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Hell Week, Here We Come

There are worse ways to interview for a job than Hell Week.

You could be on that show called “The Apprentice.” You could be running for President.

But knowing this isn’t going to make you feel much better because you’re stressed out about interviewing even though your mistakes aren’t going to be broadcast on national television,. That’s why we at the Harbus have taken a little time to put together some quick ideas to help manage your stress level during Hell Week.

Of course, one of the best ways to beat stage fright is to be prepared. To that end, Matt Merrick, Director, MBA Career Services, will be visiting each of the sections before Hell Week to discuss how to prepare for interviews. (We will not steal his thunder here.)

But what if you have thoroughly researched the company, gotten some good inside information on the position but know the competition will be really stiff? How can you calm your nerves?

Probably the single most important thing you can do is to get lots of sleep the night before the interview – a tall order if you are so anxious you can’t sleep! But that’s okay -now is the time to figure out what you’re going to do about it. Check out the over-the-counter sleep aids at the local drugstore to see if they might work for you. Be sure to ask the pharmacist’s opinion because some leave you feeling “hung over” the next day. Even better, call your doctor and see what she or he recommends.

There are mild, non-addictive sleeping agents available by prescription that work well and don’t leave you feeling groggy. (Be sure to let your doctor know if you are also taking any other medication. Under no circumstances should you ever mix sleeping aids with alcohol.)
Okay, so you’ve got that taken care of but you’re still feeling the pressure.

Working out, renting a funny movie, going dancing or listening to music, reading something fun, cooking (it works for some people!), watching TV or shopping can all provide some short term relief. But did you know that gossiping is also shown to reduce stress? Jokes aside, a study performed at the London City University School of Nursing found that nurses spent up to four hours a day gossiping and that it did help to relieve stress. The study acknowledged however, that in addition to “good” gossipers who mainly spread news and get updates on friends, that “sad gossipers” and “vindictive gossipers” are probably best avoided. So be smart about whom you gossip with – hanging around positive people and eluding the negative ones is always sage advice. Likewise, calling that sister or friend who has always been jealous of you to talk about a difficult interview is probably not the wisest course of action.

So somehow you have survived the time leading to the interview and you are reasonably rested and prepared. You are now in the waiting area outside the interview room. Someone says your name – and you freeze on the spot. All of that hard work has come down to this, the moment of truth, and your mouth is so dry that you can barely speak.

Stage fright, unfortunately, has nothing to do with how competent you are.

Some of the best performers in history have had to walk off the stage because they were too terrified to play. In 1967 Barbra Streisand was performing in Central Park when she forgot the words to one of the songs.

She was so devastated that she didn’t venture back on the stage again until 1994. Daryl Hannah reportedly starred in the theatre production of “The Seven Year Itch” in 2000 to overcome her fear of the stage.

But knowing all this doesn’t help you when you are standing there, in front of your interviewer, speechless, and feeling like an admissions mistake.

Or perhaps you’ve just stuttered or spilled your coffee or said something that came out wrong.

Guess what? Those things happen when you are on the job also. And your interviewer will be watching to see how you handle it. So think about it now – what impression would you like to leave? In most circumstances there is nothing wrong with saying that you meant to say something entirely different, and if you are comfortable enough to laugh at yourself, so much the better. Making mistakes isn’t necessarily fatal, but how you handle them afterward can change the outcome of the interview. You are human, after all, and the recruiter will want to see if you’re comfortable with that.

Besides, there are worse things than not getting the job. Like getting it.

Betty L. Vinson most likely thought she had achieved her dream job, as her company continued to promote her up through the management ranks. Unfortunately, as she rose to positions of greater responsibility, she was pressured by her company to do things her conscience found unethical. But although she wasn’t comfortable with the actions she was asked to take by her superiors, she did as she was told because it proved not to be easy to say no, and not so simple to just get another job. So Betty hung in there and for her loyalty, she has now been held responsible for helping to commit the fraud that brought Worldcom down, and she has been permanently barred from ever serving as an officer in any public corporation.

Now that’s something that makes interviewing difficult!

January 20, 2004
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