As a job seeker, you’ve spent a massive amount of focus trying to land an interview. When you got the call to schedule one, you probably felt a surge of relief and excitement. But along with that excitement, you might feel some stress creeping in about your upcoming interview. While it’s perfectly normal to feel stressed about an interview regardless of your career level, you can use some best practices to combat your anxiety or make your interview stress work for you.
Managing Interview Stress
No one looks forward to job interviews, but taking a few preventative measures can help you manage the stress and ensure you’re in tip-top shape when facing the hiring manager. The first step is to embrace the stress—to a point. While anxiety shouldn’t be debilitating, it’s also true that it’s probably not the best role to pursue if you feel ambivalent about the upcoming interview.
Interviews, by nature, have a tremendous impact on your future. So, if you’re approaching the conversation with a take-it-or-leave-it sort of mentality, chances are that the job isn’t a great fit. On the other hand, when it’s a job that you’re eager for, you’re going to approach the interview with interest and a desire to excel. And both of those feelings can manifest in nerves and anxiety.
A bit of nerves about your upcoming interview indicates that you’re invested and on the right track. And that interest can push you to conduct better research and preparation. With that in mind, use the following tips to help you manage your stress levels.
The first step to getting your nerves under control is to pinpoint if you’re feeling anxiety over one specific aspect of the interview or the entire process. Are you worried that you’ll stumble over an answer, that you’ll get tripped up by a curveball question, or that you won’t know where to look if there’s more than one interviewer?
Address Your Stress Triggers
Once you understand what exactly is prompting your feelings of anxiety, take the time to strategize how to handle your stress triggers. Maybe that means researching and practicing answers for commonly asked interview questions. Or, perhaps it means you connect with someone in the industry who can offer insight into common questions.
You might also consider scheduling a mock interview with a friend, family member, or professional career coach. This can help you become more familiar with the process and allow you to practice your answers and body language.
One of the best ways to get ahead of interview stress is to walk in feeling like you’re able to add meaningful comments and ask insightful questions. Start by researching the company and the role you applied for. Make sure you understand the company and how the position you’re applying for fits into the bigger picture.
You should also prepare a few questions to ask and ensure that you’ve curated your experience to highlight how you’ll be an excellent fit for the role. Having your thoughts in order will help you feel organized and prepared for the interview, which can help keep anxiety at bay.
Set Yourself Up for Success
Finally, remember to take time for yourself leading up to the interview. Whether that’s yoga or going for a walk, make sure you take time to relax. Limit the amount of caffeine you have so you’re not jittery. If you’re traveling somewhere new, ensure that you plan your trip ahead of time and leave with enough time to get there, so you’re not feeling rushed.
And if your interview is virtual, test your tech beforehand so you can avoid scrambling at the last minute. Once you’ve done the prep work, it’s time to tackle the interview. If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, take a few deep breaths. It’s always a good practice to pause and compose yourself before you answer any questions.
Answering Curveball Questions
Don’t feel like you have to answer as quickly as possible. If they throw a curveball question at you, try saying something like, “That’s an interesting question. Let me think on that for a moment.” Then, take a sip of water, mull it over in your mind for a few seconds, and give a composed response.
You can always ask for clarification before answering if you need to, and after giving your response, you can ask if you’ve answered their question.
Making Eye Contact
You know that positive body language is essential, so you’ve practiced sitting confidently and maintaining an engaged and open posture. But how do you make eye contact during a virtual or panel interview?
Consider bringing a notebook to jot down questions and make a small “x” where everyone is sitting. Focus on the person asking each question, rather than feeling like your eyes need to be in continual motion. If one person is the main interviewer, you’ll address most of your attention there, but work to include others toward the end of each answer.
Smile for Relaxation
Smiling can be an easy way to appear more confident and relaxed during an interview. Before you walk in the door or turn on your camera, take a few moments to smile and relax your facial features. This can help you appear calm and collected while also giving yourself a mental reset.
Treat the Interview like a Conversation
Rather than consider the interview a set of questions you need to answer, try approaching it as a two-way conversation. You’ll be able to provide thoughtful answers, ask questions about the role and company, and better understand whether or not the position is the right fit for you.
Remember that you’re prepared and qualified or you wouldn’t be here to begin with. Take a few moments to remind yourself of this before you start the interview.
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