3 Scientific Ways to Psych Yourself Up For a Job Interview

by Emily Guy Birken · 6 comments

The job interview process can be a nerve-wracking experience, even for the most perfectly-suited candidate. And the more you want a job the harder it can be to avoid letting nerves get the best of you.

The problem is that interviewing for a job necessarily puts you in a position of low power. You are dependent upon the interviewer for the position, and feeling that powerlessness can make you incredibly uneasy.

But it is possible to psych yourself up so you no longer feel out of control. Here are three scientifically proven methods for making yourself feel calm, confident, and in control during a job interview.

1. Talk to Yourself By Name

Every single one of us engages in self-talk – that inner conversation you hold with yourself and use to evaluate what you’re doing as you do it. You have probably heard about how important it is to make your self-talk as positive as possible to avoid nerves.

But if you have a tendency toward negative self-talk, it can be very difficult to change the tone of your inner monologue. Instead, psychologist Ethan Kross has found that one simple word can make an enormous difference in your ability to psych yourself up: your name.

When you use your name instead of “I”, when you talk to yourself, the switch to third person creates enough psychological distance that your brain enables you to practice more self-control:

“First-name self-talk shifts the focus away from the self; it allows people to transcend their inherent ego-centrism. And that makes them as smart in thinking about themselves as they typically are about others.”

If you talk to yourself as if you were chatting with a friend about to go on a job interview, you’ll gain all the benefits of both being interested but distant from the interview (as if it were happening to your friend) and of being psyched up by a proud friend.

2. Write About a Time When You Had Power

Improve your confidence and perform better in a job interview by sitting down to describe in detail a time when you felt powerful. Plus it will make a good impression on your interviewer. For instance, you might write about a time you told your kids to start their homework or a time when you were captain of a team.

Adam Galinsky of Columbia Business School and his research partners conducted several experiments that showed power-priming in this way leads to a greater feeling of control and power, which translates to better interview performance.

Power priming is most successful when you write vividly about your previous experience, including details.

3. Stand Like Superman

Standing in a posture of confidence, like how Superman stands with his hands on his hips while his cape billows in the wind, not only changes the way others see you but it also affects your emotions, behavior, and hormone levels.

Social Psychologist Amy Cuddy has found that nonverbal expressions of power (including body language) can make you feel more powerful, even if you are “faking it”. Standing in a powerful pose (which includes almost any pose that is space-occupying, open, and expansive) for as little as two minutes can make you feel more confident.

While you might get some strange looks if you strike a Superman pose in the lobby waiting for your interview to begin, it’s a great idea to assume a power pose right before you leave home. You’ll feel more powerful without trying.

The Bottom Line

Using these tricks to psych yourself up for an interview can mean the difference between being overwhelmed with nerves and calmly proving yourself to be the best candidate for the job.

How do you get ready for a job interview? What’s another tip for motivating yourself?

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  • Anmol says:

    Thanks for sharing these valuable ideas. Job interview is hectic time for everyone. Your ideas help us.

  • Dave says:

    For phone interviews, I have tried doing a few push ups beforehand. I think it helps to get up off your chair, get the blood flowing and feel a little more pumped for the interview. Sounds kind of meathead-ish, but I think people tend to feel more powerful when working out.

  • Arno Smit says:

    I will use the powerball exercise. Imagine a giant ball of energy surrounding you and touching everybody in a positive way.

  • Neal says:

    “While you might get some strange looks if you strike a Superman pose in the lobby, while waiting for your interview to begin, it’s a great idea to assume a power pose right before you leave home.”

    Except we don’t know how long the effects of the power pose last. I’d guess not that long.

    • Daniel Morgan says:

      I agree because two minutes will not cut it. What if the interviewer just coldly say something to smash your ego? Than guess what..there goes superman…flying away lol

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