The minute you hung up the phone, it likely washed over you — you’re up for the job you’ve always wanted, but you’re in a panic over the interview. Whether it’s tomorrow or two weeks from now doesn’t matter; your palms are sweaty and all you can see is several different versions of you screwing it all up.
Nervousness before a job interview is pretty normal, and pretty manageable. But performance anxiety is a tougher nut to crack. In both cases, adrenaline can cause your heart to race and your voice to stutter. Your fear of blowing it only makes these feelings worse. Managing these symptoms early is key, and preparation lays the groundwork for a more painless interview process.
You want your qualifications and glowing personality to shine, and fear of failure only gets in the way of this. Walking in that stuffy room poised and composed begins long before your interview appointment.
The longer you have to prepare, the better equipped you’ll be on interview day. But even if the hiring manager squeezed you in last minute, you should find time for a few of these anxiety fighting techniques.
Anxiety is a tricky bastard. Your fears will have you picturing a variety of horrible interview outcomes — the one where you can’t remember your job history or what makes you qualified, the one where you’re sweating profusely and the interviewer hands you a paper towel, or the one where you trip walking into the office.
There’s a common theme in these visions — they’re unlikely and often unrealistic. But your brain doesn’t know that. It sees these worst case scenarios and responds with even more anxiety. You have to put the breaks on this.
From today until the day of your interview, take time to envision success. Relax, close your eyes, and imagine the interview going perfectly.
You walk into the room with your head held high; you feel confident and secure. You look put together and when you speak to the interviewer, only the perfect words come out. You’re at ease — you smile easily and find it effortless to talk about yourself and what makes you the perfect candidate for the job. When it’s time to leave, the manager hints that the job is yours: “It was so great to meet you; you seem like the perfect candidate for this position. I’ll be in touch in the next few days, but I have a really good feeling about this.”
When you’re practicing this visualization, really try to feel what this ideal experience would feel like — easy, calm, even effortless. In the same way your visions of failure can cause your body to panic, these visions of success can help you build confidence.
Think about all of the possible questions you may be asked for this job, and formulate your answers. Write this Q&A down, so you can rehearse it like a script. You want to know your responses well enough that they’ll roll off your tongue and sound casual when it’s time.
There are countless online sources with sample interview questions for you to start with, but “tell me about yourself,” “what makes you the right candidate for this job?” and “tell me about one experience where you were met with on-the-job conflict and how you resolved it,” are all good starting points.
Take some time to research the company and the position they’re hiring you for. You don’t want to make the mistake of glowing over small businesses only to find out the employer was bought out by a large corporation several years ago.
Hiring managers love to see candidates that have done their homework, and those that are as interested in the company as they’d want the company to be interested in them. If you’re able to tell the interviewer all the ways in which this company is a good fit for you, they’re more likely to see you as a good fit for them.
Have someone work with you on a mock interview. The closer this feels to the real thing, the more effective it will be. So, if you can, find an office to use and dress the part.
You don’t want to scramble around for the right outfit or copies of your resume just before you have to leave for the interview. You want that morning to feel as easy as possible, so prepare everything the night before. Lay your suit out, pack your briefcase, and leave nothing to chance.
If any nerves remain the day of the interview, you’ll be filled with energy. Use this energy by getting a workout in that morning. Nothing crazy — you don’t want to show up with a sprained ankle — but burn off some of that excess adrenaline.
Caffeine is not your friend when you’re already battling job interview anxiety, so skip the coffee and soda on that day. Also, the last thing you want is your stomach to rumble when there’s a lull in conversation, so eat something before you go in.
Like we said — it’s normal to be nervous for an interview. The tips above can help quell some of those feelings. However, if you struggle with performance anxiety, also known as stage fright, those tips may fall short.
How do you know the difference? Performance anxiety is a diagnosable social phobia. Ask yourself the following questions:
If the answers to these are yes, you may benefit from more than preparation tips.
It’s unclear just how many people suffer from performance anxiety, but it isn’t uncommon. Certainly take steps to prepare for your interview — they definitely can’t hurt and may lessen your anxious feelings. But if history has taught you that you’ll be hit with debilitating fear the morning of your interview, consider getting additional help.
Cognitive behavioral therapy or treatments. A mental health therapist can teach you to manage your fears and the dysfunctional thoughts that feed them. Cognitive behavioral therapy involves restructuring how you think about triggering events, like interviews. You’ll learn how to recognize the thoughts that cause your anxiety and stop them in their tracks.
Beta blockers. Because performance anxiety is quite different than a generalized anxiety disorder, the same medications aren’t always effective. One possible solution for stage fright is taking beta blockers such as propranolol. Designed for the management of heart disease, these drugs work by stifling the physical effects of adrenaline, and have been used off-label for performance anxiety by many.
Several studies have linked the use of beta blockers to decreased anxiety, decreased pulse and tremors, and improved performance.
A big job interview is a big opportunity. You owe it to yourself to go in there with confidence.