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Handling Interview Challenges: Nerves and Rejection

If you are like the majority of internship or job seekers, an upcoming interview makes you nervous. So how do you handle the jitters? And if you are applying to jobs, it's almost inevitable that you will be rejected from positions. How do you maintain your confidence and positivity in the face of rejection?

Own Your Nerves

Nervousness typically stems from the fact that you care; about the job, the interview outcome, how an employer will evaluate you. That’s not a bad thing, own it.

Example: “Thanks for inviting me today, but please bear with me, I am feeling a little nervous. I am very interested in this position and impressed with your company, so I would love to make a good impression and show the value I can offer your team. I feel a little pressure today, because this opportunity is at the top of my dream job list.”

Visible Nerves

Nervousness comes out in lots of ways: sweaty hands, blushing, blotchy chest/neck, stutters, talking too fast or too quiet, and fiddling. Be aware of what your “tell’ is and accept the fact that it is likely to happen buy you can make a conscience effort to reduce (likely not eliminate) the effect. Again, these tells are all very common and interviewers won’t even blink to see them.

Compensate for any visible signs of your nerves in other ways:

  • Strong interview attire

  • Confident handshake

  • Impressive opening response to "Tell me about yourself"

  • Solid questions to ask based on company research

Give Yourself a Pep Talk Before You Go

An interview offer means they already said “yes” to your application once and not every applicant got that far. It means the company already likes you; they already see potential in you. This is a great compliment, take pride in that and allow it to booster your confidence.

Do Your Prep

Interview preparations are the best way to feel prepared for the process. Schedule a mock interview in the Career Center and with a mentor on Lehigh Connects. You can also continue to practice with the online interview tool, Big Interview. Practice shouldn’t be about memorizing answers to questions (who knows what they will ask) or guessing at what interviewers want to hear. Mock interviews are helpful because it’s the best way to put strong responses and specific examples into your short term memory, making it easier to recall and share. Practicing questions will help you become polished and fluid with your answers and feedback from a professional can help you improve areas of weakness.

Don’t Rush

Give yourself plenty of prep time the day of the interview. This includes time to get dressed, drive, park and breathe. Rushing is a terrible way to fluster yourself before the interview and won’t set you off on the right foot, especially if you are late to an interview. Reserve plenty of time before your scheduled interview and schedule it for a day that doesn’t have significant other events or deadlines (major tests, presentations, busy schedule, etc.) when possible.

Many Reasons for Rejection

There can be many reasons you are rejected for a position, many of which you cannot control and don’t stem from poor interview performance. As an employer evaluates candidates, it's not only about the skills and education a person can bring to the position. Fit is also critical. Does their personality jive with the rest of the team? Would they work well with the supervisors or managers? Do they represent a dynamic that would work well in the company environment? Do the candidate’s values and goals align with the organization?

Often if you aren’t a good fit for the company, it would also mean the workplace or environment wouldn’t be enjoyable for you either. Rejection from a company that isn’t well suited for you can be a blessing in disguise.

Everyone Hears “No”

  • Stephen King received 60 rejections before selling his first short story.

  • Jay-Z was rejected by every single record label, so he created Roc-a-fellla Records to release his debut recording on his own

  • Harrison Ford was told to “You’re never going to make it” from the head of new talent on his first movie

  • Walt Disney was told he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas” when fired from a local newspaper

  • Van Gogh only sold a single painting during his lifetime

  • Andy Warhol’s drawing donation to the Museum of Modern Art was refused

  • Steven Spielberg was rejected from the University of Southern California School of Theater, Film and Television

  • Oprah was described as “unfit for television news” and fired from daytime TV

Vent in a Safe Space

Find an outlet for some of your frustration and disappointment. Talking to a Career Coach in the Career Center is a safe place that allows you to talk about the feelings you may experience during a job search. It certainly can feel disappointing, discouraging, and personal to be rejected and it may help to voice those feelings to coach who will confidentially meet with you.

It may also be helpful to work out, take a break, vent to a friend, or write about your experiences and feelings. Find a process that works for you to express and deal with the emotions triggered during a job search, so that you can start fresh on the next application without letting any of the negativity or stress poorly influence you in future interviews and job searching processes.

Just Keep Swimming

Channeling Dory’s attitude, sometimes all you can do is keep going, keep applying and keep reaching for each new opportunity. It’s important to see job or internship searching as a destination that ends with a job offer, but that process is expected to have many bumps along the way. Shake off the rejection, learn from mistakes, keep improving and remain positive about each new opportunity.

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