how can I stop being so nervous in job interviews?

A reader writes:

Do you have advice for someone who self-sabotages during interviews?

I look very good on paper, and I always get called to interview nearly everywhere I apply. Unfortunately, I have diagnosed PTSD, and my fight or flight instinct kicks in on the morning of my interviews, every time, without fail.

Employed-me is polished, organized, and confident. Interview-me is sweaty, shaky, and rambles through her answers.

I have five interviews next month, three of which are for “dream jobs.” My friends and family keep saying how exciting this is, but I simply feel dread about having to go through the interview process that many times over.

How do other anxious humans get through this?

You can read my answer to this letter at New York Magazine today. Head over there to read it.

{ 132 comments… read them below }

  1. merp*

    Agreed with everything, of course, but if what your friends and family are saying is also building it up too much in your head, it would be totally fair to issue a sort of “I’m already nervous and don’t want to build it up too much, can we change the subject?”

    Or you could shift those sorts of comments into requests for help practicing. If they’re so excited for you, they might be willing to ask you some practice questions!

    Just throwing that out there since I know the pressure of other people’s comments has made my own anxiety worse in the past.

    1. Nom de Plume*

      Also remember that if you (general you) find that you expend a lot of energy managing other people’s reactions so it doesn’t make you feel worse, you can always put friends and family on an “information diet”. They don’t need to know the play-by-play of your job search. If telling mom you have an interview ultimately increases your anxiety, maybe wait until you’ve had the interview to tell her all about it?

    2. Jellyfish*

      Seconded. I didn’t tell anyone but my spouse and a couple supportive friends about some major interviews until they were over. It kept me from having to manage their expectations in addition to my own fears ahead of time.
      If things had really gone badly, I wouldn’t have to relive a poor interview too many times either.

      Of course, if you live with the people getting in your head, that’s much harder.

    3. Well Then*

      Yep. I don’t tell anyone except my husband until after I’ve been offered a job. It waaaay ratchets up my anxiety to have to deal with other people’s comments/questions/suggestions, and to feel their expectations weighing on me. People are sometimes surprised that I didn’t say anything earlier, but no one has ever been offended.

    4. selena81*

      Good advice.
      I rarely talk about my job-search in specifics because i dread people asking ‘how did your interview go?’after a failed interview.

  2. Brett*

    I wonder if part of the problem here is approaching potential jobs as “dream jobs”. That might cloud the LW’s ability to flip the dynamic of the interview.

    1. Atalanta0jess*

      YES, I was going to say this. I don’t have PTSD but I am fairly high anxiety, and for me one thing that helps is to think that *I* am interviewing *them.*

      1. Atalanta0jess*

        Also, I’m a little slow today, and hadn’t read Allison’s reply yet. Uh, I concur with her advice.

        1. selena81*

          Allison has given that advice about flipping the dynamic before, and it has really helped me at both calming my nerves and at asking questions (i used to be way too shy and nervous to spontaneously think up questions).
          It also helped me realize that the interviewers are just fallible *people* and not some almighty teacher who has a set of answers that he wants you to *exactly* match

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I have PTSD and use this method to great success. It honestly makes me feel more in control of the situation without going into being arrogant.

        (Given my PTSD is from surviving a situation that was definitely not in my control at all it helps to find control elsewhere.)

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      I think the “dream job” dynamic is a big part of this. Consider the difference between interviewing when you already have a job, and a decent one at that, and when you are desperate. In the former, this is a nice conversation that might lead to something more, but if not, that’s OK. In the latter, the desperation comes through, often as flop sweat. The trick is to learn to treat every interview as if you already had a good job. See also: dating advice about self confidence.

      1. M_Lynn*

        So true. The best job interviews I’ve ever had were ones where I was happy in my current position and not depending on the outcome. It was just a cool position I was interested in but nothing bad could happen if I didn’t get it.

      2. selena81*

        Absolutely: it gives so much peace of mind to know ‘i can afford to turn down this job’ and that will always shine through

        I think ‘dream job’ and ‘unemployment’ mix very badly: you just happen to stumble onto a Great Job when you are looking for a way to pay the bills?
        So frankly i am a bit sceptical about that 3 out of 5 ratio, i think she may be saying ‘dream job’ way too fast and that it is creating extra stress.

  3. JokeyJules*

    OP, you are

    Capable
    Competent
    and Qualified

    If you weren’t, they wouldn’t have called you. I repeat this to myself during interviews and performance reviews, basically any situation where i feel myself getting anxious and the imposter syndrome creep up.

    Capable. Competent. Qualified.

    1. Impostor syndrome is the pits*

      My partner was recently interviewing for jobs and the impostor syndrome was such a struggle! And I knew (and they logically knew), that they were qualified, but it’d be like midnight and they’d be like “What if everyone I practiced my interview questions with was lying when they said they had no feedback, because they just thought I was hopelessly bad that it wasn’t worth giving feedback?”.

      We ended up doing affirmations before bed, where for the week or two prior to interviews they’d say three things about themselves about why they were qualified for the job with as concrete examples as possible (e.g. I am good at this, and the evidence is that I got consistently high remarks from my boss for four years on this). It sounds silly, but it was a helpful way to tamp down the negative self-talk that creeps up and remind yourself of all the things you are good at.

  4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I personally beat this challenge in my younger years by doing temp work. There is less “Interviewing” involved there and lots of times it’s just “Send me someone that you think will fit and we’ll go from there.”

    I ended up getting my nerves under control over the course of time, so after I went back to interviewing a decade later, I was shocked by how well I interviewed after having the confidence of having worked so well for years prior unless much less stressful situations.

    So that’s a cheat/hack/whatever that may work for a few people in the long run. It depends on your career pathway of course.

    Also if you see jobs you aren’t in love with but wouldn’t hate, try those out. This gives you practice. Practice on something that your heart isn’t set on. which tends to be less stressful to some folks. I know that helped me as well. If you can let go of that “dream job, I cannot mess this up, this is the best thing that will ever happen to me.” hype in your head, it will give you more peace.

    1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

      Cannot upvote this enough. Temping is great for getting in the door and into situations that will give material to share. It will let you see how much you know, how much and how well you learn in real time. And you will get used to be in office situations and talking to people in suits or people at conference tables that interviews will become a type of meeting, and you can make it through a meeting.

    2. Not a Dr*

      I read something I thought was brilliant. It was something like “apply for unpaid internships!! Don’t ever take them, your time is valuable. But they make for great interview practice” haha

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I started reading this and was clinching but then got the “don’t take them” part, LOL. Phew.

    3. Adlib*

      That second paragraph!!! I like the job I have now, but I was not excited about it when I interviewed and honestly, I’ve never been so calm in an interview. It was pretty amazing how much that actually made a difference!

  5. littlelizard*

    Yep, changing my thinking from “I’m going to a Big Audition Test that I might Fail Horribly” to “I’m going to go see about this job” helps me chill out a lot.

    1. Fikly*

      This. It really helped when I reframed them in my head to practice. You’ve got five interviews coming up, you only need one job offer. So you can practice.

  6. Jenny*

    I’m an attorney and prep for interviews the same way that I did for moot court competitions. I ask different friends to moot me ahead of time, and I pass along the job description and my resume. Sometimes I have them do it in the moment, and ask me to talk about their first impressions of my resume and the job-this usually results in a lot of good feedback about how my resume and answers are or aren’t tailored appropriately for the position. Either way it gives me time to practice responses to the point where I’m comfortable with certain phrasing and I’m not scrambling to find a diplomatic way to say things, but I don’t sound overly rehearsed.

  7. Roz*

    I used to be very nervous when I interviewed, or really did anything that required me to talk about myself, my skills or accomplishments. I still don’t like it but I am so much better at getting through it. Things changed for me in interviews when I started noticing similarities between the interviews I did well at and the auditions I did well at when I was younger and played the Trumpet. When you play an instrument, you can’t do anything without getting used to auditioning. It’s terrifying, but I noticed my best auditions were for pieces that I really enjoyed playing and could almost feel the music in my body rather than read what was on the page. I liked practising because I liked the music I was learning.

    It the same for jobs. The jobs/positions (like Boards or other volunteer positions) I really connected with and could feel deep down would be a good fit for me, I prepped like nobody’s business because I liked it. I started treating the interviews like auditions, and accepting that I wouldn’t be able to prep the same for all of them but also knowing that the ones I really was going to fit I would be okay because I’d go all in on the preparation.

    Over time I’ve noticed my nerves are manageable and I’m feeling more confident going into interviews.

  8. Close Bracket*

    Drugs, man. Beta blockers or xanax. DO NOT make the interview the first time you try a medication. Ask for 10 or so pills so you can test out your reaction at home first.

    Yes, I know that not everyone can take medication. For those who can, it can be a life changer.

    1. Parenthetically*

      I mean, yes, if OP doesn’t have a quick-acting anti-anxiety and would like to try one (again, definitely NOT for the first time in the interview!), why not? I personally love Vistaril (hydroxizine) which has all the chilling powers of a couple of drinks without the, you know, tipsiness — and it’s cheap. No shame in buying a little respite from the mental hamster wheel of doom.

      1. Ealasaid*

        Word. I have lorazepam (in a comically tiny dose) on hand for exactly this purpose. It kicks in 10-15 min after I take it and takes the edge off really well.

        If your brain isn’t making the right chemicals itself, store-bought is fine.

    2. I'm nobody. Who are you?*

      YES. Taking Propanalol (sp? it’s a beta blocker) transformed my interview performance, to the point that I don’t need it anymore, because I no longer associate interviews with freezing up and flailing. If you can, absolutely ask your prescriber if it’s medically appropriate for you. I cannot overstate how much it helped me.

      1. Annony*

        I definitely agree with trying it before the interview, preferably with enough time to go back to the doctor to try something else if you do have side effects. Propranolol made my heard rate plummet to the point that I kept fainting. A different beta blocker worked great.

      2. Anna Maus*

        Propranolol helped me too. I was getting mini-anxiety attacks before interviews so my psychiatrist suggested a low dose as needed. Then we realized I was one of the lucky ones where the drug also heads off migraines, so it’s now part of my regular med routine.

    3. Nom de Plume*

      Yes, I was going to suggest that the OP at least consider medication. PTSD is no small matter, and sometimes all the reframing and meditating and yoga and deep relaxing breaths just won’t change one’s brain chemistry.

    4. KHB*

      When I was having (thankfully temporary) problems with uncontrollable anxiety, propranolol and Xanax were a big help – in large part, I think, because my anxiety would feed on itself. Any little thing would set me off, and I’d start shaking and my heart would race, and then I’d get self-conscious about it, which would make it worse, and then I’d get flustered that I couldn’t force myself to calm down, which would make it worse still. The meds helped keep that snowball from starting in the first place, so that was great.

      Personally, I’d never take Xanax for an interview, because it turned my brain to mush. Propranolol is more for the physical symptoms, but it helped with the emotional anxiety by stopping the physical and emotional elements from feeding off each other. But everybody’s different, I guess.

    5. Other Alice*

      Heavily seconded. I found that no matter how much practise or reframing etc etc I did, as soon as I stepped into the room my lizard brain leaped up and it all went to pot. Medication blocks my physical symptoms, giving me enough space to really use the practise and reframing advice and handle the mental side of things. Obviously your mileage may vary, but it really helped me. In fact, now I’ve ‘proven’ to my lizard brain that an interview will not actually end in my death or humiliation, I can do it without medication! I would absolutely recommend a chat with your doctor about options.

    6. PTSD Professional*

      If it was any other condition BUT PTSD, I’d agree with you.

      I’ve had my PTSD diagnosis for almost 20 years (I have the kind that doesn’t get cured, just managed) and every single doctor I’ve worked with has warned me to steer clear of using Xanax and other benzodiazopines more than a few times a year.

      This is still being researched and tested, and you can find a lot of info on Google (not posting links so this doesn’t get caught in the spam filter, since I’m not using my usual handle), but the TL;DR version is that PTSD specifically changes the brain in such a way that heavy or long-term Xanax use can make PTSD worse.

      The good news is there’s lots of meds out there that do help! Just… not that one, not for this problem.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Many doctors do not want you to use Xanax more than a few times a year, not just with PTSD but for generalized anxiety as well because it can either make it worse or simply stop working all together. It’s what my doctor friends have described as a “band aid” drug and therefore it’s okay if you need it to get on that flight to go back home to visit an elderly parent perhaps. But if you fly regularly, you shouldn’t be using it.

        I have seen friends have it yanked away from them when they switch doctors because of this as well. Their other doctor was okay doing it but many others are not.

        But it’s always certainly something you’d ask your medical advisor that’s familiar with your situation! Since each one has a different take on it but generally the medical world is trying to distance itself from giving out medication for just about anything because it can lead to addiction and dependency that we’ve only learned about years afterwards. So they’re being more cautious over all.

      2. Close Bracket*

        Hopefully OP is only interviewing a few times this year and then not again for many more years!

    7. leeapeea*

      Here to add my support for exploring medications to lesson your anxiety symptoms with your prescribing professionals (which, hopefully you have access to!). Also do all of the things Allison suggested of course! It’s (not surprisingly) great advice. My personal experience is with a prescription medication I take as-needed and it’s been extremely positive. I was initially kind of fearful about medication (anxious about anxiety meds…) but it was ultimately a journey worth taking. Best of luck, OP! We’re all pulling for you!

    8. Anon for this*

      Another vote for beta-blockers. For me, the nice thing about them is that they treat the physical cascade of anxiety rather than working on your brain as such; this means that I can take them as I need them (usually situationally, with occasional longer periods if things are hard) without needing a big ramp up/down and without their interfering with my ability to work normally. They just help bring my anxiety down to a manageable point so that my other tools (breathing exercises, CBT techniques, etc.) can work again.

      1. ALAJ*

        I’ll throw another vote in for Propranolol – it just slows your heart rate so you can think clearly and prevents heart racing/voice shakes/body tremors. I used to freeze up and shake during presentations at work and after taking a relatively low dose of propranolol I can now present normally to my boss/colleagues.

        It’s non addictive.
        Doesn’t cloud your thoughts.
        Cheap.

        It’s a very safe drug – been used for years and is used before concerts/performances by many well known performers.

        You can go to Pushhealth.com (or your GP) and get a prescription.
        Then use honeybeehealth.com to fill your prescription. I think my last prescription was ~$6.

        Good luck! Let us know how it goes!

    9. Nervous Bean*

      LW here – I’m in the “can’t take most meds” camp because of a heart condition. If anyone else with a similar situation stumbles across this post, EMDR therapy is great, especially for those who are unable to go a pharmaceutical route.

      I do wish I could take a benzo before interviews/meetings/conferences, but I worry I would be asleep and drooling by the third question!

    1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

      They ARE looking forward to meeting you and they DO want to hear about your experiences!
      Trust me. They aren’t making pity offers. You’ll be great.

    2. londonedit*

      Good luck! They are absolutely interviewing you because they think you can do the job and they’re interested in your skills and experience. They’re not doing it to trip you up, they just want to meet you and talk about how you’d fit into the role.

    3. RagingADHD*

      Interviewers want you to be the ideal candidate as much or more than you want the job.

      Having an open position in your office sucks. Interviewing candidates sucks.

      If you’re a great fit, they can be done already. They are rooting for you.

  9. Heidi*

    If you are working with a therapist, this is the type of situational anxiety where therapy can really make a difference by helping to re-channel your thoughts and providing relaxation techniques.

    Good luck, OP!

    1. Director of Alpaca Exams*

      This this this. If you have anxiety that interferes with normal daily functioning—including common situations like job interviews—working with a therapist (and perhaps a psychiatrist, if you and your medical team feel you would benefit from anti-anxiety medication) can be life-changing.

  10. Sam Brown*

    I have a similar problem! I’m practiced enough that I mentally can keep it together but I still break out in hives every time I interview and I’m too nervous that allergy medication will make me drowsy.

  11. Pants*

    I have bad anxiety—severe at times and often socially debilitating—but my job interviews go well because:

    1. I treat the interview as a conversation with people who *asked* to talk to me. I’m not chiseling my way into a group conversation, as some see interviews.

    2. I’m excited to tell people my story, weaving relevant job information into it. I don’t look at is as an interrogation where I’m there just to answer questions. I’m not sitting in the principal’s office.

    3. I know from experience that interviewers aren’t special or smarter than anyone. In fact, they’re stumbling through the process too, hoping you’ll shine so they can hire you and move on from this. Everyone in the room is an equal, as far as I’m concerned.

    4. As many will tell you, you’re interviewing the company too. If you don’t like he way a question goes or you don’t like a reaction to something you said, it’s *not* you; it’s *them*. Take it as a potential sign of incompatibility and *not* that you messed up an answer.

    5. With few exceptions, interviews aren’t like the School exams. You can go back to previous questions and you can erase. Too many people realize they could’ve answered better and stew about it, thinking that the opportunity is past. It’s fine to say, “You know, I was thinking about when you asked me about X and it reminded me of this one time when Y (where Y is the better answer).

    6. This one’s going to controversial: I interviewed with organizations I expected to be hostile and from whom I’d probably not accept a job. This gave me experience with bad interviewers. Oh, was that the worst that could happen? Great! I’m ready for the real interviews now.

    7. Few people are asked to interview for “dream jobs.” And they’re dreaming of you too! This is a great sign. They’re on your side!

    1. merp*

      these are really good points! I’ve been an interviewer and lord knows I had no idea what I was doing. also, I wanted every candidate to do well, was totally on their side. I helped them where I could, by clarifying questions or giving them a moment or generally trying to be welcoming. obviously, we had to pick one person at the end but I wanted everyone to have good interviews and never took off any “points” or whatever for things that were totally understandable, like nerves. (points being in my case hypothetical but I guess are literal in some cases.)

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      This is a fantastic list!

      I’m particularly a believer in #4 and explicitly state that in interviews – this should be a conversation, and I want to make sure to answer any questions that are important to the candidate to determine if we’re a good fit for them just as much as the other way around. I would rather scare someone away or find it’s not a good fit for them in interviews rather than a few months into the job.

    1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      CBD isn’t guaranteed to be THC-free, so this is a terrible thing to experiment with for a job interview, because if you get the job, you could fail the drug test that so many jobs (unncessarily IMHO) require.

      1. Close Bracket*

        Same caveats as with the other meds–don’t take it for the first time during the interview.

        This is an outlier, but I did work at a place once where they made a guy go through the drug screening before he even met the interviewers. Like, he walked in the door, and they said, “Right this way to the rest room, please.” Usually the job offer is contingent on screening so there are several days after the interview for whatever amounts of THC might be in CBD to clear the system.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        That’s assuming that you’re interviewing for jobs that require drug screening.

        I have had a total of one job that required drug screening in my life. It’s regularly noted in the job ad or if it’s industry standard.

  12. wem*

    I just look at it as, we are two people trying to figure out if this job is a good fit for either one of us, because I’m looking at them as much as they are looking at me.

  13. A Simple Narwhal*

    Alison gives great advice. I used to get super panicky about interviews, and while I still get a little nervous, it’s a healthy amount. What changed (other than repetition showing me these wouldn’t literally kill me) is absolutely my mental approach to it.

    I used to put wayyy more pressure on myself, and only viewed interviews as one-sided. Which situation is more high stakes? An interrogation where you have to prove to someone that you’re a worthwhile, competent human being to earn your one chance at happiness and if you don’t succeed it means every awful thing you’ve ever thought about yourself is true? Or a meeting where you want to see if a job is something you’re interested in and fits with your goals?

    If you can think more about interviews as a way to get more information for yourself, rather than a fight to prove your worth to someone else, I think it could a long way.

    Oh and merp posted up above about telling your friends that too much talk about it was making you nervous, that’s also good advice.

    Good luck!

  14. Sparrow*

    After I’ve practiced out loud and feel pretty comfortable with a response, I will record myself and listen back. Usually it reassures me that, actually, that sounded pretty good. My responses aren’t fully scripted, but reminding myself that I have some muscle memory, if you will, of answers I was satisfied with massively helps my anxiety going into an interview. We’re rooting for you, OP!

  15. Chili*

    What helped me most was being on the other side of interviews, not even ones for my professional/ day job– just volunteer things. It really helped me process that interviewers by and large don’t know what they’re doing either. Also, even interviewers who do know what they’re doing tend not to actually be looking for anything crazy intense. Saying “um” a few times or not immediately having the perfect answer isn’t the dealbreaker you may be making it out to be in your mind.
    And you’re doing great! Being called in for a lot of interviews means you’re on the right track!

  16. LGC*

    Maybe I’m getting too hung up on this but – LW says she has PTSD, and interviews always trigger a threat response. I feel like that’s super important here – what is it about the interview process for her that’s a trigger?

    1. LGC*

      (This is a rhetorical question that LW should ask herself, I and the rest of the internet don’t need to know her mental history. Just to make it clear that I’m not asking for an answer!)

    2. Nervous Bean*

      LW here. Interviews and office settings shouldn’t spike my PTSD, so I had never considered why the triggers are actually happening. Reading this comment, it became really obvious to me what the link is. My nervous system is responding to something completely outside the scope of the interview.

      Thank you for asking the right question! Knowledge is power with this disorder, so I believe it will help me a lot if my rational mind can remember that an interview is just an interview, not a crisis!

  17. Goldfinch*

    Definitely agree about framing it as a meeting between business partners/consultants. I interview very differently for freelance gigs (calmly and confidently) compared to how I interview for FTP jobs (nervous and meek) because any one contract won’t make or break me.

    Obviously, saying it and doing it are two different things (thus my difference in demeanor) but I think recognizing your patterns is a big step forward.

  18. Victoria J*

    I went through a bit where I was in a terrible spiral – I was anxious about getting anxious.

    Mt mother gave me service, which was to just say something at the beginning. I started saying that I did someone’s get a little nervous at interviews and to please let me know if they wanted me to stop talking while they took notes (as I sometimes tried to nervously full the silence which creates more notes and more silence…).

    It probably wouldn’t look good off your job is particularly short a similar kind of pressure. But due other jobs it seems too work.

    Almost everyone finds interviews intimidating even if they don’t show it, so people relate. And generally say something relatively friendly. I no longer got so worried about not showing I was worried – and stopped actually looking worried. Naming the worst of the specific issues helped people to feel they could ask for time to take notes. And admitting one “weakness” makes it easier to say other things that with skewed interview feeling felt like weakness – like asking for clarification or taking a little time to think of an answer.

    It definitely made things better for me.

    Alison’s advice is great but it’s mauve something that will work if you’re at a certain level off coping/struggling but not a lower one.

      1. Victoria J*

        Arghh. It’s full of errors, trying to post from a phone (with a completely different keyboard to the work phone I’ve been using all day).

        1. ampersand*

          The good news is that most of us are used to these errors (like “due” instead of “for”) because phones pretty much make the same incorrect autocorrects, so it was easy enough to tell what you were saying!

          With the exception of mauve. I mean I know what you were saying but it made me laugh. That’s one autocorrect my phone hasn’t come up with…yet. :)

          1. Victoria J*

            I’m going to pretend that one is just a meaningful metaphor. (I’d missed that altogether).

            I cannot cope with switching between my work and home technology. I’m constantly getting things wrong on both phones and both computers just because they’re different.

  19. Madeleine Matilda*

    I think Pants had a great reply above. I would also practice, practice, practice with family or friends. I recently did this with my niece who is fairly introverted and has some anxiety when she had an interview for a summer program in her course of study. Also ask them to repeat questions as needed, take a notepad and pen with you to note down the questions, consider your answers to possible questions (AAM has some great resources), and be prepared with questions for the interviewers. If you do get nervous in the interview, consider acknowledging it and then transition right into highlighting the strengths you mentioned in your letter to AAM: Interviewer: OP tells about yourself. OP: Excuse me for being a little nervous interviewing. In the office I am organized and confident. I am a strong fit for this position because I have skills X, Y, Z as well as experience as A, B, C. Good luck!

    1. Free Meercats*

      Treat all your practice interviews same as you do real interviews. Wear interview clothes, do interview make-up and hair, drive somewhere that’s not your living room (say, a coffee shop, they’re used to interviews happening there). Tell the friend helping you to not empathize with you as a friend, but to treat you as someone they are really interviewing to hire.

      Then, at another time, repeat the exercise from the other side of the table. You be the interviewer. Plan it out, what questions would you ask someone you were thinking of hiring? Seeing things from that side can help a lot.

  20. fposte*

    I don’t know if this is useful for PTSD responses, but I find it very interesting to hear sports psychologists talk about anxiety; for them, the goal isn’t making it go away but reframing its meaning, which works for me better than fighting with it. One expert talks about “getting your butterflies to fly in formation,” which is an image I really like.

    1. Memily*

      I have no experience with PTSD (thankfully), but this totally works for just regular old performance anxiety/stage fright. I sang for many years and found my performances definitely benefited from that general nervousness—it gave me an edge my rehearsals didn’t have. The key was to know where the line was before it got overwhelming and to figure out how to hover there. Practice is KEY.

    2. Postroom*

      A similar approach that has worked for me with anxiety is to remind myself that panic can feel very similar to excitement, and then tell myself that it’s excitement I’m feeling about the interview/performance/presentation

      1. ampersand*

        Yes, this. I sometimes trick my brain into thinking I’m excited when, in fact, I’m actually anxious. It usually works! Even just acknowledging that excitement and anxiety are similar can help ease your nerves.

  21. Agile Phalanges*

    Drugs. Seriously. Talk to your medical provider(s), but when I took beta blockers for one-time relief, then started daily anti-anxiety meds, my life improved SO much.

    But also, talking yourself into “not caring” helps a lot, too. Of course you can’t actually not care, it’s important and you want to do your best. But the more you can convince yourself that while you’ll do your best, there will be other opportunities too, and this is just one of many, hopefully you can trick your brain into treating it as more routine rather than fight or flight. The “easiest” time I’ve had with interviewing was before I started any anxiety meds, but we got six months notice of layoffs, and the employer was excellent about giving us time and resources to job search, so it was way more relaxed than it would have been if I had either been job searching while having to “hide” it from my current employer, or job search after a sudden layoff. I could take my time, prepare my best materials, then when an interview would come, I could truly tell myself that if this one didn’t work out, I still had X months to find something even better. It might have helped that due to a recent career change (within that company), I wasn’t able to really job search in my new field and had to revert back to my old one, so nothing felt “dream job” about any of them. So if you can put that aspect out of your head while in the interview, too, that might help.

    But seriously. Better living through chemistry, if your doctor agrees.

  22. Zona the Great*

    My best interviews were ones I forgot I had or that I couldn’t spend much time thinking about. I don’t mean to be flippant or imply I’m super but I just mean I didn’t over think, over answer, or over analyze afterwards.

  23. JJ*

    LW I am sure you have many strategies and hopefully a counsellor or similar who specialises in PTSD. I just want to encourage EMDR if you have not tried it. If you have previously had EMDR this would be a really good thing go through with your EMDR specialist.

    Otherwise lots of practice and rehearsing has helped me.

  24. KayEss*

    I feel like the LW’s PTSD makes this a “loop in your mental health care team” situation more than a “here are tricks for managing general interview nervousness” one. Triggered PTSD can be a very different category than anxiety.

    That being said, the only thing that worked for my interview anxiety was a combination of building enough career history that I could beat back the low-key imposter syndrome impulses and, well… being unemployed for a year and doing enough interviews in that time that they became routine. Looking at interviews as a two-way process (thanks to Alison!) also helped a lot, and understanding more about the vagaries of the hiring process helped reduce the the feeling of them being a dire, pass-fail judgement situation.

  25. Blisskrieg*

    I use this for public speaking nerves, but I think it would help similarly. It’s not a cure-all but it really takes the edge off. I read somewhere a long time ago that when you’re nervous, most people’s inclination is to hunker down (wait for danger to pass). However, I also read that your body only has a finite amount of adrenaline, and if you can get moving, it will help burn off some of those nerves. Parking a few blocks away and walking the rest may help. Of course, you don’t want to arrive all sweaty–the goal is just some normal yet sustained movement ahead of time.

    A full workout the day before may help as well. Of course there you don’t want to work out too close to bed and not sleep, but periodically burning off the adrenaline going in may help.

    Additionally, that morning–I’ve found it helpful to help somebody else. Even holding the door open for people, letting someone in during traffic–I’ve found if I can focus on someone’s else’s needs going in to the appointment I am able to stop focusing quite so much on what’s in my head. It also just feels good, and I feel like a small contributor to the world around me walking in.

    1. Nervous nelly*

      The workout one was a big thing for me — or any sort of concentrated activity before. Something that made me focus on something not interview, and optimally something I was good at, to help boost my self confidence. Something physical helps I find, because it helps to dissipate and shake away the nerves. That way, by the time you start the interview some of the nerves will have crept back up, but it’s at a tolerable anxiety level instead of like 6 hours worth of nerves that have been festering.

      1. Blisskrieg*

        “it’s at a tolerable anxiety level instead of like 6 hours worth of nerves that have been festering.” What a perfect way to put it.

    2. Hey Karma, Over Here*

      This is really brilliant. Get out of your head. Even if it’s not physical, the doing something that takes concentration so you are out of your head (if physical isn’t an option) and the helping someone else, I love that. The idea of bringing your self into the world and interacting with others changes your whole mood.

      1. Blisskrieg*

        It really is true. Even a little extra change for someone on a street corner. I’m nervous walking into an interview ? At least I have an interview and a home to go back to afterward. I try to think of it as stretching my kindness muscles. Of course, I never want to be transactional with it–I’m not trying to barter with the cosmos to give me a good outcome. If I start thinking of it superstitiously then I back off.

    3. ampersand*

      To add to this: the wonder woman pose has worked well for me. I usually do it in a bathroom stall before interviews, since that’s often the only place to get some privacy/not look totally bizarre in front of a potential employer. Put your hands on your hips and stand up straighter for a minute or two–it helps you feel more confident and less anxious.

      1. Andrea*

        This! The workout program I use has an anxiety hack that is particularly bathroom-stall friendly – 1 minute each of jumping jacks, punches, and lion pose (arms outstretched, legs wide, chest up). I have been known to do it in airport bathrooms before flying, before big presentations at work, before meetings with my kids’ school principals – it is just exactly enough to take my nerves down a peg.

  26. animaniactoo*

    OP, have you talked to your therapist about this? That is where I would start, including figuring out why interviews are trigger events for you. Alison’s tactics may or may not be useful or need to be expanded on once you can identify that.

    1. Frankie*

      Yeah, I actually think the therapist is the best place to start–someone with really thorough training in PTSD specifically could probably offer a lot of help. Though if LW already has a diagnosis, maybe they’re already hooked up with someone?

  27. Cereal Killer*

    A few mind tricks that help me not beat anxiety, but ease my suffering:

    The body has the same physical symptoms for nervousness and excitedness- butterflys in stomach, sweatiness, etc. (at least this is what I have been told in the past). So you have to just remind yourself that it is not nervousness, but actually excitement in being able to meet with your dream job.

    I also like to go into interviews imaging that I am a consultant. I’m not going in there going in there for them to assess me and my value. I am there to present my value and understand their needs, strengths, and weaknesses. REally this should be the approach to any interview regardless of candidates anxiety- interviewing is a two way street. But this mindset really helps me put my best foot forward because I’m less wrapped up in “do they like me, am I answering things right”. I can focus on what I can offer and if it doesn’t work out on both ends then it wasn’t the right position for me. (obv. this is much easier to convince yourself of if you don’t absolutely need a new job).

  28. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

    I have no experience of PTSD so I’m not sure if this will be helpful, but 3 things that helped me, NOT necessarily all in the same interview:

    – Mentioning that I am always a little nervous at the beginning of an interview can be quite disarming and also take off the pressure of trying not to LOOK nervous
    – Pretending that I am super confident even when I really don’t feel that way – often people can’t tell the difference
    – Finally, as AAM said, reframing the interview in my head. I am not here primarily to be assessed by you, I am here to see whether I want to work for you. Focusing on getting a really good understanding of the role, instead of what type of impression I’m making, makes me less self conscious. This might not work as well for a junior role where the interviewer may expect the candidate to answer more/ask less questions, but it has worked for me.

  29. PTSD Professional*

    HELLO FELLOW PTSD-HAVING PERSON!

    Are you me? Because dang, I could have written this question just a few months ago. I can say, Alison’s advice is right on the money. Everything she recommends are the same strategies I used to finally land my new job. I want to add a few more things:

    1) In addition to practicing and prepping your questions, research the heck out of every aspect of your interview. I did a multi-page deep dive before every interview, even the phone screens, where I researched the company (Wikipedia, Glassdoor, news stories, their site), the position (who held this position in the past? what is their background? how does this compare with similar positions across the industry?), every single person I would be meeting (I rarely worked my findings into casual conversation, this was just for me to get a feel for who they were), the route, the weather, the building. Everything. The more info I had, the better I could visualize and practice in my head, the calmer I found. It also helped with thank you notes!

    2) Build a ritual. Check that your outfit is clean/ pressed/ repaired a week out. Pack and repack your bag with pens, business cards, your research, your pad of paper, etc. three days out so you know you have everything you need. Lay out your clothes the night before. Review your notes over breakfast that morning. Plan your route to arrive 30 minutes early so you can review and take a deep breath before you go in, freshen up, and impress them with your promptness. The key is to find something that gives you a sense of control and preparedness.

    3) Aftercare. You know how a good therapist will make sure you have an aftercare plan when you both know you have a really tough session coming up? Same thing here. After every interview I rewarded myself with a massive, sugary Starbucks non-caffeinated frappaccino. It takes me a while to finish one, and it helped me to calm down and know that the scary part was over.

    4) DBT. I made the best progress in managing my PTSD day to day when I moved from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). CBT focuses on talking through things (which is great for understanding and processing) and DBT focuses on building a toolbox/skillset that helps you deal with your stuff. Highly recommended.

    PTSD sucks and makes life harder. I am not open about my diagnosis in any part of my life that doesn’t involve HIPAA compliance. And I know how literally painful it can be when YOU know you’re a kickass employee who can rock the hardest, most stressful parts of a job once you get into it, but you also know how hard it is for OTHER PEOPLE to see that when the bizarre artificiality of an interview is aggravating your PTSD.

    It’s tempting to get made at yourself and your badly-behaving brain when this happens. Try to be kind to yourself. Try to give yourself enough time and preparation to breathe deep. And keep your eye not on the obstacle course before you, but the amazing job you’ve been dreaming of.

    Good luck!

    1. cleo*

      +1

      I also have PTSD and I agree with most of this, especially the ritual and the aftercare.

      I haven’t tried DBT, but I had a similar experience switching from talk therapy to trauma informed therapy. Finding the right modality as well as the right therapist can make a huge difference.

      1. JoMo*

        YAY MORE PTSD PEOPLE!!

        Another PTSD person here. (Also a newly-minted supervisor who is learning a lot from this site.) A+ to everything Alison and Professional said (except I just learned that DBT exists), but especially hell yes to planning aftercare and having comfort rituals.

        To help with interview prep, I suggest practicing questions and responses *in the mirror* to get a feel for what you look like and/or react. Dress up like you’re going to the actual interview. It helped me know what to expect of myself–what I looked like and how I responded (e.g. if I was too flat or too personable)–and get comfortable with the interview concept itself.

        BTW, YouTube is full of mock interview videos. They can be cheesy, but they will give you questions to ask yourself. It’s one thing to read a list of interview questions and another to see and hear them in real time.

        Long story short, I’m sorry this catch-22 is happening, but I hope that familiarizing yourself with the process will help you with it.

        We are here and in the workforce. I hope you’ll update when you’re able.

  30. Not Today Satan*

    I have PTSD too and used to interview terribly. But with a lot of practice–both mock interviews and just going on a ton of real interviews–I’m actually pretty good at interviews now. Is there someone you could practice with? That always felt mortifying to me, but it really helps–particularly practicing out loud questions that might be asked in the beginning of an interview (like: tell us about yourself, why did you apply, etc.). A big struggle for me was always bombing the first question, and then whatever confidence I had deflated and it only went downhill. So opening strong is important for me.

    1. Not Today Satan*

      Another thing that’s helped me is being on the other side of interviews. As a candidate, I always think all my competitors are perfect–good looking, charming, well spoken, a resume that lines up exactly with the desired experience, etc. But in reality, candidates run the gamut. VERY rarely does someone knock it out of the park.

      So remembering that I’m up against other imperfect humans–and that the interviewer is hoping I do well as much as I do– encourages me.

  31. Me*

    One of the things that helps me is remembering that people WANT you to succeed. They really do want you to do well. They are rooting for you.

    Think about you as an interviewer and how kind and compassionate you would be. How understanding of nerves and jitters – because you are a decent human. So are most others.

    This works for public speaking too. For me anyway.

  32. Kiwiii*

    Changing my mindset from “oh no i have to impress people” to “time to go have a conversation and see if this job is as interesting as it sounds” completely changed how i act in interviews. Cannot stress that enough.

  33. Amethystmoon*

    We talked about this in a recent Toastmaster meeting. Some tips that came up include doing relaxing breathing techniques, such as yoga breathing, practicing with a trusted friend or relative, and doing research on the company before going also help. Practicing table topics regularly can also help people to be better at impromptu speaking and not answering questions with a yes or no.

  34. Bree*

    What helps me is remembering that an interview is a two-way street, as much for me to learn about the company as for them to learn about me. That helps me think of it as a conversation, rather than a test, and I’m much more at ease.

    But with PTSD, this might be a lot more complex. I’d suggest talking to your therapist about it for techniques or maybe even medication.

  35. 30 Years in the Biz*

    I appreciate the “Cheer” reference and the suggestion to practice the heck out of the interview. Coach Monica might suggest 40-41 “full-outs”, but that might be excessive in this case :)

  36. cosmicgorilla*

    Practice interviews make a world of difference. They enable you to think through your answers in a safe space, where the stakes aren’t as high. Even folks without the added complication of PTSD can be very nervous going into an interview without practicing beforehand!

    Can you check with a therapist to work on desensitization?

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Sometimes it helps to just name it. The first question or two, I tend to talk too much or fast. Sometimes, I’ll just take a breath and say “Sorry, I’m a little bit nervous.” Somehow, this seems to calm me down for the rest of the interview. Most interviewers are on your side!

      I mean, people are human. If an interviewer really held this against me, I suppose it isn’t a place I’d enjoy working at.

  37. Senor Montoya*

    Speaking as someone who’s been interviewing candidates for the last month: nervousness is not an automatic “don’t hire”. We’re not surprised when people are nervous. If they can get it reasonably under control, that’s good, but we’ve hired people who were shaky all the way through the interview OR all the through the presentation. It helps if a candidate can pull it together and be fairly calm or comfortable during one or the other.

    1. SarahTheEntwife*

      Seconded! If giving high-stakes talks to strangers on a regular basis is part of the job, that’s one thing, but if you’re mostly going to be interacting with coworkers and vendors and maybe giving the occasional report in an all-staff meeting or something, you will really never need the “being super-poised in an interview” skillset again and I won’t hold it against you if it’s not your biggest strength.

  38. Optimus Prima Donna*

    Remember that you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. Think of the interview as a , “lets get to know each other and see if this is a good fit” meeting rather that a session where you have to performs well to earn the job offer. If you place the burden of the whole session on yourself to WIN it, it’s no wonder you are having performance anxiety. You aren’t getting on a stage and doing Shakespeare. Or a cartwheel.

    Get in there with the mindset of “I am looking forward to meeting these people, telling them about myself, and hopefully everyone will agree that me and this job, this company..are a good fit.” Remember, that want to fill the position so they are also hoping you are the one they are looking for and if you are, accept the offer.

    Now…
    It’s always a good idea to practice and rehearse responses. The interview shouldn’t be the first time you hear your own voice answering the question, “Tell us about yourself, What interests you in the job/company/work, What were your responsibilities in your current/former jobs, Where do you see yourself in 2,5,10,100 years” etc. Practice your summaries so your delivery is polished and smooth.

  39. TheAssistant*

    I try to keep a pulse on my local job market, and end up applying for a job every 6-12 months, even though I’m pretty happy, just to see what’s out there. So I get a lot of interview practice, and it’s that low-key looking/updating my resume/just chatting with someone to see if I’m a good fit keeps the anxiety out of interviews for me. If you’re only doing a burst of interviews every few years when you need to move on, it might be contributing to your anxiety because you have so much more time to let this Big Event build in importance in your head.

    Another rule I have is never turn down a (legitimate) recruiter for a job you’re even a little interested in. I find talking with competent recruiters to be much easier than job interviews, because it feels much more like that consulting work Alison discussed in her response. You’re both discussing their client, trying to do a needs assessment of your skills to see if this is a good match. I find I can be much more honest with recruiters (not that I lie to hiring managers, just…) about my strengths and weaknesses and how they relate to a position because it feels like that consulting relationship. And also, you never know when they might have a new opening that would be a fantastic match for you.

  40. MISS Nemo*

    I find auditioning for community theater helps me with interview/public speaking nerves. Especially if you don’t care (or don’t even want!) to be cast. It’s a low pressure way to practice that type of situation.

  41. Jostling*

    When I was doing a lot of auditioning (and getting terrible nerves surrounding said auditions), an instructor had me run up and down the stairs before practicing in order to “activate my central nervous system.” Although this may be aggressively unscientific, it gave me a way to practice the scenario of heightened CNS activity (whether from my “fight-or-flight” nerves or from actual physical activity) that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to simulate. Maybe set up some practice interviews with friends or family (some with the excited folks, some with more neutral parties) and generate those “mock nerves” through physical activity so that you can better emulate the actual experience?

  42. Policy Wonk*

    Do you have a standard interview suit? What worked for me was deciding that when I put on that suit I was not “policy wonk” but was instead “the expert on [my field]”. It helped me take myself out of the negative mindset of “they couldn’t possibly interested in me” to one of “they are interested in my expertise, so I’m going to share it.” Sort of a mind game but it worked, because I trusted in my ability and expertise.

    Lots of other good suggestions here as well. Good luck!

    1. londonedit*

      I do a similar thing. I tell myself I’m now getting into the character of ‘person who is totally calm and competent at job interviews’. So the interview is like me playing a role – I’m not normal me, I’m Really Great Interviewee Person Who Is Brilliant At Her Job.

  43. aubrey*

    Can’t speak to the PTSD part, but mindset changes were so important to me in dealing with my generalized and social anxiety interfering with interviewing. Like other people are saying, treating it like you’re two potential business partners who want to know if this makes sense to do, rather than like they’re judging you.

    Being on the interviewer side of this also really helped me change my mindset. Interviewers WANT you to be the right person – I was so happy when I found someone who could be the right fit, both because when I found the person I could stop looking (having to hire people on top of your regular job sucks) and because I wanted my team to be made of great people. They’re not looking for reasons you’re terrible (unless they’re assholes, I guess) but rather for indications that you would work well in their team.

    Also, building a preparation ritual helped me. Listening to a particular song that puts me in a confident mindset, specifically. Recalling a time when everything went well and really leaning into that feeling.

  44. Snowberry Kitten Foster, Inc.*

    Ask your doctor if he or she can prescribe a small dose of propranolol, like 10-20mg. It’s a blood pressure medication, but is often used for anxiety and stage fright. It’s not a benzo like xanax or ativan, is very safe and in my experience, very helpful. IF you decide to try this, take it a day or two before so you can assess how it affects you. It should not make you at all sleepy like other common anti-anxiety meds. I also have PTSD and POTS, both of which cause occasional anxiety and this med has been a very good help.

  45. Anon Today*

    This doesn’t sound like PTSD alone to me. It sounds like performance anxiety. Beta-Blockers are used by musicians with much success. They stop the shaking and sweating without interfering with other brain functions. If you try out a dose on something only mildly anxiety-producing, you’ll know if it will work for you.

  46. ugh*

    I confess, as a boss I prefer the slightly nervous potential employee. The super-polished are too often disasters on the job.

    1. CW*

      Probably because they are either narcissistic, or far more common overconfident. Being a little nervous is normal. It shows you care about your work.

      Unfortunately, I am the complete opposite of the super-polished; I am a nervous wreck when it comes to interviews. I am happily employed now, but while I was unemployed I can’t tell you how many times I got so nervous I started to sweat. It was the summer too and that didn’t help.

  47. Hot Chocolate*

    My issue in interviews (that I easily get) is that I vastly undersell myself. “I only have a little experience in what you’re looking for. You’ll probably find someone better than me. I am likely not the one for this job, even though I’m perfect on paper. Do you want to run over me with your car? Sorry!”

  48. MissDisplaced*

    I almost always got job offers when I interviewed for jobs where I really didn’t care if I got the job.

    There is a lesson to be learned here. I’m convinced of it.

  49. cleo*

    I also have ptsd and anxiety. Interviews can be mildly triggering for me (and doctors visits are extremely triggering) and I’ve come up with a of things over the years to manage my ptsd symptoms and anxiety.

    I agree with a lot of the advice – especially practicing, creating rituals and aftercare.

    The thing that I’ll add, that I haven’t seen specifically mentioned, is that pretty much every thing I do is aimed at helping me stay in the present and as grounded as possible. It’s all about reminding myself and my nervous system that I am safe and in the present (instead of reliving the past).

    This includes wearing something to remind myself who I am now, observing all 5 senses (if possible, I’ll go early and get a cup of tea at a local coffee shop), and telling myself things like “I’m — blank years old” “I’m safe” I’m here by choice, I can leave if I need to” (for doctors visits).

    I also take time right before an interview to remember an interview where I did really well. You could visualize something from your work instead of an interview – some moment when you did really well.

    Good luck! Looking for a job while managing PTSD symptoms sucks. Be gentle with yourself. You got this.

  50. Been there*

    Although I do not have a current diagnosis of PTSD, I do have a lot of mental health struggles with depression and anxiety, and I’ve totally been there with the interview angst — asking myself how have I survived this before, and not only have lived to tell, but actually even gotten job offers for competitive positions? Interview nerves are HELL for me and can make the process seem insurmountable.
    Like Alison said, practice the crap out of your answers (!) — use her free AAM interview prep guide –and also do some interview role play (on the phone or in person) with someone who knows you well professionally or personally, has sound professional judgment, AND will give you candid feedback (this last one is key!). My mom is actually my best interview practice partner because although she knows very little about my chosen field, she knows *me* and can give me honest feedback when I need to tighten up an answer, or when I’m not communicating my point clearly, etc. And needless to say, the questions you feel most stressed and anxious about are the most important ones to practice.
    Also, my morning-of-the-interview ritual includes re-watching the Amy Cuddy TED talk. Although her data has been called into question (she fought these accusations), I still love her talk and feel inspired by it, whether or not power-posing actually works or not, I do it! It can’t hurt.
    The last thing I want to mention is that I had 6 or so interviews in a month-long period, and I feel like each time was a little less nerve-wracking than the one before, especially since I was already prepared and just had to review.
    Good luck — you’ve got this!!

  51. ainnnymouse*

    Personally I get nervous because I remember all the bad ones I’ve had before. They don’t show up, have me wait a ridiculous amount of time, yell at me, interview me in a noisy environment, act like I showed up out of nowhere, don’t care about my skills or education, ask me why I majored in that, have no idea what I’m talking about, or can’t answer my questions. Usually 9 out of 10 interviews they go badly for some reason or another. The whole thing just stresses me out.

  52. Rainy Cumbria*

    I agree about trying to reframe it in your head. I’ve had this problem the last few years, but in my most recent interview I told myself beforehand that I was just going for a chat with some potential colleagues to see if we were a good fit for each other. I can’t say it’s a complete cure, but it definitely helped.

  53. Amanda*

    I used to be like this – so much so that I’d cancel all interviews at the last minute. I finally got to the nerve to start going, and bombed some of them but learned from each one. I started accepting every interview offered, and each one made me more confident and I after turning a bunch down, it started to actually sink in that I really was interviewing them, too. I think practice and exposure helps a ton.

  54. Kitty Harington*

    I can’t speak to PTSD or medication but I can share my own experience. I had anxiety here and there but after a slew of bad interviews and good interviews that didn’t result in offers, my anxiety got out of control. Like others, I developed the habit of canceling the morning of because my anxiety was overwhelming. I still needed a job so it’s not like I could stop job searching altogether either.

    Ultimately, I think two things made a difference (a) accepting any interview I was offered and (b) carving out designated time to relax. I know there’s a risk of burnout with doing lots of interviews but I think it was necessary *for me* for a lot of reasons. I became used to answering the same questions over and over again and because I had done it so many times, I wasn’t struggling for words. My answers were committed to memory in the same way I knew the alphabet. I also think it helped to get used to different personalities so I wasn’t rattled anymore if a weird question came up or the interviewer was cold or whatever. In the past, I’d take it personally and feel like I bombed then end up horribly anxious, effectively messing up the rest of the interview and leaving me anxious for future interviews.

    Also the relaxing thing helped me feel better physically. I was stuck in a loop of being tense and anxious so I started doing stretches, watching funny tv shows, etc., basically anything to get some edge off.

  55. RB*

    And then if all that doesn’t work, have a shot of vodka. Ha ha. I’m reminded of the letter from the person who had extreme public speaking nervousness and had arrived at this solution.

    I had an interview trick for awhile that consisted of a few drops of Visine and a shot of espresso. The Visine kept me from looking tired (I often slept poorly the night before an interview) and the espresso made me better able to convey positivity and enthusiasm in a natural-seeming way (and relieved the after-effects of the sleeplessness).

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