I freeze up during interviews. What can I do?

Q: I prepare for interviews and then I freeze during the
interview. I feel like as I come off as more nervous than confident. How
do I get beyond my nerves and show an interviewer the true me?

A. I love candor so thanks for having the guts to submit your question!

Interviewing is a skill, a skill most of us only need on occasion. We
typically don’t interview day in and day out, like driving, writing or
flossing our teeth. Any skill can get rusty. I remember trying to ice
skate about 10 years ago thinking I would be able to jump on the ice
like I did when I was a kid. It took me some time to get the hang of it
again. I felt like I needed to almost re-learn how to skate.

Interviewing is similar. It is a skill that may require some practice
before a candidate “steps on the ice again.” First, think about commonly
asked interview questions. There are plenty of online resources which
will provide typical interview questions. Then, jot down some notes on
how you can best respond, while showcasing your strengths and talents.
Finally, think about where you struggle in your answers and devote some
extra attention to that area.

Some candidates find it very helpful to videotape themselves during a
mock interview. Videotaping can help you identify your weaknesses.
Maybe you overuse one word. Perhaps you attach an unnecessary “ya know”
to the end of your responses. Or maybe you don’t maintain eye contact.

If you feel like you are freezing and are unable to respond, it is OK
to ask for a moment to think about your response to buy you some time.
Example: “Let me think about a good example for you.” Or you could ask a
clarifying question to better understand the question. Example: “Did
you want me to focus only on my last position or is it OK to share an
example from earlier in my career?”

With practice, your interviewing skills will likely improve.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.