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Nervous habits and interviews

By ITS Education Asia

I was reading this article on the BBC website: Are Nervous Ticks Derailing Your Job Interview
and thought I would comment on this in relation to not just job interviews but student university interviews. I have extensive experience in preparing people for interviews. I have worked as a careers counselor, ran a retail and tourism training program for young adults in Australia and help in interview preparation for university interviews in Hong Kong.
A direct short quote from the article
“When it comes to job interviews, you’d be right to presume your stellar CV, personal presentation and, more importantly, how well you answer questions could land you the position. But your mannerisms and gestures could be holding you back. In fact, they can reveal much about you, even if you don’t want them to — both positive and negative. And, most of the time we don’t even realise we’re doing them. Conscious or unconscious, repeated behaviour like batting your eyes, twisting your ring or touching your hair, may influence the recruiter on the other side of the table more than you think.”
My own observations and experience support the points raised in the article. First impressions are very powerful in helping a person form a view of you. Your body language is a very important factor in helping another person form that first impression. The problem for many of us is that we are unaware of these habits. Our friends and family are used to them and do not comment on them. New people we meet are courteous and do not comment on them. Thus we can go through life not realising that these habits do have an effect.
The article then offers some advice on what you can do to try to reduce these unwanted/unconscious mannerisms and gestures. The article’s starting point about addressing these mannerisms is to “Face your quirks”. This is a standard piece of advice on trying to solve any of life’s problems. We need to first admit that we have them and then try to fix them. My advice therefore is to start asking others ie family, friends etc about whether you have any annoying, repetitive habits that they notice. You may be shocked with the answers you receive. Do not argue about the answers,just accept these are the unconscious messages you are sending out.
I would add to these “body language” messages, some annoying speech habits that many people can display. For example, my wife is a fan of “The Great British Bakeoff”. The male judge of that program has the annoying habit of often saying before a sentence “To be honest”. To me this seems to imply that if he does not say that he is telling a lie or that he is in the habit of lying.

The next stage is practicing in formal situations to try and ensure that you can control and limit these habits. Interview preparation is extremely important. Make sure if you are doing interview practice you specifically ask the interviewer about your body language and mannerisms. It is also important in an interview that you appear authentic therefore it is important that you can control these habits without the need to spend a great deal of your concentration doing this. That comes with practice.

A particular point raised in the article that should be highlighted is that if the habit is something you are unable to get under control then it may be best to address the problem straight away with the interviewer. For example; “I am sorry but when I get nervous I sometimes blush”. The ability to identify and admit to things which you struggle to control is a sign of strength and maturity.

A student should not be too concerned about small problems when attending an interview. The interviewers are aware that you are likely to be nervous. However, a good first impression can only help in achieving your desired goals.

Nervous habits are much easier to control if you are well prepared for the situation that is making you nervous. Like many other things, practice is the key to learning how to change you unconscious behaviors.

Dulwich College Singapore

Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.

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