How to Handle Interview Anxiety
Everybody gets a little bit anxious before a job interview. It is natural. That sweaty palmed, shallow breathing, knee jigging moment as you sit waiting for the interviewer to come and introduce himself? I've been there too.
Having a few pre-interview nerves is a good thing. It can make preparing more of a priority beforehand, and even sharpen your mind during the interview itself. The danger comes when the nerves take over and blot out your ability to think clearly at all, and you find yourself stumbling over words and drawing a complete blank when faced with a tricky question.
If your nerves are heading towards this point then it's time to get back in control. Try these simple tricks to manage your interview anxiety, and make sure that your mind is on the job on the big day.
You Can't Be Too Prepared
One of the things that makes us feel anxious is the lack of control we have in the interview room. Ironically, the best candidates, who are used to being successful and therefore likely to put most pressure on themselves to blow the interviewer out of the water, suffer the most in this regard. Interviews are high stakes games, but load up the pressure too much and you can end up sabotaging your own chances of success.
To feel more in control on interview day, the best thing you can do is be prepared. The means researching the company and practicing some common questions, but it also means figuring out all the practical questions like where the office is, what dress code is expected and which type of interview you're up against. Try to get your prep done in good time so that the night before the interview is relaxed. Being well rested is probably more important than going over those questions for the third time, so cut yourself some slack and get an early night.
Have an Intro Planned
There are some meetings where it just feels like you 'click' right away with the other person. Rapport is easy, and before you know it even your body language is in tune. You're smiling and chatting like old buddies, and the nerves are gone.
And then there are some which do not get off to quite such a good start.
One way to get things moving in the right direction is to have a few simple introductory phrases ready. In most interview situations, you will have to wait in reception or somewhere similar for an interviewer to come and collect you. Perhaps you have a brief hello and shake of hands, then into a lift or off across the offices to the correct meeting room.
Make this 'shoulder' period as relaxed as possible by chatting to your interviewer. Ask about which teams are based in the building, comment on a recent industry development, or ask how long they've been with the business. Even just talking about the weather is better than silence, and will leave you feeling much more relaxed.
Focus on The Pace of Your Speech
Recent research revealed the patterns of behavior that became more pronounced with interview anxiety. In a controlled experiment, researchers videotaped mock job interviews of 125 undergraduate students. These were then reviewed to assess the interviewees’ anxiety, with the team looking for mannerisms, and cues like fiddling with clothing, fidgeting or avoiding their gaze.
Interestingly, the interviewers and the undergrads themselves only agreed on one indicator of nervousness - speed of speech. If you're feeling nervous before an interview, then don't worry so much about possibly blushing or stumbling over an answer, but do consider working on speaking at an even and steady pace under pressure. Practicing this in advance and keeping it in mind during the interview will help manage the anxiety you feel.
Think About Rapport Building
The other interesting finding of the research was that interviewers thought that the most nervous candidates were also the least warm and friendly. Feeling anxious can cause us to clam up and look (and feel) quite stiff and emotionless.
To overcome this, nervy interviewees should work on building rapport and using body language signals like mirroring to increase their perceived warmth. As an anxious candidate, this can seem like a daunting task, but consciously applying open body language techniques, can help enormously. If that's too much, then just simply taking a few deep breaths, telling yourself you are ready, and trying to still your mind before the interview can go a long way. You want to allow your natural self to shine through, so overthinking it can be counter productive if you're extremely anxious.
Strike a Pose
Bear with me on this one. Striking a power pose into the bathroom mirror before you walk through the doors to your interview could be just what you need to land the job.
Just as your state of mind can physically affect the way you feel, your body can affect your mindset; and it's proven that certain 'power poses' can help trick your body and brain into increased confidence. Check out Amy Cuddy's TED talk on the topic if you're not convinced. You might feel a little bit odd pulling a 'superman' in front of the mirror, but if it gives you the edge (and nobody catches you doing it), then what have you got to lose?
Handling interview anxiety is a learned skill. You might not nail it first time, but be assured that every interview you do, you will learn something new and get that step closer to managing the nerves.
You can not control everything about the interview environment. The only way you can really calm the nerves is to accept that they're there, and be as prepared as possible. Tell yourself that you are ready for this, and then trust your instincts to help you through on the day. It might take a few goes, but eventually the right role for you will come along, and everything will click into place on the day. Take a deep breath and go for it.
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