Job Interview Anxiety


Many people experience unwanted anxiety when they are told they have successfully applied to a job and have been granted an interview. What they feel often becomes crippling; the mounting pressure building until it is almost paralyzing making the person incapable of making a genuinely good first impression.

For those of us who actually look forward to job interviews and don’t feel this same apprehension, try equating the fear and anxiety experienced by others as the same dread you might feel yourself in some other part of your life. Suppose you opt to renovate your bathroom, need your fan belt and brakes replaced or even having end-of-life discussions with your own parent. There are undoubtedly areas in your own life where you feel anxious, stressful and some kind of mounting pressure.

The key difference between all those other examples I listed above and a job interview, is that while you could get someone else to fix your car, renovate the bathroom or address end-of-life issues, you have to enter the interview room by yourself and succeed in it by yourself. So is it this feeling of performance some fear and in that performance the dread of failing that is at play? Perhaps, but not entirely.

Some other issues that cause anxiety have to do with being judged. You are judged to have performed well enough to get the job, or perhaps to get a second interview – ironically in this situation as having performed well but now having additional anxiety over a second interview and feeling increased pressure to perform a notch higher. And while some people think the level of anxiety rises when the importance of the job itself is higher, there are a great number of people who feel immense anxiety when going for what are generally considered to be entry-level jobs. To them, their anxiety is just as real as the high rollers going for corporate executive jobs.

I hear many people say they wish they could by-pass the job interview entirely and just apply for a job and be told when they start. Wishing and hoping for this to happen however is more fantasy than reality. Employers look at the interview as their chance to meet a potential employee, hear them speak, visualize them in the workplace working alongside other employees, checking for the chemistry that will exist if they are hired etc.

One piece of good advice to consider is to be genuine in the interview. Sometimes you might hear this expressed as, “just be yourself”. If you can be genuine in the interview but at the same time ratchet up your professionalism, you stand an excellent chance of finding the right fit. By ratcheting up your professionalism, I simply mean that there are times when you are on your best behaviour in life but true to who you are, and the job interview is one of those times. If the employer likes you for who you are then you’ve found a good fit. If you are genuine but the employer passes you over for someone else, it may be that the job wouldn’t have been a good fit for them, for you or both.

Now back for a moment to fixing your car, renovating your basement or having that end-of-life discussion etc. mentioned at the outset of this piece. Were you in any of those situations, good advice would be to do a little reading, (possibly a lot of reading!) on the subject you were about to tackle. You might want to experiment on cutting a piece of pipe and soldering it back together before you shut off the water and cut your bathroom sink lines for the first time. That experimental run through builds one’s confidence to repeat that success on the important job. In your mind, you can easily recall the success you had earlier, and so you go at it with confidence.

Job interviews are much the same. Reading up on the company, knowing the job you are applying to, and having a few mock interviews to build your confidence has the same impact; your confidence rises and your anxiety decreases. The mechanic who has installed thousands of brakes is confident and feels very little apprehension and anxiety when compared to the rookie apprentice doing it for the first time when the customer is in the waiting area.

Does it make much sense then to put off practicing and going through a few dry runs before going to the interview you place so much importance in? Probably not if we are being honest. The people who tend to, ‘wing it’ usually do poorly. Charm and good manners might get you past the, “Tell me about yourself”, question but that’s it. Without practice and confidence, we’d see that same person grow increasingly anxious under scrutiny; and that anxiety tends to manifest itself in sweating, fidgeting, finger-tapping and losing good eye contact.

So, read up on the company, go over the skills and qualification in the job posting, practice your interview with someone who will give you honest feedback. Breathe! View this interview as a conversation you are having about an opportunity. You have needs and so do they. You need a job, they need a qualified employee.

Build your confidence on small successes. Smile. And the more interviews you get, the better you’ll perform.

All the best to you today!

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