique selling points that they take for granted. She suggests asking your co-worker what they think some of your strengths are. They know your work ethic better than anyone else (besides yourself).

Don’t forget to breathe


Breathe in deeply for eight seconds, then take one more gasp at the end before pushing out a huge gust of air. Repeat 10 to 15 times. “Breathing is about willingness to honor the nerves and the importance of nerves and why this job is important,” says Dr. Handelman.  Deep breathing helps you embrace those nerves and exhaling that negative energy releases the tension so you can feel grounded for the interview. Remember it’s okay to be nervous!

Change your perspective 


“Life is a perspective,” says Wolfgang. “We can look through the lens of scarcity or we can look at it through a lens of abundance.” Basically, you can either freak out and ask yourself, “What if I don’t get it?” or you can look at it as an opportunity to have a conversation about a job that you feel like you’re a great fit for. Carol Dweck, PhD, a Stanford University psychologist, has researched fixed mindsets versus growth mindsets. She found that people with fixed mindsets tend to believe that success is only based on talent and intelligence while people with growth mindsets are most successful because they understand that their talent is just the starting point of success.

Give yourself a pep talk


Stop telling yourself, “I’m nervous” and replace it with, “I’m excited.” Harvard researchers asked 300 participants to do public speaking, sing karaoke, and solve math problems. They found that when participants reframed their nerves with excitement, their performance improved; this is called “anxiety reappraisal”. “Nervousness is a high energy state,” says Burton. “It is much more difficult to transition yourself from feeling nervous to calm than it is to transform nervousness into excitement.

Tense up your body in the waiting room


s you mindfully tense and relax your muscles, your body learns how to melt away stress. Sit in a seated position and contract every muscle in your body for 20 seconds, then release. “This lets your physical body relax where you are,” says Dr. Handelman. “Get present. Ground yourself in the waiting room and bring awareness to the body.” (Avoid making body language mistakes during your job interview.)

Remember your successes


The inner critic in your head can be such a bully sometimes, but don’t let it get to you. “It is important to stop negative thinking patterns in their tracks before they spiral downward and you’ve suddenly lost all of your confidence,” says Burton. “Think back on a time when you performed well at something that was challenging.”  It can be anything, like a different interview or a presentation. Think about what strengths you used to succeed in that situation and how you can apply that to your upcoming interview.

Be aware of your surroundings


Take your mind off the pressure and observe the work culture in the waiting room or as you walk into the interview room. Try smiling at people walking by or listen to the office sounds. Are people laughing? Are they angry? Make sure you gauge what kind of office environment you’re walking into.

Be grateful


Write down five things you appreciate and how you feel in that moment before you proceed into the interview, so you get into a space of gratitude. “When you’re in a good space, you can showcase who you are,” says Wolfgang. Being grateful can do wonders for your health.

Discover the core reason for your nerves


Make sure you apply for jobs that you’re actually qualified for. Trying for something that’s out of your league may be why you’re so nervous and feeling so insecure. “Too many underqualified people try to compensate with lots of coaching but ultimately that’s foolish,” says Nemko. “Even if you manage to delude them, you’re setting yourself and your workgroup up for failure.”

Leave your emotional baggage at home


“An interview is not the place for you to relive a bad workplace experience,” says Wolfgang. We all have emotions we need to sort through, whether you left a job on bad terms or you had a terrible experience with coworkers. It’s okay to talk about those negative experiences in a professional manner, but to get revved up about it isn’t going to do you any favors in the interview.

It’s okay to not know something


You don’t need to know everything about a company or have all the answers. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Honesty is better than making up things. If you lack experience, show them how eager you are to grow your skill set or emphasize that you learn fast.

Always be prepared for these two questions 


“As a hiring manager, I always ask, ‘what makes you interested in this position and this company,’” Wolfgang says. Employers want to know what about the company and position resonates with you as an applicant. Find at least three things that you like about each. Don’t forget to prepare your own questions so that you walk away with everything you need to know to make a good decision. Always ask questions in a job interview.

Wear an outfit that makes you feel good


Wear something that makes you feel snazzy and confident; your favorite color or a pretty piece of jewelry. There’s nothing worse than an uncomfortable pair of heels or a scratchy fabric to distract you from your goals. “You can’t control the questions they’re going to ask you. Focus on the things that are in your control, like how you look and feel,” says Wolfgang. (Outfit mistakes won’t land you the job.)

Don’t let others influence your confidence

“If you don’t think you’re relating to them, still try to give them the best response you can give,” says Wolfgang. “If you think ‘that person hated me,’ it’s easier to let that impact us and our confidence.”

LinkedIn is your friend


You can now use LinkedIn to research your employer before you even meet them. This can help you gauge who they are by looking at their experience and appearance to mentally prepare yourself with questions for them about their career growth. Try searching their profile for common interests and background that you can relate to like their college or a past job for additional talking points in the interview.

Focus on five things in the room


Dr. Handelman suggests letting your senses overpower your nerves in the waiting room.  Take notice of five things in the room, like the color of the walls, the fabric of the chair, or a ringing telephone. These will help you feel grounded and come to your senses.