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How to reduce interview anxiety

I was talking to a client recently who was in the process of applying for jobs and although she came across as a reasonably confident person, she said that she gets nervous in interviews and feels that she doesn’t come across well. 

I asked her where her interview anxiety stemmed from and she said it was caused by two things:

  • the stakes are higher now: so many people likely to be applying for the same jobs because of Covid-19
  • she feels he’s being interrogated and is under pressure to come up with answers on the spur of the moment

So let’s take a look at each of these in turn:

Higher stakes require clearer intention

Yes, there’s no two ways about it: there will be more people applying for jobs because of the pandemic.  What that means is that you need to be clear about which jobs to go for and understand why you’re going for those jobs.  Having that clarity of intention may itself help you feel more confident.

To get that clarity, first consider what it is that you want the job to give you (apart from money to pay the bills) that will help you move forward in your career.  

This may be supervisory experience, customer care, exposure to a new sector, acquisition of new skills, etc..  If you have a sound professional reason for applying for the job, you’ll feel more authentic answering the question: “Why have you applied for this job?” 

Secondly, what are you going to give the job? If you’ve done a thorough analysis of the job description and identified some strong links between what they need and what you have to offer – you’ll have some compelling reasons for you to be considered even if the job is in an unfamiliar sector. 

Central to understanding what you have to offer will be an understanding of your strengths, specifically the innate patterns of thinking, feeling and behaviour that are distinctive to you. These will determine how you approach a role and what you contribute.  A tool that can help you identify them is Gallup’s CliftonStrengths® assessment. (If you would like to find out more about this, please get in touch.) 

There are of course other things that you bring to the table such as previous experiences that are relevant to this context and specialist skills and knowledge.  Careful thought needs to be given to exactly what is going to be of interest to this particular interview panel given what they need help with.  

Which feeds into…

Interrogation

One way to reduce the feeling of being interrogated is to reverse the power dynamic and see yourself as a consultant. What problems do they need you to help them with? What is the expertise that you can bring that will help them? And what solutions can you offer given the expertise you have? 

If you’re thinking as a consultant before you walk into the room, you’ll already have considered the sort of questions they may want answers to.  So the interview should be less about interrogation and more about sitting down together to discuss what’s required and how you might approach the job.

And if you’ve done your homework in terms of researching the business/organisation, and preparing answers for possible questions that you think they may ask, you should be able to manage reasonably well even if a question comes up that you haven’t thought of. 

You may even find yourself saying, ‘Good question, I realise I hadn’t thought of that one before the interview but off the top of my head this is what I think.…’  

People appreciate a bit of honesty and they may well rephrase the question which will give you time to think up an answer.

A health warning

Not all interviewers are good at interviewing. They may be inexperienced and/or they may not have an HR colleague advising them on good practice.  

In addition, in order to treat all candidates fairly, they may have compiled a set of questions to put to each person. The structure that these provide can make the ‘discussion’ feel somewhat stilted. But if you keep in mind the idea that you’re the consultant, and they’re talking to you to find out if you can help them, that may help you to retain your composure. 

A meeting of minds

The bottom line is that a good interview shouldn’t feel too much like an interrogation. Rather, it should feel like a meeting of minds: both parties (you and the interviewers) are interested in and care about the same things and recognise the importance of the work that needs to be done.  The question is really: Are you a good match for each other?

If you have an interview coming up that you’d like help preparing for, get in touch to arrange an appointment.



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