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Stopping those dreaded interview butterflies


By Tom O’Neil

Testing time: Make the best use of those fight / flight response reactions.
Testing time: Make the best use of those fight / flight response reactions.

Butterflies in the stomach …

We all know what it’s like … Sitting in the reception, waiting for the recruiter or HR manager to come and retrieve us to start the interview. Hot flushes, shaking knees and sweaty palms are the norm, however does it always need to be this way?

Fight / flight response

Human beings are designed to have the fight/flight response kick in during stressful times. However, it depends on your point of view whether or not this is a good thing during your job interview.

Your awesome brain

A small part of the brain called the amygdala first recognises that we are soon to enter a challenging environment. The amygdala then informs another part of the brain called the hypothalamus, which releases a cocktail of drugs (including adrenaline – also known as Epinephrine), which are designed to bring on the ‘butterflies’ we feel when the interview is taking place.

The good news

As in other stressful environments, the hormone adrenaline causes a significant surge in energy and performance, as well as improved awareness of our surroundings. Studies also show that adrenaline improves our alertness, and can also increase cognitive functioning and memory. Therefore, the butterflies we feel during interviews are actually designed to enhance our performance during the fight/flight response, not make the experience more challenging.

Don’t let them take over

Unfortunately for most people, they see the butterflies as a sign that they are nervous, and will ‘blow’ the interview. This then leads to more adrenaline being pumped into their system, and is when they start to “freak out”.

You should be nervous!

Remember that in a job interview, you should be somewhat nervous. You have managed to get an interview for a job you are (hopefully) excited about, and you want to perform well.

Roll with it

Next time you are awaiting the HR person to come and collect you from reception, remind yourself that your butterflies are actually a sign that your personal performance will be at its peak. Therefore take a few deep breaths, calm yourself and go in and rock that interview!



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