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Tips for Dealing With Nerves During an Interview

Your own nerves can work against you in ways other than just poor interview performance. Even if you prevail, the chances of disappointment are great, both for you and for the company, says Vince Perkins, a human resources director in Lansing, Michigan. "You don't want them to hire who you're not, and they don't want to hire someone you really aren't," he says, observing how completely nervousness can interfere with your presentation. How to relax is another matter, though it's a problem shared by many job hunters.

Understanding Your Nerves

Your body reacts to high stakes situations, preparing a fight-or-flight response, over situations as different as a job interview and a tiger attack, says psychologist Tamar Chansky in Forbes.com. Inconvenient and uncomfortable reactions might be of use when facing the tiger, but these reactions get in the way of the calm and confident way you want to present yourself. Recruiters regard some level of nervousness as normal. However, when your mind goes blank, races without focus, your voice cracks or your palms get sweaty, the reactions are interfering with your chances and indicating you're not likely to handle ordinary job stress, says Andy Teach, also in Forbes.com.

Know Your Stuff

Many experts point to preparation as your key guard against interview nerves. The more you prepare, the more confident you'll be, Ashley Strausser of Otterbein University tells Jacquelyn Smith in Forbes.com. You've probably researched the company when preparing your resume and cover letter, so you can build on that, says Anthony Balderrama, writing for CNN.com. He spoke with career services director Nancy Dachille, who advises reading the company's mission or vision statements, annual reports and any other information you can find about the company. She suggests preparing responses for when the interviewer asks if you have questions about the company. Anticipating responses is vital to maintaining your sense of cool, Balderrama says. The fewer surprises you have with questions asked, the easier it is to maintain your comfort zone.

Get Under Control

As a mom, you're used to multitasking, improvising and generally turning disasters into just another day. For job interview day, you'll be better served with some proactive planning. More preparation targeted to logistics is your best defense against game-day nerves, says career development specialist John Thieman in CNN.com. He suggests preparing your interview outfit the night before and gathering necessary documents at the door to enable a quick start in the morning. Even then, he advises rising early and, if traffic might be a factor, planning your route and checking traffic reports. Arrive early and prepare yourself mentally in the car, reviewing your presentation and breathing to get your nerves under control, suggests Smith in Forbes.com. Using anxiety-reducing breathing can center you and reset your confidence, says interview coach Pamela Skillings, writing for biginterview.com.

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In the Moment

Keep in mind that the interview is a conversation where you're exploring mutual compatibility, says Teach, who points out the interviewer may be nervous as well. When the moment arrives, if you're taken to a room to wait for your interviewer, don't sit. Be ready to shake hands without getting up from a chair. When it's time to sit, don't trust the back of the chair. Sit on the edge, leaning forward, to naturally look involved and interested. Keep your hands visible because this suggests honesty. Slow down -- you're probably talking too fast, and taking a moment to consider your response forces you to listen and process. Above all, be yourself, says Perkins.

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