If you’re like many people, you probably don’t practice your interview skills when you are employed. It naturally follows then that you can go for years between job interviews. As with most things, the length of time between when you last went through job interviews and the present is likely to affect your confidence in your ability to do well.
So if it’s been some time since you last had a job interview, it’s completely understandable that your skills are rusty. Maybe things have changed a lot since you’re last series of interviews; maybe you got interviewed and hired with the first job you applied to last time around and so you’re even under the mistaken impression that job interviews are a breeze and getting a job is actually quite simple.
For most, job interviews aren’t something to look forward to. Whether you’re out of work entirely or looking to move from one job to another or one company to another, thinking about job interviews alone can be stressful. That feeling of being under a microscope and being examined, interrogated, drilled, pumped for information, testing your computer software skills, having to prove you’ve got the skills and that your personality is the right fit so you don’t rock the atmosphere of the workplace – it can be very intimidating.
Now, consider the plight that those with clinical anxiety feel. It’s like taking all the above and adding this extra level of nervousness, anxiety and pressure. You can’t just say, “Get over it” and expect a person to respond, “Oh okay. You’re right. (Breath)… I feel so much better.” Don’t kid yourself; people with acute anxiety face a real personal challenge with job interviews and it takes a great deal of energy to deal with the lead up to a job interview and keep putting out that energy long enough to survive until it’s over.
Now unless you live with anxiety yourself, this might be hard to truly comprehend. The best way to develop some empathy for others experiencing anxiety and facing the prospect of job interviews is to first imagine something you feel anxiety over yourself. Think of your fear of heights, being a confined space, out in the woods alone on a pitch black night; whatever brings on the nerves for you. Now, further picture yourself having to experience your greatest fear a number of times; doing the thing you want to avoid, not in some effort to overcome your fear, but rather as something you must do – and do alone – to get something that you must have. For people with true anxiety, that’s the interview experience.
And this is what empathy is all about isn’t it? Listening to someone else talk about their fear and then going to a place in your own mind where you can get in touch with that same feeling. While you might not feel the same way about job interviews yourself, you just might be able to feel something close to what their feeling about some other event or situation.
I tell you this; many of the people I support and partner with as they prepare for job interviews have heightened levels of anxiety. In some cases, I can see clearly where the anxiety stems from, but not always. How a person imagines the interview often is different from my perception of the job interview. Take the people who have repeatedly been told they aren’t going to amount to much; the ones who have been put down, seldom if ever complimented and given words of encouragement. The prospect of going head-to-head with a job interviewer – or worse a panel of job interviewers – is daunting. Yes, feeling you have to sell yourself and prove you’re the best person when you’ve been told repeatedly you’re not by those closest to you is almost insurmountable.
The job interview therefore can be a pain; not figuratively but literally. As the body experiences the stress you feel, it attempts to regulate itself and get back to normal; whatever your normal is. A little stress every so often it can handle, increasing levels of stress coming every so often it can also deal with. However, heightened levels of stress on a fairly regular basis it can’t, meaning living this way on a daily basis could have you headed for a breakdown or illness of some kind. It’s like the body says, “If the brain can’t figure out how to deal with what I’m feeling, I’ll just shut down for a bit and heal”; so you get a cold or just have to lie down and rest for 2-3 days doing next to nothing.
This elevated state of anxiety can and does affect how and when you sleep, what you eat and how frequent. It can impact on your ability to keep food down, cause you to feel aches and pains, stress points, get headaches, become irritable, experience mood swings etc. Do you see how the prospect of a job interview on top of these can almost be paralyzing to some people to the point where they say, “I just can’t do it”; and they’re right.
This doesn’t mean of course people with anxiety should get a free pass. They know job interviews are necessary to pick the right candidate. Often, people with interview anxiety are the best ones for the job. It’s just getting past the interview.