Ask The Headhunter: How To Conquer Interview Butterflies

BY Paul Solman  November 12, 2013 at 10:50 AM EST

By Nick Corcodilos

Everyone gets nervous before a job interview; here’s how to overcome your jitters and succeed. Photo courtesy of Flickr user World Relief Spokane.

Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979, and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community over the past decade.

In this special Making Sense edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards, or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.


Whether you’re a clerk or a programmer, a CEO or the head of a finance department, you can get the proverbial butterflies in your stomach during a job interview. Even the best-prepared job candidate can get nervous and come off like a blubbering novice, sending the meeting quickly south.

I’ve written about interview butterflies before (“Butterflies In Your Interviews?” and “Don’t Compete With Yourself”), but some of the best insights about dealing with nerves have come from readers:

Just a guess: If you get butterflies in your interview, you’re thinking of it as an interview. Don’t do that. Think of it as a conversation between two professionals on a subject of mutual interest, which is what it should be anyway.

If you can make that shift in your attitude before you enter the interview, you’ll be way ahead of your competition. Another way to do this is to think of the meeting as your first day on the job. You’ve been hired; now you need to get to know your boss and understand the work. Don’t behave like a supplicant begging for a job. Behave like an employee.

Another reader likes advance planning:

Use your network to determine who is going to interview you and what their styles are.

This gives a new meaning to interview preparation. Don’t just study the facts about the company. Study the interviewer’s style and approach. This will help you roll with the punches.

Then there’s the very assertive approach. Don’t just do the interview; control the meeting. A reader says:

It’s harder to be confident in an interview when you see it as you answering a series of questions. You’re always anticipating another question that may be difficult to answer in the ‘best’ way, so you’re always on guard. One of the benefits of the presentation method, where you are telling the interviewer what you can do to solve a business problem, is that you are controlling the conversation for a little while.

My favorite suggestion is from a reader who believes — like I do — that worst-case planning is the best way to avoid nervousness. Always have a last-ditch ace up your sleeve. It can make you feel virtually invincible, which can change your entire interview for the better, even if you never need to use it. This reader brings props:

I am the world’s worst conversationalist. When the conversation in the interview begins to fade, usually fairly soon, I whip out my presentation book and point to pictures, graphs, charts, memos, blueprints, schematics, diagrams, procedures, forms, the actual paper napkin with the original concept scrawled on it — everything done in my career created by me.

Conquer the butterflies before they land. What do you do to conquer the butterflies? Show us your aces in the comments section below.



Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth “how to” PDF books are available on his website: “How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you,” “How Can I Change Careers?”, “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”

Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

Copyright © 2013 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark. This entry is cross-posted on the Rundown — NewsHour’s blog of news and insight.