Do you have a job interview coming up?  Feeling sick?  Can’t sleep?  A bit distracted?  You’re not alone.  I’m sure you’ve already been there before and ‘messed up’ at least one interview in your life with nerves taking control of you.  For many people, just the thought of a job interview makes their stomachs churn and palms sweat.  Job interviews are considered one of the most stressful life experience events in a group of stress triggers including moving house and marriage problems. In an interview it’s not uncommon for people to experience a ‘mental block’, their brain just goes into shutdown and even easy questions leave them totally blank.  The other common experience is an inability to speak, “the words just got stuck in my throat”.  Has that ever happened to you?  Well, now you know its normal to feel stressed, what can you do about it?

The most important thing is to accept the anxiety is real and ok.  This kind of anxiety is related to fear.  But where does the fear come from?  If you desperately want that job, or just a job, or to get out of the house or whatever else the reason might be, you will find that there is always something at stake when you respond with anxiety to a situation.  Anxiety is a threat response.  In other words, something you want or value is threatened.  In a job interview, the interviewer stands in the way of what you want, don’t they?!  So you perceive this as a threat because someone else has control over you and over what is important to you.  They have control over your work/career future, your financial freedom or other needs that the job might meet.  The more important it is to you, the more anxious you will be; the fear rises subconsciously and you can’t do anything about it and it sticks in your throat.  And even worse, you give a total stranger control over the situation!  Aargh!  So, in order to manage this anxiety, you need to consider the value or weight of the importance of getting this job.  You need to create a ‘strategy’ or two to find other ways to take control back and reduce the imbalance between yourself and the potential employer’s power over you in this situation.  There are a couple of ways you can do this.

  1. Use the ‘hidden job market’. Over 70% of jobs are never advertised.  Use your networks, get referrals and get personal introductions to potential employers and go in the ‘back door’.  Ask for a 10 minute chat, take someone for a coffee, or go to networking events.
  2. Target the decision makers. Find out who makes the decisions about recruiting in the organisation and get to know them, ideally when they are relaxed at networking events, at a bar or playing golf.  EA’s and Receptionists are talented gatekeepers.  The more comfortable you are around these people the easier it will be to be yourself in the interview.
  3. Research the company thoroughly. The more you know about the company, the more comfortable you will be ‘seeing yourself’ working there.  You want the interviewer to think you are already ‘one of them’.  Dress similarly, incorporate a colour from their logo in your outfit and most importantly visit the business site or office, work out where you will park and get there really early so you can do some meditating before you go in.
  4. Put yourself in the shoes of the interviewer. Think about it, most in-house interviewers have not been trained and feel uncomfortable themselves and really don’t want to be there either.  See them as another person doing a job, not the ‘enemy’.  Even if it’s a recruitment company, they are asking questions they’ve been told to ask.  They too are trying to find the right person and it might just be you.  You have an interview, so there must be something ok about you!
  5. Remember, it’s not about you, it’s about them. They have a need to fill a role and have a particular requirement.  The purpose of the interview is for them to find out if you fit their need.  Answer their questions honestly, and explain you are what they need.
  6. Focus on the value you bring. If you don’t believe you would be great in this role and that you are the answer to their prayers, why should they?  Belief in your value is critical to lock in before you send off the resume, otherwise don’t waste your time or theirs.
  7. Give yourself more options. Reduce the weight of importance of that job, and this will reduce your anxiety as it reduces the degree of threat.
  8. Face the fear. The power of most fear is subconscious.  Do a visualisation exercise and allow the fear to come up so you can face it, then do something to it.  Cut it off, smash it, stomp on it, burn it, shoot it, turn it into a butterfly and let it fly away.  The mind is more powerful than your emotions.  Put it to work to set you up for success not failure!
  9. If they choose not to choose you, it’s their choice. You have done your homework, faced your fear, presented yourself to the best of your ability and walked out the door.  The rest is up to them.  There is no more you can do.  So plan something fun or enjoyable to do after the interview so you have something to look forward to.  And remember, ‘what is for you will not pass you’.

And this is the key to creating your own solution to the problem of interview anxiety.

Blog written by Meredith Telfer, Careers Specialist and Employee Engagement Expert at Harvest Human Resources.

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