Overcoming Interview Anxiety

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Interview Anxiety by Candidate Tips

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Let’s go back to the basic fact that interviews are a ‘game’. The validity of the interview is usually low. That means that most interviews do not measure how well you will do in the job (which should be their primary purpose). Therefore, overcoming interview anxiety is part of this game.

Why is the interview a game?

  • Interviewee practice effects – put simply, the more interviews you do, the better you get!
  • Interviewer motives – do they want someone who is best for the job, or someone who will not threaten their position?
  • Team requirements – do they already have their quota of ‘high flyers’? Too many high flyers is not good for a team as it requires balance.
  • Interviewer skills – these range from a ‘chat’ through to, at best, scoring the person based on evidence against the role.
    Interviewers are often more nervous than the candidate – as strange as it may sound, it is often the case. Interview anxiety can work both ways!
  • Job requirements – someone has, at some stage stated what the job needs. This is usually associated with a person specification and a job description. They could have got it very wrong, or it may simply be out of date.
  • Interviewer bias – this is a well-researched area. Interviewers tend to be attracted to interviewee’s that are just like they are. “My kind of person.” We often call this the ‘hallo effect’ and ‘horns effect’. If they like you from the start, then they will place a hallo around your head and your responses will be marked slightly higher. If they don’t like you at the start, then they will down-mark you on your answers (Horns effect).
  • Asking the right questions – lots of interviewers have favourite questions. There are many websites out there telling them the best 10, 20 or whatever number of questions. Do you think these web pages would be there if there was no demand? They will ask these favourite questions whether or not they have any applicability to the role.
  • Interviewers are often more nervous than the candidate – as strange as it may sound, it is often the case. Interview anxiety can work both ways!

The primary issue for interviews is the fact that they are subjective. It is this subjectivity we can use to make us seem like the best candidate. You will find out how to do this here. This section of pages provides you with both tactical and strategic methods for overcoming interview anxiety.

Some Tactics for Controlling Interview Anxiety

It is interesting that if you take the letters F E A & R, we could suggest that they stand for Fantasised Experiences Appearing Real. Interview anxiety is usually the result of pictures, feelings and sounds that you create in your mind which lead to conditioned physiological responses or conditioned reflex. The fact is that your mind cannot tell the difference between a real event and a vividly imagined event. The bad news is that you can scare yourself for no real reason except for what you tell yourself about the interview before you even experience it. The good news is that if we know this to be the case, we can also devise strategies to eliminate some of the interview anxiety.

Remember that stress and anxiety before an interview or presentation is NORMAL. To help alleviate try:

  • Deliberate, slow, deep breathing. There is a direct link between heart rate and breathing patterns, and this will help you reduce interview anxiety.
  • Look upwards when you are thinking. This is associated to eye accessing patterns. You look downwards to access feelings, and if you have interview anxiety, that is the place you least want to look. Look upwards as you are thinking.
  • Nothing beats preparation! If you feel in control, you will feel less interview anxiety.
  • Before a meeting, interview or presentation, talk to someone to keep the jaw flexible. Two tricks worth trying are:
    • Bite your tongue. This releases saliva and eliminates a dry mouth.
    • Mouth the word ‘peggy-bab-cock’ to yourself just to get the jaw muscles working again.

When you are nervous, the throat dries up, the heart starts beating swiftly and we talk quickly. So, try:

  • A drink of water.
  • Talk at a slower rate than you would normally.
  • Be over-deliberate and over-enunciate (compensate for the effects of nerves).
  • For presentations be absolutely sure of what you are going to say at the start (even memorise the words).

A Check-list for Overcoming Interview Anxiety

Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the underlying fear that comes from feeling helpless
1. Plan your journey

Do not underestimate this factor for reducing interview anxiety. Know how long it will take you to get there, and then add an hour for delays and to settle yourself before you go into the building. Please be aware that for some businesses it can take 10 to 15 minutes to get through security and to be collected. If you are early, find someone to talk to just to get those jaw muscles moving again, and to get a smile on your face.

2. Get some sleep

Get to bed early and avoid things that will deprive you of sleep such as alcohol, the wrong types of food, and films that are overly thought provoking. Make sure you also have a good breakfast or other meal before the interview. It is amazing how much a rumbling stomach can get into your mind during an interview!

3. Go over your achievements again, and then again!

Interview anxiety is largely caused by thinking about the possible negative consequences of being interviewed, or the interview itself. Let’s reverse this by thinking about the positive consequences. If you have done this achievements exercise, then you will have a list of achievements stating how good you really are, and how much payback you have provided for your employers. This will give you the confidence you want. It will also enable you to answer all of those questions about, “Can you provide me with an example of a time when you….”

4. Think yourself to success!

Imagine yourself doing well in the interview. Imagine the interviewer giving you that knowing look at the end of the interview. Imagine the presentation going well, and the interviewers clapping you at the end. imagine feeling great because you answered all their questions with great evidential examples. Imagine…. If you feel good about yourself, you will perform better and reduce interview anxiety. Smiling releases endorphins that can instantly cheat the brain into making you feel happier. So smile in the interview. It also makes you look enthusiastic, and enthusiasm is the trait that interviewers most like.

5. Research your potential employer

You will feel on more certain ground and will know that you have less chance of being ‘caught out’. Interviewers will often ask questions like, “What do you know about the company?” or, “what makes you want to work here?” These questions tend to come early, and it will help you create a great start to the interview. Confidence will flow from this and interview anxiety will reduce.

Five Truths About FEAR

Susan Jeffers 5 Truths is a great philosophical way of thinking about the inherent fears we face in our lives. And this applies to interview anxiety in equal measure.

1.    The fear will never go away as long as I continue to grow (if you keep growing, you will always face different fears)

2.    The only way of getting rid of the fear is to go out and do something about it

3.    The only way to feel better about myself is to go out and do it

4.    Not only am I going to experience fear whenever I am on unfamiliar territory, but so is everyone else

5.    Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the underlying fear that comes from feeling helpless

There are a number of powerful strategies included below that will help you to get the butterflies to fly in the same direction. Use these repeatedly and the results can be excellent. There are a number of techniques for controlling interview anxiety. You will find the first one, which is technically called ‘anchoring’, right here.

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