A client just asked me how to stay calm in the interview.
Here are two tricks I learned from Patricia Ryan Madson, my improv coach at Stanford.
- Breathe - sounds obvious, but the breath controls our "fight or flight" instincts. Slow down, take a few deep breaths (without "sighing"), and look at your interviewer.
- Notice the mundane. Look around the room. Take note of everything you see. Day One of Patricia's improv class, we ran around the room pointing at objects and naming them. "Clock!" "Carpet!" "Chair!" "Student!" After a minute of this catharsis, we paused and observed the effect. The room had come to life. Suddenly, we noticed the brown drapes, the open door, the pile of shoes and backpacks in the corner. I have never found a better way to get "in the moment." Of course, you cannot run around screaming and pointing at objects during your interview, but you can use your inner voice to notice and comment on reality. "The interviewer is wearing a blue tie." "He is holding a black stick pen and staring at me." "Oh, my hands are shaking." No matter what you observe, just keep your awareness by saying, "Isn't that interesting." This "moment of zen" should help you stop monologuing so you can enjoy the conversation.
-Updated by Vince on 14 March 2012
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