Interview anxiety is very common, no matter how much experience you have of the process, or how well qualified you may be for a job. Meeting strangers in a position of authority; talking about yourself; being evaluated and judged on your appearance, demeanour, and ability to sell yourself – these are all triggers for nerves and stress. Many corporate comms professionals are great storytellers and comfortable talking about their clients or the company they work for, but when it comes to ‘selling’ their own experience and skills, a few nerves may creep in as it’s not something they are doing every day.
Fortunately, there are strategies you can use to help alleviate anxiety before and during an interview. And they work for both in-person and video-call interviews.
Before an interview
In the days and hours leading up to an interview, take proactive steps to prepare yourself and manage stress. While it may be difficult to achieve a real state of calm, you will feel better if you are making an effort to cope with your anxious feelings.
- Let’s step back and look at the bigger picture; firstly practise self-care – this may be obvious but taking care of your body can go a long way toward alleviating nervous energy and helping you feel calmer. Avoid caffeine (unless it’s a super early interview!), get enough sleep and exercise regularly. Keeping yourself in good health is paramount when facing potentially stressful situations. Think about the time of day when you are at your best – this is the time to have an interview, if possible
- Do your research – research is a good anxiety-reliever. Before the interview, learn as much as you can about the potential employer and prepare answers to common interview questions. Every bit of preparation that you can do will help to increase your comfort level and make you feel more confident and capable in the interview.
- Consider your ‘story-telling time’ – as a comms professional, you need to make your story interesting, compelling and ‘sell it, not tell it’. When talking through your CV, pepper in skills you have learned along the way, what you are known for and include lots of specifics around what you have delivered, especially recently. The power of your sell is in what you delivered, rather than how you did it. The more you practise your story, the more you are going to feel calmer about any meeting.
- Visualise success – find a quiet space where you won't be disturbed, close your eyes, and visualise yourself being successful in your interview. Visualising success is more than just positive thinking. When done correctly, it prepares your brain to behave in a certain way. This technique is used by elite athletes before competitions to improve performance so it may be worth a try.
- Reduce stressors unrelated to your actual performance in the interview, such as uncomfortable clothing, getting lost, or showing up late. If you aren't familiar with the location of the interview, give yourself plenty of time to find it or do a trial run a day or two before, making sure to factor in traffic/tube/train conditions at the time you'll be travelling. Build in an extra 15-minute contingency so you can regroup when you arrive.
- If your interview will be on a video platform, make sure you have installed any apps you'll need. Test out tech like your webcam, microphone, and headphones in advance to confirm that everything is in working order as it’s stressful if you can’t get the tech working – and that’s not how you want to begin an interview.
During an interview
No matter how much advance prep you do, it's totally normal to feel nervous during an interview. Try these tactics if you feel anxiety mounting while meeting with a prospective employer.
- Reframe – we suggest reframing the word ‘anxiety’ with ‘excitement’. When you feel anxious, perhaps tell yourself that it’s just excitement. If you keep telling your brain a more positive story then, over time, you are more likely to ‘reprogramme’ how you view an interview.
- Don't succumb to pressure – once in a while, you may be interviewed by someone who grills you to see how you handle stress. It may be tempting to spiral into negative thinking, such as ‘They know I can't handle this job; I should never have applied’ or ‘They don't really like me; I'll never get the job’. Stop. If you find yourself in this situation, realise what the interviewer is trying to accomplish and don't let them upset you. Know that the other candidates have been treated the same way and that it is not a reflection of you or your capabilities.
- Interview the interviewer – interviews are also a chance for you to evaluate a potential employer. You are deciding whether you want to work for them just as much as they are deciding whether they want you to work for them. Try putting yourself in this mindset and see if it changes your focus. Ask questions that show you are curious as to how the company might fit with your goals. Ask the interviewer why they enjoy working at the company as you’re showing interest in them.
- Release anxious energy – anxiety has a way of leaking out even when you think that you have it well-hidden. If you find yourself fidgeting, do something to release anxious energy that will be less noticeable, such as wiggling your toes or try a few deep breaths (either before the interview, or during the interview when you are not speaking but instead listening to the interviewer).
After an interview
Regardless of how you felt that the interview went, congratulate yourself afterwards for taking the chance. Avoid stewing over how the interview went or what could have gone better. Do something that you enjoy as a reward, whether that's going for a walk in the park, curling up with a book, or meeting a friend for a large glass of wine.
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