Recently, RRC’s Student Employment Services crew put on two excellent Career Café events where College staff from various departments gave students tips and advice to assist in their job search. I was there to advise on, among other things, managing interview anxiety. In this post, I’ve put together some of the common questions I heard from students and some of my replies.
It can be particularly helpful to do your interview preparation a day in advance, jotting down your skills, accomplishments and some answers to common questions. Writing these thoughts down on paper will not only help you feel confident (look at all those strengths and skills you wrote down!), but can also decrease rumination – those thoughts repeatedly swirling around in your head as you try to sleep. If you know a particular question is common, come up with an answer you’re comfortable with. Then put the paper away and get a good sleep. Sleep will help your thoughts consolidate in your memory and you’ll wake up feeling even more confident.
If you still find yourself lying in bed, with anxious thoughts keeping you awake. Get up briefly and write them down. Don’t turn on any lights or screens if possible. Tell yourself that you’ve prepared and that you’ll do well. Then go straight back to sleep.
Q. My brain goes haywire in the interview and I can’t put my thoughts together. What can I do to help?
First of all, as mentioned above, prepare a day in advance and get a good sleep. Then, once you’ve arrived at the interview location, but before you enter the interview room, take a moment to practice some calm breathing. You might also want to observe your surroundings, noticing some things around you can help your mind feel connected to the present moment and to keep it from going “haywire”. Notice how your feet feel on the floor, a painting on the wall, any sounds that you might hear.
In this moment before the interview, refrain from using screens or mobile devices. Even if you have to wait a while before being greeted. Simply practice patience and wait. Each calm breath you take will help decrease your feelings of anxiety.
Remind yourself that you’ve prepared and that you’re confident. Don’t feel compelled to answer questions immediately or to talk quickly. Speak clearly, at a conversational pace and allow pauses for you to gather your thoughts. You can actually come across more confident this way!
Q. When I’m in the waiting area, I feel my heart race and I start to sweat. How can I stop this?
This is very common. For many people feel a rush of anxiety right before being called into an interview. The symptoms you’re feeling are your sympathetic nervous system kicking into high gear in order to give you the energy to perform an important task. In that moment, practice some healthy self-talk. Remind yourself that feeling nervous before an interview is normal and common. Remind yourself that you’ve prepared well and are ready to shine. Tell yourself that the rush you’re feeling is you’re body’s way of getting ready for an important event. The interviewers are used to seeing people who are nervous/anxious, since almost everyone shares this experience.
Q. What if I’ve been feeling anxiety for a long time, but haven’t told anyone?
Anxiety is a normal part of the human experience and isn’t always a negative thing. Sometimes it passes and we go right back to feeling calm. Some folks, however, feel anxiety for really long periods of time, really often, or really intensely. Sometimes, it starts to limit achievement or decrease feelings of well-being. In these cases you may want to reach out for help from a Doctor, Counsellor, Psychologist, or self-help agency.
If you’re comfortable approaching your family doctor, this is a good place to start. If you are a student, you can access counselling for free on campus. If you’re enrolled in the student benefits plan, you can access coverage for up to $1000 of Psychological services. If you’d like to work with a community based self-help agency, you can contact Anxiety Disorders Association of Manitoba. These options might seem overwhelming, but start by reaching out where you’re most comfortable.
Do you have any other suggestions on how to manage interview anxiety?