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Overcoming Anxiety Before a Job Interview

Updated on August 13, 2015
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A job interview can open the door to a better life with a lot more money in the bank and a fulfilling career. It is no wonder, then, that we feel anxious and nervous before we face a recruiter for the first time. The possibility of rejection is a scary reality. We worry about not answering the questions correctly, blanking out, looking foolish, or that we wore the wrong outfit. We can, however, address all of these issues and use our anxiety to help instead of hinder us.

Stress and anxiety before an interview can be a sign that we want to do well in the interview and really want the job. Our anxiety can motivate us to be prepared, energize us, and keep us alert. Anxiety can also have negative effects such as distracting us, weakening our memory, make us blurt out something we wish we hadn’t, and hold us back from doing our best. Anxiety may bring
out nervous habits that will distract the interviewer such as fidgeting, or tapping a foot or a pen.

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Some tips to calm down fear and anxiety

Food and drink: Eat something light before the interview to keep you from being light-headed or distracted by hunger. Avoid eating a heavy meal can make you feel sluggish. Avoid caffeine and alcohol.

Check yourself in the mirror after eating and drinking. You do not want to have food residue on your teeth or stains on your clothes from dribbling coffee.

Calm down: Do not try to force yourself to become calm as that will just increase your stress level. Use other methods such as listening to music or deep breathing. Get a good night’s sleep the night before the interview. It is normal for anxiety to cause dry mouth, health palpitations, shaking, and sweating.

Prepare: Anxiety about the interview can be calmed down by preparing for the interview ahead of time. Here are some ways you can get ready:

  • Research the organization. Check their website to find out what they do and their mission, and note areas that match your skills
  • and experience. Their website will also give you a sense of their organizational culture
  • Drive to the location before the interview, keeping track of how long it takes to get there. Allow yourself a lot of time to get to the
  • interview, taking into account possible traffic delays or late flights. Dress for success – wearing appropriate business attire will give
  • you confidence and an air of competence
  • Do not smoke before the interview, as the smell will get on your clothes
  • Turn off your cell phone, having it on is rude and disrespectful to the interviewer
  • Practice your responses to interview questions. There may be unexpected queries, but you can predict most of them, such as “Tell
  • me about yourself,” “What are your strengths,” or “what is your greatest weakness?”
  • Prepare a question or two in case the recruiter asks if you have any questions about the job, the company, etc.
  • Practice explaining your job experience, skills, and goals, and relate them to the position
  • Do a mock interview, if possible, at a career center at your college, or with friends
  • Go over your resume and the job description right before the interview to keep facts fresh in your mind
  • Maintain your confidence – remember, the interviewer called you in because you were a promising fit as a potential employee
  • Be ready to smile and acknowledge a receptionist (if there is one) and the interviewer with a polite greeting
  • Interviewers are often harried and behind schedule. If the interviewer has to say, "Sorry to keep you waiting, but we are running
  • late," the interviewer will appreciate candidates who respond with a polite response and obvious patience

Breathe: Anxiety can cause your breathing to become shallow. Practice breathing in for four counts, holding for two counts, and exhaling for 4 or more counts. Yoga has a number of helpful breathing techniques.

Relax tense muscles: Anxiety causes tense muscles in areas such as the neck and shoulders. Sighing, holding the breath and exhaling in a sigh, can also relax tense muscles before leaving for the interview. Maintaining proper posture just before the interview can also boost confidence and reduce anxiety.

Write things down: When you are anxious, your head may be spinning with random thoughts. Writing these thoughts down can be therapeutic and will reduce your anxiety. You can write down answers to common interview questions as well. List your accomplishments and go over them to boost your confidence.

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Question your thoughts: Your thoughts may be expressing negative ideas such as "You are not going to get this job" or "You are going to make a fool of yourself." Thinking this way heightens anxiety levels. You should challenge and replace these thoughts with self-affirmation of your confidence and belief in your abilities and experience. Don’t be too hard on yourself or worry about the possibility of being rejected – focus instead on your abilities and accomplishments.

Avoid “catastrophic” thinking, that is, thinking that the world will end if you do not get the job and you will never get such a good opportunity again. This kind of anxiety puts a lot of pressure on you to perform well and increases the chances that you will fall on your face. If you do not succeed, you may beat yourself up for missing or flubbing something. Instead, decrease your anxiety by assuring yourself that if this interview does not work out, other opportunities will come your way. Some of them may be even better than the job you did not get.

Concluding Thoughts

The possibility of a life-changing event such as getting a job we want will naturally cause some anxiety. We can choose to use that anxiety to spur us on to be prepared and keep us alert, rather than allow us to be anxious with negative, disabling thoughts that may sabotage our efforts.

© 2015 Carola Finch

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  • FlourishAnyway profile image

    FlourishAnyway 22 months ago from USA

    Definitely no smoking before the interview. Good tip.

  • Purpose Embraced profile image

    Yvette Stupart PhD 22 months ago from Jamaica

    Thanks Carola for a great hub on overcoming anxiety before a job interview. Situations like job interviews, when people feel that they are being evaluated, usually bring on anxiety.

    Proper preparation is extremely important and I like the tips you gave. I especially like the one on avoiding catastrophic thinking because how we think, affects how we feel and behave.

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