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Most candidates feel a bit of excess nervous energy during job interviews, no matter their age or level of professional experience. Jittery nerves are by no means a sign of naivete or emotional weakness, and in fact, the more nervous a candidate feels during an interview, the more likely they are to truly want the job. As an interviewer, it’s in your best interest to refrain from factoring signs of anxiety into your assessment. And in fact, it’s a good idea to help a candidate relax, so you can get a glimpse of their true personality and hear their responses in an honest and unfiltered light. Here are a few ways to put the stress to rest early on so both of you can move forward with the session.

Be friendly.

Treat an interview like a conversation with a new friend or social contact. Smile, treat the candidate as a guest in your home, offer them a seat, and shake their hand warmly. If you genuinely want the candidate to like you, this will show in your face, posture, and gestures.

Consider their comfort.

Is the interview environment cold or hot? Is there a breeze blowing on the candidate from an open window? Do you have some water to offer the candidate if they seem to need it? Is the sun shining directly into the person’s eyes? You can’t fix all these issues, but it’s a good idea to notice and be aware of them. Close the blinds or reposition the candidate to help them feel at ease.

Begin your session with small talk.

Welcome the candidate to the office and politely inquire about his or her trip to the destination (“Did you have trouble finding this place at all?”) or the weather. Be prepared to drift off-topic and into small talk at several points during the session; this can help you get to know your candidate. If your session is scheduled with only enough time to allow for your scripted questions, considered extending the scheduled time or reducing the number of questions. The conversation should not feel forced, rushed or rigid. If it does, it won’t bring as much value to either of you.

Offer reassurance freely and generously.

If the candidate fumbles his or her words or loses his or her train of thought and ascribes the blunder to nervousness, dismiss it kindly. Say something like, “It’s perfectly normal to be nervous,” or “everyone feels that way during an interview.” The calmer your reaction and the more disinterest you show in the candidate’s nervousness, the faster it will fade. Whatever you do, try not to feed on this energy and mirror it. The result can become an absurd spiral of tension that benefits nobody. Just relax and the candidate will follow your example in time.

For more on how to get the most out of every minute of your interview session, contact the candidate selection experts at Extension.

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