Job interviews can be stressful events as they can trigger insecurities, fears of uncertainty as to how the interview may go and anxiety. Fortunately, counselling, mindfulness and psychology strategies can help with managing and conquering the stress and anxiety that may be experiences before a job interview.
1. Prepare and practise as much as possible
Sometimes anxiety, stress and fear arise because a situation is an unknown. When a situation is uncertain or difficult to control fully, the mind can perceive this as a potential threat.
Preparing oneself as much as possible beforehand and finding out as much information as possible helps "take the sting" out of this perceived threat. It is likely to identify ways of dealing with what may happen and to increase your sense of control over the situation.
2. Label your feelings to control them
An effective technique to distance oneself from one's feelings is to write them down. This allows the persistent cycle of strong feelings to be broken and stopped; it allows to get those feelings "outside of one's head".
A useful way of doing this is to "label" feelings and name them specifically so they can be identified, isolated and controlled. For example: "fear: fear that I will embarrass myself in front on the interviewers". It can be done on a scrap of paper and you can literally get rid of the paper and metaphorically get rid of the feeling straight after.
3. Visualise success
Imagine yourself do well at your interview. In your mind's eye, visualise you walking into the interview with confidence and self-assuredness, see yourself do well and walk out with your head high. See yourself successful and believe that you are going to be successful.
4. Take deep breaths
When the mind is anxious, it often sends a message to the body that it is facing a threat. As a response to this perceived threat, the mind may go into "fight or flight" mode. The breath gets shallower and the heart starts to beat faster. To counteract this tendency, focus on your breath and start taking deeper, longer, slower breaths. Ideally, you should feel your breath as low as possible in your belly. This sends a counter-message to the mind that all is well: neither the body nor the mind are under threat.
5. Ground yourself
If anxiety makes you feel lightheaded, alienated and disconnected from your body or from what is around you, ground yourself. These are 3 ways to feel grounded in the present:
- Shift your concentration to your breath and feel it come it in and out of your body. How does it feel when it fills your lungs? How does it feel when it leaves it?
- Shift your concentration to your feet. Your feet are almost always grounded, whether on the floor or on a bed. You can feel them touch the ground and you can feel connected with the present, with the reality around you.
- Shift your concentration to your hands. What are they touching? How does it feel? Is he surface rough or smooth? Is it cold or warm?
If your mind wanders while you are doing this, that is alright. It is not a problem. Try to shift your concentration back to the present and do it until you feel calm. The advantage of this method is that your breath and your body are always there, so you can use this on your way to your interview or even during the interview as a quick way to control any interview nerves.
Exercise, or simply being physically active, is scientifically proven to reduce tension levels, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem. It has been found that a brisk walk or other simple physical activity can deliver several hours of relief, similar to taking an aspirin for a headache. Exercising in nature, including a park, is also particularly effective at calming one's nerves.
7. Condition your mind to enjoy your interview
Your interview is a way for you to present your achievements, your skills and your potential. The interviewers are clearly interested in you already, otherwise they would not have selected you specifically and invited you in for an interview. In any case, however it will go, it will be an experience from which you can learn. So you have everything to gain: new life experience, possibly new professional connections and a new job.
If you do not find it easy to think this way, try to change your perception of your upcoming interview little by little, day by day. Every day, tell yourself that it will be an enjoyable experience and think of what you can gain from it. Aim to associate positive, confident thoughts with the interview and disassociate any feeling of anxiety from it. If needed, for example if you have a deep-rooted anxiety related to public speaking, hypnosis can help you make this association quickly and effectively.
8. However your interview goes, you are going to be fine: what is the worst thing that can happen?
First of all, the worst case scenario you may image is not likely to materialise. The worst case scenario is a product of emotion, rather than of rational thinking. It can be helpful to acknowledge that this is what you are worried about. It is also helpful to accept this fear for what it is: a feeling that is not rational and that comes and goes depending on many factors, such as your mood, whether you are having a good day, how much sleep you have had.
Whilst accepting your feelings, try to cultivate a positive mindset, little by little, day by day. Work to convince yourself that you are going to be alright, no matter what happens at this interview. You are still going to be a person of worth and value and the people who love you and whom you love are still going to love you just the same.
9. Embrace your anxiety
If you are finding yourself getting anxious or nervous during the interview, embrace it and turn it into a positive. Say something along the lines of: "I am sorry. It looks like I am getting anxious. That is because I really want to work for this company because..."
Recognising one's vulnerabilities humanises oneself because people respond well to others showing honesty and vulnerability: it helps create an emotional rapport with the interviewers. Also, it reinforces the message that you genuinely care about working for and with the organisation. The practical advantage is that now your possible anxiety is no longer something you may be trying to fight, so you are likely to start feeling more and more at ease and to prevent yourself from getting more anxious.
10. Nobody is perfect: be compassionate with yourself
Not every interview will go as well as it might: that is life and is to be expected. Nobody does everything right all the times and, in hindsight, you may have done things differently if you had had another chance. Perhaps you have the tendency to beat yourself up in these situations. Scientists have discovered that people tend to overestimate how harshly others will judge them, whether it is a gaffe or they are personal shortcomings (it is the cognitive bias called "harshness bias"). The reality is that your interviewers are likely to have had different perspective on your interview. Even if you could have done better, the chances are they will have already forgotten about it.
Nobody is perfect and everyone makes mistakes. You probably do not expect anyone to be perfect, so nobody expects you to be perfect! Have compassion for yourself: you matter, regardless of how your interview went.
Best of luck with your upcoming interview. And do not forget to reward yourself afterwards. You are likely to have done very well simply by being selected for the interview in a very competitive job market. However the interview goes, reward yourself for any anxiety you have had to face, any challenge that you have had to confront and anything new that you have learnt about yourself or your profession. You deserve it!
Alexis Faber is an expert in body language, cognitive psychology and deception-detection. She is the founder of In-Sight, which uses unique a skill-set to train organisations on body language, cognitive bias, equality in the workplace, and to advise organisations on HR matters. Alexis can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or via https://www.in-sight-edge.com/.