Career Coaching HR Consulting Hartford CT

Overcoming Interview Anxiety

April 7, 2022

If the prospect of your next interview makes you sweat, you are in good company. Interviews can play on our insecurities, but it’s very possible to overcome these with preparation and a positive mindset. Over a long career in Human Resources, I’m able to identify factors that make for a memorable, compelling interview leading to a job offer. I am also able to identify with the anxiety this situation can create, particularly as a feeling introvert. As such, I am able to offer thoughts and share feelings from both perspectives as the interviewer, and the interviewee.

Here are seven tips that can help calm nerves and lead to better preparation for your next interview:

1. A little research goes a long way.

Find out as much as you can – about the company, about the role you’re interviewing for, and about the interview process. It is completely acceptable to ask what the interview process will entail, and often the company will include that information when you schedule your interview appointment. For example, an interview might include a writing sample, or lunch with the interview team – knowing this in advance can be helpful. Information helps you to envision the process, and place you in a more confident frame of mind.

Do: Know the basics about the company – their product or service, their mission and values, what makes them unique. It is not necessary to memorize their website or review their financials. Be informed, so you know what resonates with you.

Do: Pay attention to the information provided about the role. Formulate good questions and make sure you have a chance to talk to those who know the details of the job. This is usually the hiring manager, or someone who would be a peer to you in the job.

Do: If you know whom you will speak with, it pays to know a little about their background; you might start with their LinkedIn profile or a bio on the company website.

2. Practice centering techniques.

The ability to quiet your mind will make a big difference in terms of your mental and emotional readiness. Worry can wear us down. There are various techniques that allow us to be aware of our thoughts and feelings and how they show up in our body. They are available on apps like Headspace and Calm, and can include guided centering practices. It can be as simple as 5 minutes of being aware of your breath, or reading words of affirmation or a favorite poem, or doing anything that effectively allows you to be present and in the moment.

Pay more attention to the effect it has on you, rather than worrying about how long you engage in the behavior or whether it fits a traditional mindfulness modality. Like the Pina Colada song says, “If you’re not into yoga…” Wait, I’m not recommending Pina Coladas for centering. I am terrible at meditation and anything that involves total stillness, like yoga. I’m working on it, but it’s a process.

3. Work through your responses ahead of time.

If you know the position for which you are interviewing (which is important), the questions shouldn’t be a total surprise. While you can’t predict these specific questions, expect that the skills listed in the job ad will be a likely focus. I recommend making a list of the top five to eight skills that are key to success in the role, and have clear examples of when, how and where you’ve used those skills.

What was the situation? Be specific.

What were the actions you took (which demonstrate your use of the skill)?

What was the outcome of that situation, and what did you learn from that experience?

This is commonly known as the behavior interviewing method, and it rests on the idea that past performance indicates the ability for future success. Interviewers will look for all three parts to your answer: situation, action and outcome. It’s happened many times that a candidate who is less prepared may choose an example where the outcome was not positive – such as a team project that resulted in individual members leaving the team, or problems with cohesiveness and collaboration, leading to the team not achieving their goal. With the benefit of predicting a question on teamwork, a well prepared candidate will have the opportunity to choose a positive example.

One thing I’ve learned is that once you gain confidence in your subject matter, interviewing can be FUN! I would take an interview over small talk in a large ballroom 100 out of 100 times.

4. Bring your passion to the interview.

Sometimes our nerves dampen our spirit, and cause us to show up preoccupied. Candidates may arrive looking down at their phone, flustered from getting lost on their way, or wearing their stress. If you want the job, your body language and tone should convey that excitement. Another possible reason to interview is if you are exploring the role, but you should still put your best foot forward. Passionate people show their enthusiasm, they show up eager and ready to showcase their abilities. Your words can express your confidence and passion for the work you want to do in the world. After all, our work should be a source of pride, joy and meaning!

5. Schedule strategically, and know where you are going (in person or virtually).

I am not my best before coffee or 9 AM. Typically, you will provide your availability to the interview coordinator. People who worry prefer doing something sooner rather than later, to not delay what we perceive as hard things. This can be a great reason to ask for an earlier interview day or time. However, if you feel you have the most energy at 2 pm after your power-walk, ask for an afternoon interview. Think about what else may be happening in your life, and try to find a time that will lend to the most presence. For example, I once scheduled an interview into the following week because I was scheduled for upcoming leadership training. Feeling inspiration would follow, I wanted to take advantage of the positive charge from the new learning. Be aware that putting off the interview is not usually advisable, but was deliberate in this situation.

On a related note, make sure you know where you are going, how to get there, where to check in and who to ask for. All of this information should be provided, but it is up to you to make sure you have it. If your interview is virtual, test your technology a few days before. Make sure your microphone and speakers are working properly, and that you have the link to connect.

6. Day of: Quiet your mind.

It’s the day of your interview. Think back to your experience as a high school student. Cracking open the book for 15 minutes before the test is probably not going to help – that is to say, now is not the time to work yourself up about your answers or your preparation. You are better off investing in doing things that help you quiet your mind. Have lunch with a friend who makes you laugh, spend time with your family, and tap into what brings on your calm, happy and confident self. Nothing quiets my mind like picking up my camera, being out in nature, or listening to a running brook. What is important is what works for you. If jamming out to 80s music makes you feel invincible, I say do that!

Also, remember that worrying is not an effective technique. Vast amounts of research have been done on this, and it is simply wasted energy, unproductive. I learned this as a nervous ten year old, but this was brought to me again by Brené Brown in her new book Atlas of the Heart. It’s a must read for ages 15-105.

7. Remember that the company is invested in the process and wants you to succeed.

Interviewers get nervous too. We want to fill the position, we need the right candidate, and right now, there is a talent shortage. So we show up nervous too sometimes. We are invested in a good outcome, and we feel the pain of the vacancy. So just remember that everyone involved in this process is probably feeling some vulnerability.

You can work through the above practices on your own or with the help of a good friend, but know that a career coach can also get you ready for the interview. If you need help preparing for your next interview, it would be my honor to work with you!

Cover image credit  Christina @