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Dealing with ‘White Coat Syndrome’

October 1, 2012
by Tim Tolan
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Nervous before your interview? Here are some tips to calm your nerves so you can put your best foot forward
Tim Tolan

 

Going to an interview can be a very stressful and trying exercise for many people. We are all wired differently, and while some of us thrive in an unknown setting—others simply cringe at the thought of crossing the vestibule into unfamilar territory.

I like to relate it to how I feel when I arrive at my doctor’s office. I’m fine in the car, but as soon as I enter the waiting room I start getting stressed, and by the time I’m in the exam room, I’m, well, very stressed. I think it’s called “white coat syndrome.” (Well there’s a bit of personal health information about me I’m happy to share with all of you!) For me, being nervous is all about the unknown, especially when I am subjecting myself to someone who will totally control the visit while I listen and learn.

Believe it or not, some candidates react the same way. Try these actions to calm your nerves during an interview so you can put your best foot forward.

Meet your interviewer with a strong handshake and smile, and find a way to enjoy the fact that you finally made it to the face-to-face part of the interview process. It’s a step in the right direction. You are definitely on base—so make it count.

Meet your interviewer with a strong handshake and smile, and find a way to enjoy the fact that you finally made it to the face-to-face part of the interview process. It’s a step in the right direction. You are definitely on base—so make it count.

Make sure you’re prepared for your interview and that you know your audience or the organization by performing your due diligence well in advance of your arrival. I talk about this all the time—preparation is the best way to demonstrate how serious you are about this interview and opportunity. Winging it never works. Never!

Breathe. Oxygen is a very important component if you want to be able to relax during an interview. A few deep breaths will help keep the nerves at bay and your mind sharp. Make sure you pause for those necessary deep breaths before you enter the building to help kickstart the calming of your nerves.

If the interviewer is not wearing a suit and you are, ask if you can remove your jacket. This will make you more comfortable and will help take down the wall between you and the person you are meeting. It will also allow you to relax a bit more.

Have five or six well thought-out, open-ended questions to ask the interviewer once you are given the chance or to fill in any pauses during the interview. Have your attaché case so you can read your questions or notes, and make sure you write down (in shorthand) their answers so you can reflect on them afterwards.       

Make sure your body language is sending the right message to your audience. Eye contact is very important, as is displaying your emotions with an occasional smile or a chuckle (if the topic warrants that emotion). What they see should offer a glimpse of who they will be working with once you are on-board.

Candidates who want to make an excellent first impression in a face-to-face interview need to show their real human side. If you are generally not tense and stressed, find strategies to eliminate those physical dynamics from your audience. Be who you are and not who you think your audience wants you to be. You will be happier not trying to be someone else, and they will get a better sense of how it will be working with you on a full-time basis. Lose the nerves and build your confidence, and you will know you’re going to have an excellent interview. Make a decision to have an excellent interview in advance of walking thought the door. Attitude really matters.

Now…Go knock ’em off their feet!

Tim Tolan is a senior partner at Sanford Rose Associates Healthcare IT Practice. He can be reached at tjtolan@sanfordrose.com or at (843) 579-3077 ext. 301. His blog can be found at www.healthcare-informatics.com/tim_tolan.

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