We’ve all been there; you’re presenting in a meeting or being asked questions at a job interview and suddenly your mind goes blank. All that preparation goes out the door because your brain has decided to no longer cooperate, leaving you scrambling to think of what to say next.

Mind blanking happens to the best of us, but it’s the last thing you want to happen when you’re in a job interview. The good news is that it’s a perfectly natural response that affects everyone – it’s something built deep within the human psyche and ties into that other common issue – fear of public speaking. Humans are pre-wired to avoid rejection and being ostracised, but our body’s reaction to these feelings can surface in the most unhelpful way possible – such as having our minds empty of all relevant thoughts and information at a crucial moment!

It’s so easy to take how our minds work for granted; most of us can get through our days without having to consciously think about things too hard. Breathing, eating, movement, driving, communicating with others – our brains take care of so much without us even being aware. However, there’re times when we do need our minds to be present and do some heavy lifting, like a job interview! Experiencing a sudden blankness in your mind when all eyes are on you can be a scary and discomforting situation that’ll easily knock your confidence and potentially derail your interview.

How to avoid mind blanking in an interview:

Being successful at a job interview requires a few different skills. For a start, you need the relevant experience for the job in question. But if you’ve been invited to interview chances are you’ve got that part covered. You also need to be an active listener, a good reader of body language and social cues, a clear communicator and have the ability to recall information on the spot – something that’s not so easy to do when you suddenly encounter a mind blank!

Interview prep helps:
The best way to succeed and avoid pesky mind blanks is by preparing beforehand. Job interviews are a task that requires your conscious awareness to be present and firing on all cylinders – these aren’t meetings that you can coast through on autopilot. Do your research on the role, try to anticipate the types of questions you’ll be asked and start thinking about examples that you can speak to. Leaving things up to chance is asking a lot of your brain, especially when you may already be dealing with the pressures and stress that come with wanting to do well while being judged by strangers.

Bring notes:
There’s nothing wrong with showing your interviewer that you’ve come prepared. Writing out some notes to help you in an interview i.e. some key examples from your experience that highlight how you dealt with certain situations, can be a great way to stay on track with your answers. The key thing here is to not rely too heavily on your notes – they should be there as a prompt and a backup, not something you read from or focus all your attention on.

Calm yourself:
Mind blanking in an interview is almost always a result of nerves – our bodies can do strange things when we’re feeling the pressure of being put on the spot. Before your interview, allow yourself some breathing space – some time to calm yourself before facing the ‘lions’. We have some handy tips on how to deal with interview nerves to help get yourself in the right mindset.

My mind has gone bank – what do I do?

Sometimes all the prep in the world can be undone when the nerves take over and your conscious awareness decides it’s all a bit much so it’s going to pop out for a cuppa and a lie-down. While you might be tempted to cut your losses and run, being able to recover from a mind-blank is important in an interview and thankfully there are a few tips and tricks to help bring you back on track.

Say yes to the water:
Having a glass of water can be your best friend in an interview, especially when a question has stumped you. Pausing to take a drink of water is a simple but natural way of stalling for time, allowing your brain to sort through those feelings of panic to find the actual useful information you know is buried in there somewhere.

Take your time:
Don’t feel like you have to answer something straight away – taking a natural pause, nodding thoughtfully, taking a breath – these are all things that don’t feel out of place in conversation and can be great opportunities to collect your thoughts.

Repetition helps:
Repeating the question – as long as you don’t do this with every question that comes your way, repeating what you’ve been asked can be a way of mentally retracing your steps and will help your brain re-focus and access the relevant information.

Try not to wing it:
Avoid rambling – our instinct when it comes to being put on the spot is to fill the silence with anything and everything. But interviews aren’t the place for going off-topic and potentially running over the time allocated. As tempting as it may feel if you’re genuinely struggling to summon the right information, it’s better to be honest rather than fill the gap with nonsense; there’s nothing wrong with asking your interviewer if it’s OK to come back to that question because your mind is drawing a blank, or to repeat themselves. Honesty is more endearing than rambling.

Remind yourself that although a job interview is important, the people sitting across the table from you are human too and this experience no matter how daunting, will also be over soon. You will walk out that door and life will go on. Trying not to sweat the small stuff will help keep your mind present and functioning.

Mind-blanking is something that we all experience at some point in our lives, if nothing else be grateful you’re in an interview room and not on live air when it happens!

Good luck,
Kirsty and Nikki

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