7 Ways to Banish the Interview Jitters

min read
Mikaela Thompson

Don’t beat yourself up over it! It’d be unnatural and even worrying if you didn’t have some degree of anxiety. Sweaty palms, palpitations, fidgeting etc., are common signs of interview anxiety most of us have been hit with. Take heart from the fact that we need anxiety to motivate us and show we’re actually keen to get the job. Too little, and you’ll look disinterested; too much and you’ll appear lacking in confidence and perhaps even incapable of doing the job. 

How can you control these feelings so that you retain a helpful amount of anxiety? Firstly, focus on managing your stress rather than talking about it. The latter will only exacerbate it. There’s a lot of advice on this issue, some well-meaning but sadly, often ineffectual, while other advice can be a little startling in its simplicity. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to do what works for you. So here, I’ll try to give you a range of options to get you on the path to Zen.

Turn your anxiety into a positive force. ‘Worry is misspent imagination’ (Oscar Wilde)

Did you know that anxiety and excitement symptoms are physiologically registered by our brains as the same emotion? So how come they prompt vastly different responses in us? The mind is in charge of interpreting these physical symptoms, and framing them as either negative or positive. Common advice is to take deep breaths to calm yourself, but this requires us to wrestle against our body’s responses e.g., an aggressive bout of nervous diarrhea, often with little success. A simple, but potentially, highly effective approach is to reframe our mind’s interpretation, so we believe we’re instead excited rather than anxious (www, topresume.com, citing research by Dr Brooks of Harvard Business School). This only requires you to tell yourself out loud a few times, that ‘I’m excited ‘or ‘Get excited’ which will harness your energy positively and put you in a more optimistic, confident, and resilient frame of mind. Needless to say, this will be received far more favorably by the interviewer. 

If this seems a bit too simplistic for you and you are struggling to get the results you want, then there’s more you can try to mitigate the effects of interview anxiety.

Tips on How to Manage Interview Jitters from Behavioural and Recruiting Experts:

1) Hold in check external pressures.

Although not everything is able to be controlled, at least try to lessen the amount of stress you’re under at this time by e.g., selecting your interview outfit ahead of time making sure it’s clean and comfortable to wear; including a healthy nutritious pre interview meal on your grocery list (avoid the hyper alert state caffeine induces or the sluggish demeanour a heavy meal and/or alcohol produces); checking your teeth for any unsightly residual bits of your meal; doing a dummy run to the interview venue to make sure you know the timing needed for travel so you can get there punctually, or at least check out where it is on google maps directory but be careful not to rely on their time estimates alone – I made this mistake and found on public transport at that hour, it took me twice as long to get to the venue than was predicted on google maps! Of course, I was very late thereby creating a negative impression, as well as elevating my stress levels. Punctuality matters!

2) Control what you can for an optimal interview performance.

Be proactive, be prepared! Yes, it’s true you won’t know exactly what the interviewer will ask but you can prepare beforehand a few of those challenging questions typically asked. There’s a plethora of online business sites that offer prepared answers of such, so check them out e.g., https://www.thebalancecareers.com/tough-interview-question-answers-2061233; https://www.interviewsuccessformula.com; https://theinterviewguys.com/tough-interview-questions. As well, do your research on the company, current staff, role expectations, market trends etc. Feeling well-prepared will help to quell those nerves. Set up mock interviews with career advice agencies or family/friends who can take the role of interviewer and lend a supportive ear for constructive feedback. Visualize success in your interview. In a quiet spot, close your eyes and visualize yourself nailing it. It will help hardwire your brain for success in the same way elite athletes use this technique. This will help build your confidence and belief that you will ace the interview.

3) Write down the chatter in your head, preoccupying and unsettling you.

Research, at the University of Texas by James Pennebaker, has shown writing has a strong healing power. Putting those worries on paper helps to externalize and disarm them. Look at what you’ve written and test the veracity of each emotional thought through logic. Just because you feel it, doesn’t make it true. Unhelpful thoughts increase anxiety, shown by a study at the Australian Centre for Clinical Interventions. Replace these thoughts with positive responses thereby reframing them. This reappraisal and acceptance of anxiety has been proven more effective than ignoring it to regulate anxiety (www.verywellmind.com).

4) Release anxious energy.

This can betray your carefully manipulated calm exterior during an interview by showing itself in fidgeting mannerisms etc., so instead wiggle your toes. This won’t be so noticeable. Additionally, breathe! Breathing deeply lowers your heart rate, slows your thoughts and reduces their intensity while quietening your nervous system. If you’re struggling to achieve this, try sighing. Your shoulders will relax and the tension will be reduced around your neck too – these are the key areas anxiety causes to tense up. Take your time before answering questions. Pauses will help you collect your thoughts. Alternatively, buy some thinking time by asking for clarification or a rephrasing of the question. Also, remember pre-interview, to do something you enjoy e.g., gardening, walking, reading, meditation etc. Practice breathing with positive affirmations, such as, repeating to yourself: wisdom, strength, warmth, non-judgment. Avoid critiquing yourself and treat yourself as a friend, with self-compassion (read more about this: The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion by Dr Christopher Germer). This will enhance your confidence and resilience. Post-interview: congratulate yourself for taking the chance, facing your fears, and overcoming the challenge. Don’t get hung up on that better answer you wish you’d given. Negative thoughts sap energy and confidence.

5) Don’t succumb to pressure.

Some hiring managers like to grill candidates to see how they deal with stress. Don’t spiral into negative thinking. Remind yourself why the HR is doing this. It isn’t personal, other candidates will get the same treatment.

6) Interview the interviewer.

Afterall, interviewing is a two-way process. You have every right to determine whether this company and role will fit you too. Ask questions to find out their values and culture to see if they align with your own. Your professionalism will shine through.

7) Be objective.

Anxiety causes a self-centred, self-focused behaviour. Instead, try to focus on others and being empathetic e.g., greet the secretary at the interview venue, pay attention to names and use them, ask the interviewer how his/her day is going, smile and engage with others etc. Also, gain some perspective by reminding yourself, this is just one job opportunity within one company. There are many more out there. Every interview is a chance to learn, improve yourself and widen your network. No interview is your only option or last!

If your anxiety continues to be debilitating, you should seek professional support. There are many treatments/therapies and medication for anxiety. It doesn’t need to be the be all or end all to getting a job. 

Check out our latest blog on ‘How to Turn a Failure Into a Learning Opportunity’ here!


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