Dana WilsonIt’s perfectly normal to be nervous about job interviews. For many job candidates, “hysterical” more accurately describe pre-interview jitters – especially if a great job rides on an outstanding interview performance.

So it’s no surprise that many job candidates suffer severe anxiety before job interviews. They don’t eat or sleep. They obsess about the pending trauma for days – even weeks – before the event. The more they dwell on it, the more frightened they become.

Naturally, the bigger the job, the more many job candidates suffer. Rather than seeing interviewers as little more than screeners and professional information gatherers, we give them far more power than they deserve. Their goal isn’t to devalue, embarrass or humiliate job candidates.  They’re not “Terminators” in business suits. They’re just people doing their jobs.

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Unless you’re applying for a job in a small company where the employer does all the interviewing and hiring, count on human resources managers screening applicants.

Many psychologists insist that many qualified candidates crumble when interviewed because they’re afraid of authority and of having no control over the stressful situation – all of which can be traced to their childhoods. Some shrinks have made fortunes blaming parents for everything, so why not throw interview anxiety into the psychological Crock-Pot as well?

It’s hard to buy many of the psychobabble explanations. But it’s not only career counsellors and psychologists who are promoting explanations why job candidates practically bounce off walls before interviews. Famous athletes also have their take on the subject. The lessons learned on the playing field, they say, can also be applied to career success – and virtually everything worth working for.

Whether playing basketball or football or trying to score a big job, the big message is, think like an athlete. Just as great athletes don’t win every game, qualified job candidates will not land every job they apply for. There’s truth to the saying, “win some, lose some. It’s all part of the game.”

Whether sports or career-building, bad losers have bad attitudes and ought not to be playing.

Great athletes have repeatedly said that they learn as much from losses as they do from their wins.

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A play-to-win/lose-with-dignity attitude ought to underlie everything you do. Always strive to win according to the rules of the game and principles of fair play.

Job candidates would do well to approach interviews with the same attitude. Instead of wasting energy thinking about all the ways to blow an interview, first psyche yourself for the win by preparing for the interview, and second, by concentrating on doing your best.

You might not get the job, but at least you’ll walk away knowing you gave it your best shot. If you make mistakes – which are inevitable – chances are you’re not going to make them again.

Welcome each interview as an opportunity to learn about yourself. No interview – no matter how badly it goes – is a waste of time. Think of each interview as a positive experience and preparation for the next one.

Like mastering a sport, it takes dozens of interviews to achieve a confident comfort level. Some will be gruelling, tense and formal; others will be relaxed and informal. And still others will be inane. They’ll vary in length from 20-minute conversations to 90-minute distillations of your life. Yet each one will be a learning experience, preparing you for the win.

Make sense? You bet it does, because it focuses all your energy where it belongs – on getting the job.

Dana Wilson is a freelance writer.

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