Poker pros are as cold as ice. They play a game based on intuition, psychology, concentration, and skill. Their faces give nothing away as they hold their cards close to their chest, adrenaline running through their veins, choosing when to strike with a game-winning move, taking the pot as they go.
The majority of people avoid stressful situations like this, where tensions run high and there is only one goal in mind – winning. Job interviews are one thing we can’t avoid, though, and these nerve-racking situations can leave us feeling more than a little jittery. So how do poker players hold their nerve and keep calm in high-stake situations? And what tips can we take from a game of poker that we can apply to the job interview of our dreams?
Practice Makes Perfect
No poker pro starts off as an expert. They will have started off easy, practised in a low-pressure environment, and played with either fake money or very low stakes. It’s no different when it comes to interviewing – it’s an unnatural and uncomfortable situation to be in, and you will get better and more accustomed to it with practice.
Try and attend as many interviews as possible, even if you have no intention of actually taking the job that’s being advertised. Or if you are pushed for time, simply practise at home with friends and family. Every interview or practice session is a learning experience, helping you improve significantly and learn from any mistakes before going for the job of your dreams.
Rehearse Your Moves
In poker, you can tell a lot about a person by the way they move their chips and hold their cards. You don’t want to give anything away to your opponents, and you don’t want to become flustered half way through a game.
First impressions really count in an interview, so it’s a good idea to rehearse everything thoroughly beforehand, from entering a room to making eye contact. Get used to introducing yourself and shaking someone’s hand, and practise greeting your interviewers, thanking them, and saying goodbye.
Memorise Your Game
Poker pros will memorise the cards in their hand so as not to give anything away. Looking down at your cards can disrupt the flow of a game and result in lower confidence levels. Knowing exactly what’s in your hand gives you an air of self-assurance, meaning you come across as cool, calm, and collected throughout the game.
There’s a lot to remember before an interview, including all the information you have on your CV. Reading from notes will make you look unprepared, so try and memorise as many interview answers as possible. Think of some of the typical scenario questions you may be asked, such as “tell me about a time you achieved good results at work” and rehearse your answers until you know them off by heart.
Read Your Opponent
Poker players will weigh each other up as soon as they enter the room. How confident do they look and how much experience do they have? Initial analysis will help you work out what sort of player they are and give you an idea of their strategy.
Try and do a quick analysis of your interviewer when you first meet them and work out how to make the best first impression. Are they dressed smartly or casually? Are they open and friendly or are they speaking with a formal tone? This will help you work out whether the interview is going to be corporate and closed or whether they are looking for a more light-hearted discussion.
Look for “Tells”
When playing poker, a “tell” could indicate what cards your opponent might be holding and something like a cough or a touch of the face could point to nerves or a lack of confidence. The pros will look out for these “tells” as a way to direct their own game.
In an interview, it’s a good idea to look for the same “tells”, as this could indicate how well the interview is going. If your interviewer keeps looking at the clock or won’t make eye contact with you, then chances are they have lost interest and you might need to pull them back in again. Work out what interests them the most and try to keep them engaged.
Keep Your Focus
Concentration is a key part of playing poker, and a lack of focus could throw away the whole game. You need to give the game your full attention and stay alert at all times – you never know when an opponent might throw a spanner in the works and turn your whole plan upside down with just one hand.
If you worry about losing a game or become overconfident, you lose focus, and the same applies in a job interview. If you are concerned about messing it up, or only thinking about how important it is to get the job, then you lose your concentration and can’t focus on the situation at hand. You have a limited time to sell yourself in an interview, so take a deep breath, keep your cool and walk away with that big win and the job of your dreams.