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What do you do if you start to panic during an interview?

Hi, I have an upcoming internship interview for the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab. I'm very excited for this opportunity and the role that I am interviewing for (Robotics Engineer Intern — Maritime Systems), but I am very nervous and scared that I'll mess up the interview.

In previous interviews, I noticed two main things that I do wrong: I sounded insecure and I also panicked. As soon as I start panicking, my performance goes from bad to awful. So, what do you do if you start to panic during an interview and how can I sound more confident even though I'm not that confident in myself?

+25 Karma if successful
From: You
To: Friend
Subject: Career question for you

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Melanie’s Answer

Dear Stephanie,

Please know, you are not alone! Many people may panic before or during interviews. I want to offer you a thought about these panicky feelings you are experiencing. The reason you are feeling them is because YOU CARE! You really want this position so you are putting a lot of pressure on yourself. Let me try to give you some suggestions on how to handle these panicky feelings when they pop up.

1.). EXERCISE: Make sure you are making time for exercise in your life, if your doctor approves. Even if you can only do 15 minutes a few times per week, please do try. Exercise has been shown to reduce stress and may help you feel more relaxed.

2.). MEDITATION: Meditation is another way to relax your body. Closing your eyes for just ten minutes per day. Breathe slowly. There is a wonderful app called Insight Timer that has a lot of free meditations that you can try. If you start to feel panic in the interview, slow your breathing down, like you do in your meditation. This will help you move through any panic feelings and will help you calm down.

3.). JOURNALING: If you can, write (or type) some of the feelings you are having about panic, but then answer your feelings with a positive response. For example: "I feel so nervous like I am going to answer the interviewer's questions in a dumb way and so I panic." Respond to that feeling with, "I may feel panic, but I have such a passion for Robotics and I know I'd be a great intern! I think they would really love having me on the team!" The trick here is to make sure you write/type these feelings so you can refer back to them.

Panic is no fun. I know...because I've felt it. If you can understand the feelings, you'll be able to control them a bit better. I do wish you the best of luck!

Melanie
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Ching’s Answer

Written by a group of volunteers from HPE:
Stay calm even when panic seems to be the order of the day. It's crucial to hold onto your self-assurance. Familiarize yourself with the company's history and grasp the job specifications as thoroughly as you can. This will require you to do some homework on the company before the interview.
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Giselle’s Answer

Deep breaths and focus on what you know, don't lie, and don't try to impress.
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Stephanie’s Answer

Some suggestions for how to manage panic attacks during an interview are toJ:
- Relax and approach as a conversation vs an interview
- Remember they are people just like you are
- Try to take deep breaths
- Drink some water before to force a pause, allow you to breath, and gather your thoughts before answering the questions,
- Try to steer the conversation towards a topic you feel more comfortable with
- Restating the question can also be a way to get more clarification on what is being asked
- Try not to overthink your answer
- Practice your interview beforehand
- Answer each question using a framework. For example, restate the question, talk about your actions, the results, and the impact
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Cameron’s Answer

*Written by a group of volunteers from HPE*

Two things:

- It is completely okay to be nervous and lack confidence when you are applying for an internship. When you are embarking on a career path for the first time, it is likely that you feel some form of Imposter Syndrome and that you are worried about failing. Your interviewer should understand this and take it into account, so do not fret!

- Try to not think too much about "impressing" the interviewer. The fact that you are getting an interview means you are likely to be accepted anyway. Focus on conveying personal attributes of yourself.

Remember: This interviewer is likely interviewing you to answer some questions like: "Do we believe this individual will be a good steward of this opportunity?"

So just be yourself and try to explain instances where you believe your best traits can be shown.
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Ruxandra’s Answer

Hello Stephanie,

Fantastic question! Many of us encounter this issue during interviews or public presentations, and I was no stranger to it early in my career.

Here are my suggestions:

1. Embrace and express your vulnerability
In the event of feeling overwhelmed during an interview, don't hesitate to reveal your vulnerability. Be honest and share your feelings. You might say, "I'm slightly anxious speaking with you at the moment as I deeply value this conversation. This opportunity means a lot to me, and I aim to respect your time. So, I appreciate your patience.”

2. Reframe your nervousness
Your nervousness is simply energy, which is a positive thing! Start by identifying this emotion or sensation. Does it feel bouncing, stretching, pulsing, spinning, heavy, light, or something different? Then, give your energy a fun nickname and decide to embrace it whenever it surfaces. This will help you in transitioning from perceiving it as negative to recognizing it as neutral energy.

3. Hone your public speaking skills
Overcoming this challenge took me some time, and consistent practice was incredibly beneficial. Seize every chance that comes your way. You could request a family member or a friend to participate in a mock interview. Consider using Instagram to share video stories of yourself. Look for opportunities at school or local clubs to present frequently. The more you practice, the more comfortable you'll become.

Good luck!
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Danielle’s Answer

Hi Stephanie!

Interviews can be extremely stressful! But try to remember, your interviewer is a person who gets anxious when they are interviewed too. If the interview is virtual, consider having something to fidget with off camera or a note by the webcam reminding yourself the breathe.

It is also okay to tell your interviewer that you are nervous! You are interviewing for an internship, not a CEO position. They don't expect perfection. It makes you relatable and there is a lot of discussion on vulnerability being a strength in leadership. So don't be afraid to own your emotions! We all have them.

For me, when I get a question I can't immediately think of an answer to is when I start to panic. Get comfortable saying "that is a great question, let me think for a second" and answering once you are more composed. As someone who has conducted interviews, I would rather have a short pause to let you think than a rushed answer.

I also suggest practicing saying things out loud that are true, but maybe you are uncomfortable actually saying. Things like "I am qualified for this role" or "I have the skills I need to excel". This is a little bit manifesting and a little bit "Believe it until you become it" and just saying it out loud can give you more confidence to say them to the interviewer if you need to.

If you haven't watched it, I suggest Amy Cuddy's body language Ted Talk. It seems hokey, but standing powerfully for even 10-15 seconds has made me feel more confident going into an interview. Maybe that can work for you too.

Maybe you can also find someone you trust and have mock interviews so you can get more comfortable with being in that situation. Practice might not make perfect, but it does build confidence :)

I believe in you and you are going to do great things!

Danielle
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Enrique’s Answer

Such a good question! First off you are not alone in your nervousness. I'm an experienced interviewer and still get nervous for interviews and I seem to get more nervous for interviews where I really want the job! Totally normal!
How I combat nervousness is I prepare, prepare, prepare all the way to one day prior to the interview and I always use the STAR interview format (seems to be very common especially in tech fields). I give myself one day before an interview to relax because I find if I prepare all the way up to the interview I get more nervous. I also remind myself, as you should too, that its a mutual interview and you are valuable to any company that may hire you. You are trying to figure out if the position aligns to your wants/needs just like the interviewing company is trying to do.
Lastly, the more experience you gain in interviewing the better your nervousness will be and you will find a preparation pattern that lessens the nervousness as well.
Good luck! You can do this!
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Darlana’s Answer

Prepare in advance:
Research the company, role, and people you are interviewing with. Using technology to learn this information puts you into a position of knowledge and building that confidence.
Preparing for common questions in advance and have ideas on how you will respond to them. Have a few bullet points or key words/phrases you want to be sure to get across. This can help you find the words when you are in the moment.
Research leadership qualities the company is looking for and think about how you exemplify those qualities in yourself and how you can tie that to your responses.

In the moment:
Take a deep breath! Breathing helps to slow heart rate and gives you a chance to think.
Take a moment to think through your responses.
Be honest about how you are feeling and why you feel this way - this shows enthusiasm and excitement for the role. This can also open up empathy on behalf of the interviewer.
Find ways to relate what you are excited and confident about and focus on that to showcase what you are good at.
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Holly’s Answer

Hi Stephanie,

This is completely normal! You are not alone. Know that it is ok to take a breath. If someone asks you a question that stumps you, know that it is ok to say "That is a great question, can you please give me a moment to think this through?" and then take a breath, remember you are just talking with another human being, and calmly think through an answer. Also, come prepared! This can help your nerves tremendously. Have a list of 10-15 questions ready to go, so that if the conversation hits a point where it might be fading a bit, you can take control and ask great questions to show your preparation and interest. Another aspect that can really help shape your brain when it comes to nerves, try to turn those nerves into confidence. If you heart is racing, instead of speaking quietly and showing the nerves, be strong and confident! Turn the nerves into excitement.

At the end of the day, just remember you are talking with another human being and that its totally ok to be nervous, if you need to take a second, do that, and remember that if you don't do your best, there is always going to be another opportunity waiting for you. Good luck!
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Laura Jean’s Answer

• Breathe!!
• We are all human, and the interviewers are just like you.
• Remember the goal: break it out, just get to the next question or the next interview.
• Asking for a break, if possible. Go to the restroom to regroup yourself.
• Ask to repeat the question, to help recenter, like "I'm sorry I didn't understand, can you repeat the question?"
• Take a beat. Take a breath. Be honest-
○ I need to think about that longer to give you the best answer.
○ Can we come back to that question? I want to get my thoughts in order.
• Make sure to bring water and use it as a delay prop for you to have a moment.
It's ok to Fail: learn from it and move to the next best thing.
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Chris’s Answer

Years ago I have found myself getting apprehensive or nervous in the middle of the interview but there is one thing that I have found is extremely helpful and that is to remember that your job is to put your best foot forward. You can control the things that are in your control like ensuring that you emphasize the qualities you want the interviewer to see. If you put your best foot forward that is all that you can do.
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Derek’s Answer

Panic is a normal response that everyone experiences, and realizing this during a panic event can help you manage and overcome it. Interviewers are aware of this and are often interested in seeing how you handle such situations, as it provides insight into your capabilities.

While it's tough to completely avoid panic during an interview, there are steps you can take to reduce its intensity. These steps are easy to follow and can greatly boost your confidence.

1.) Research the interviewer or company. You don't need in-depth knowledge, but some basic information from their website, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. can be useful. Knowing things like when the company was founded, its acquisitions, or new products can make you feel more prepared. If you're more anxious about the interviewer, find something interesting about them on their social media profiles to create a more personal conversation during the interview.

2.) Ensure you're well-rested before the interview. A good night's sleep can positively influence your voice tone, responsiveness, engagement level, and other non-verbal cues that interviewers consider when assessing a candidate's fit. Being at your best is crucial for making a positive impression.

3.) Don't fear mistakes. Often, interview anxiety stems from the fear of making a mistake, not from the company or interviewer. Understand that mistakes are not the end of the world, and interviewers know this too. If you make an error or draw a blank, acknowledge it, apologize, and ask to return to the question later. Using a different question to regain your composure and then returning to the problematic question can be more impressive than getting it right the first time.

4.) Lastly, remember to breathe. Interviews are opportunities for feedback and self-discovery. As the saying goes, "you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince." You'll go through many interviews before finding the perfect job, and each one is a learning experience. Keep this in mind and remember that it's all part of your journey. Take a deep breath and keep things in perspective. The right opportunity will come along eventually. Whether it's your first interview or one further down the line, learning from each experience is crucial for securing your dream job in the future. Good luck!
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