How to Explain Your Nervous Ticks in an Interview


Some of us are so good at dealing with nerve-wracking situations—big presentations, performance reviews, job interviews—that you can’t even tell our hearts are beating a mile a minute. And some of us, well, aren’t so great at hiding our uneasiness.

I’m a hair twirler. One of my friends bites her nails so badly she has to paint them regularly to stop herself. My brother twitches his head when he’s anxious so it looks like he’s constantly shrugging.

We all have our thing. But just because we do doesn’t mean we want an interviewer to look down on us for being nervous. After all, they don’t mean we’re not qualified for the job or can’t handle the pressures of work.

The good news is that for the most part, these little habits rarely affect your success in an interview. A recent BBC article commented on this topic and said, “Daniela Lehmann-Stein, who leads a human resources team at Nielsen in Frankfurt, says that while she’s had interview training, she resists checklist-style thinking in which she mentally ticks off a box that says ‘no annoying quirks or mannerisms.’ Instead, Lehmann-Stein…wants to get to know a candidate and see how the person handles the situation if something becomes distracting.”

Remember: If you’re interviewing at the right company, you’re being judged by a multitude of factors in an interview—your skill set, your preparedness, your passion for the role, among other things. As long as you come to the conversation with the right answers and the right questions, chances are those quirks will go ignored, if not unnoticed altogether.

And this is exactly what Muse career coach and public speaking expert Eloise Eonnet told me when I asked her how she advises clients with speaking or physical ticks:

The better prepared you are for an interview, the better you will do, and the more comfortable you will be in the interview room—ticks or no ticks. If you have prepared answers to difficult questions, if you have your pitch down pat, and if you have precise and clear questions to ask the hiring manager at the end, then the little things that might get in your way will diminish (and even if they don’t, you will still do better than 80% of candidates out there who don’t properly prep for interviews).

But let’s say yours are just a little too noticeable, or, out of context, come off as unprofessional or make you seem unapproachable. Is it worth bringing it up?

The answer is really based on what you’re comfortable doing—but it could solve a lot of your worries to mention it casually. As Lehmann-Stein suggests in the BBC article, “Sometimes it’s helpful to be aggressive about it. If I know that I get red spots on my face or neck when I’m nervous, and this concerns me, then I could address it and say, ‘Even though I am blushing now, I am not as easily shaken as it may seem. I have been able to demonstrate my resilience in various situations.’ It may be helpful to address it and get it over with it instead of thinking, ‘Oh, am I blushing now, do they see it?’”

Being honest also shows that you’re confident enough with yourself to acknowledge your weaknesses, Eonnet goes on to say, “I recently coached a client who has a speech impediment. Her voice skips, and it is something that affects her confidence and is definitely something that’s noticeable. We worked together to create language she can use to bring it up at the beginning of the interview. It was not apologetic or giving excuses. By simply stating the fact that her ‘voice skips occasionally’, she took ownership of it in the context of the interview. By bringing it up herself in this way, there was nothing left to do but put her best foot forward and present herself and her skill set eloquently.”

And that’s really all you can ask of yourself in an interview—put your best self forward and that’s what’ll stand out.

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