Before an interview, during an interview, and afterward are the three key occasions that we tend to become agitated. Since I’ve had extensive experience with this method from discussing it with clients over the years, let me go over a few strategies for reducing tension in these conditions.
PRIOR TO THE INTERVIEW
There are a variety of stresses that can occur, ranging from worry that causes us to become tired and lose focus to last-minute rushing, which can cause a lot of stress.
While it’s a good idea to do some background research on the work, the business, and the industry in general, it’s a good idea to give yourself plenty of time to do it. Rushing and cramming information the night before not only causes tension, but it also contributes to short-term memory, making us more vulnerable to losing vital information when we need it. Allowing enough time will help us escape stress and enables us to maintain valuable details while also allowing for any unforeseen events.
GET ENOUGH REST:
Get a restful night’s sleep. Although this varies from person to person, the average person should get about 8 hours of sleep a night. This rest is critical not only the night before an interview but also during the period after we find out we have the interview. After all, lying in bed at night and worrying about the interview – or any other concerns for that matter – us from getting the rest we need. If this continues night after night, our wellbeing, as well as our levels of critical focus required for the interview, will suffer.
ALLOW ENOUGH TIME TO GET READY AND ARRIVE AT THE INTERVIEW BEFORE THE INTERVIEW:
One of the most stressful things we can do is rush before an interview. Rushing can trigger anxiety because we believe being late for an interview is one of the most severe interview errors we can make. The best piece oadvice I can give you is to wake up early on the day of the interview. Leave plenty of time to get ready and eat a nutritious and hearty breakfast (and lunch if the interview is in the late afternoon). Avoid overeating food, because this can exhaustion. To allow for this extra time, it’s also a good idea to leave the house earlier than we would otherwise for the same trip – and to arrive at the interview early (about 10 minutes prior to the scheduled interview period). Too early or too late can be off-putting, and waiting for an interview can make us feel anxious. If we arrive early, it is best to take a quick walk around the neighborhood, or simply sit quietly. Whatever happens, try not to get too worked up about it. As we wait to be invited for the interview, we can relax by reading some promotional material from the company or something on our phone.
DURING THE CONVERSATION
Every second counts in a job interview, and tension is the emotion that is most unhelpful.
MEET THE INTERVIEWER AND ENTER THE ROOM SLOWLY AND CALMLY:
This is one of those occasions when the tension will appear out of nowhere and without notice. We may be relatively calm up to this point, but the moment we step through the door and see the interviewer(s) in front of us, the tension may hit us like a ton of bricks. This is also a time when people panic – ie. running through the door and sitting down without introducing themselves – which is awful etiquette. Walk confidently into the room while taking several deep breaths (in through the mouth and out through the nose) will help you avoid ‘reaching “the tension wall.” This will also give you a more professional and assured appearance.
LISTEN AND CONSIDER BEFORE ANSWERING ANY QUESTIONS:
This may seem obvious, but in the heat of the moment, people forget to do this. We often hear what we want to hear rather than what has been asked, particularly in these types of situations. For example, we may realize halfway through that we’re answering the wrong question or that we’re not answering it correctly. This can cause us to come to a halt, throw us off track, and result in a lack of faith that is difficult to regain in a short period of time. It is preferable to take your time and get things right rather than running and making mistakes (creating more work and stress for ourselves). People in interviews who have the confidence to admit they didn’t hear the question correctly and ask if I could repeat it have always impressed me.
Ask whether it is all right to take notes. This demonstrates interest and trust, (and the ability to distract our minds from tension by looking down at the paper and doing something physical, such as writing). It also gives us a sense of control over our surroundings, which can help relieve stress.
IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE INTERVIEW
This is a period that is seldom explored, but it can be just as stressful as the interview itself. The key source of stress here is leaving the interview room and building, followed by the wait for news about whether we were hired or not. Although there is little we can do at this point to influence the outcome of the interview or the operations of HR departments, this stress can have a negative effect on us and our future discussions – especially if a prior rejection has significantly harmed our trust.
LEAVE THE INTERVIEW ROOM SLOWLY AND CALMLY:
I’ve met with people who did an excellent job during the interview but were in a rush at the end to get out of the room. In some instances, a person’s bad last impression in an interview is just as significant as their first, and a bad last impression will eradicate the positive first. I once interviewed someone who was so eager to get out of the interview room that they spilled a cup of coffee all over the desk, destroying my notes in the process. I’ve also heard of a people who were in such a hurry to get out of the room they exited through the wrong entrance, walking into a storage cupboard. To prevent this, simply exchange small pleasantries at the end of the interview, slowly gather all of your things, and shake hands with everyone in the room. During any interview, we would almost certainly be shown out of the space and to the elevator or the main entrance. Simply be yourself and engage in small talk to demonstrate that you are human and have a personality. Although the interviewers may be in a hurry to see the next interviewee, be swift, don’t interrupt them, but don’t rush and certainly don’t freak out. When you’re outside the building and out of sight of the interviewers, you can relax.
RESIST THE TEMPTATION TO ANALYZE THE INTERVIEW AFTER IT HAS ENDED:
No matter how difficult it is, there is little point in analyzing it. A fter all, we will be tempted to overanalyze and find fault no matter how well or poorly we think it went. This can result in even more unnecessary tension. It is important not to lose hope if we are told that we have been rejected for the work. This can lead to even more stress, which can damage our job opportunities in the future.
These are a few of the approaches I’ve recommended to clients over the years due to my own experience. These should help to alleviate anxiety during work interviews. Not only the job interview itself but the planning and time following the discussion – waiting for the results – can be stressful.
I hope that these ideas will be helpful to you in the future.
ABOUT JEFF ALTMAN, THE BIG GAME HUNTER
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching, and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 2100 episodes.
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