How to Handle Interview Stress

Six-Figure Job Interview Guide

Interviewing for a new job is not easy, and it creates a lot of stress and emotional issues. Some statistics I found online show that more than 60% of people are scared when it comes to having a job interview. I have been on the interviewer side of things quite a few times myself and have seen people completely stressing out about this. One guy I was interviewing once (for a system administrator position) was so nervous, he was sweating like crazy and his dress shirt was soaking wet. Another guy (I call him hot shot) was so cool, he even took a phone call on his cell phone during the interview. I am not sure if he was really just cool, or if he was insecure and tried to impress during the interview.

If you suffer with social anxiety and related stress, job interviews can be not only anxiety-provoking, but almost impossible to get through. You have some homework to do accordingly. If your situation is an issue not only when interviewing, but also in other normal, less stressful situations you might actually suffer from social anxiety disorder or SAS. You might want to discuss this with your doctor, as there are medications and treatments that will help you. If you want to succeed, you need to evaluate and be honest about yourself. While the steps below will definitely help you, it might not be enough then.

Anyway, no matter why you are stressing out about going to interview, here are some helpful tips and tricks that should help.

Practice mock interviews with your family/friends or interview yourself in front of the mirror, so that the actual interview doesn’t scare you too much. Repeat this as often as possible. I mentioned earlier in this book to rehearse your answers to common interview questions; this step here might go a bit further. When doing mock interviews, dress up as you would for the interview. Don’t laugh, but this extra effort will help you to feel more secure when in your interview clothing. There is no one big trick that will fix anxiety and stress-related issues, but a combination of many small tips and tricks can get you over the hump.

Next, rule out anything that could throw you off the track. Know your resume inside out, especially if there are some items that you know will raise questions (missing education, a gap in your resume, a very short stay with a company, etc.). Be able to provide good answers and like the other ones, rehearse them over and over again.

Find a quiet space or location where you know that you won’t be disturbed. Now close your eyes and visualize yourself being successful (!) in your interview. Visualizing success goes a long way toward programming yourself for success. It is a lot more than just positive thinking! Start practicing this as soon as possible – not just when you have an interview scheduled. When done correctly, you are getting your brain ready to behave in exactly the way that you desire. Visualizing success is actually used by many elite athletes before competitions to improve performance and motivation.

This next tip goes well with the visualization tip above. This tip is about using breathing techniques to handle stressful situations. You can use these before as well as during certain type of interviews. Practicing regular, mindful breathing can be calming and energizing and is exactly what you want to master interview stress. Sit with your back straight on a chair or lean against a wall. Now close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four. Hold your breath for about five seconds. Exhale through your mouth while mentally counting to five.

If you are alone by yourself, you can even make a “whoosh” sound and help your mind to relax and to let go of the stress. Repeat 5 to 10 times. Now take a break from this exercise and visualize your success (see step above). Then repeat this exercise again. If your interview process allows for a break (even 1-2 minutes will do), this exercise fits perfectly in and can help you to succeed. Drink some water, then use this breathing technique.

Plan your attire in advance. If you are confused and unsure about what to wear for the interview, stick to the conservative side of things.

Asking (good) questions during the interview will help you to manage your anxiety. It moves your “stress thoughts” away and lets you concentrate on the topic of your question. Then engage into the discussion with the interviewer. Keep a fine balance between asking questions and asking too many questions. You do not want to start interviewing the interviewer.

The “Stress / Anti-Stress Strategy”

Try this at your own risk. While I have seen this strategy work, it does not leave much room for error. Earlier I mentioned how to plan generously your arrival time for the interview. If you are one of those people that get super-nervous easily, this might not necessarily be the best choice for you, but it could be your “life saver.”

I mentioned before how you can use the extra time to program yourself, but in your case you can try something different instead. Plan your arrival as close as possible, keep yourself under a strict time limit so that you are fully concentrated on getting there and not worried about the interview itself. Arrive, get out of the car, walk into the office and talk to the receptionist. When the interviewer comes in, greet and have him/her start the conversation while walking to the conference room where the interview will be conducted (adapt this step as needed).

Here is your chancetake some initiative during the moment before the actual interview happens and engage in a conversation. Find a topic you are familiar with and that means a lot to you. Pick something that you associate with success and try to concentrate the short conversation onto that topic. You can almost always adapt on the fly, based on how the interviewer greets you.

As an example, I once interviewed with a company where I had worked many years before. The interviewer actually brought this up while we were walking to a conference room at the other end of the office. Even though she did not work there when I was with the company, it made a great conversation starter. While walking through the office, I even found my old cubicle still there and again, it made for a good conversation.

As mentioned, this strategy requires you to adapt quickly to a situation. If you can do this, more power to you. You can now concentrate on the conversation without wasting your thoughts and stressing out.

The more you can move your thought process away from the stress, the better for you. And – it is completely okay to turn red/blush during the interview – simply ignore it. Interviewers know that the situation is stressful for you. So, learn to accept your stress symptoms and then move on. Ignore them.

As mentioned, this last tip might not be for everyone, but everyone acts differently under stress and by using some sort of “counterstress” you can fight the stress that would otherwise cost you the interview.