How to handle stress during job interviews

Being stressed can provide you with the energy to respond to unexpected questions

Job interviews:  remember you are interviewing the organisation just as much as it is interviewing you. Photograph: Getty Images

Job interviews: remember you are interviewing the organisation just as much as it is interviewing you. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Most people say that interviewing for a job is an overwhelmingly stressful experience. Fortunately, you can come to terms with it by understanding that a certain amount of stress can actually help you ace the interview and that there are some effective responses you can use to keep your stress levels down.

Because a job interview isn’t something that we encounter very often, it’s important to fully prepare for it. Consider some of the standard questions your interviewer may have: What do you already know how to do? What do you consider to be your strengths? What might be a weakness that you’ve had to address?

Practise your responses: Your stress level will be manageable and can even provide the energy you need to respond to unexpected requests from your interviewer.

What happens when, despite all of your practice, you feel like you’ve messed up during your interview?

While you can’t ask for a do-over, corrections can be made. When you realise that you forgot to say something important, you can still correct the omission. If you’re still in the interview, it’s always possible to say: “I just realised that I hadn’t mentioned ...”

Omission

If you realise after the interview that you made an important omission, you can send a thank-you email that says, “I want to add to or clarify what I said about x.”

When your stress levels skyrocket during an interview and your mind goes blank, here’s what you can do:

– Take a deep breath and take a moment to compose yourself. It’s okay to reply with, “Ah, let me think about that for a moment” or “Could you rephrase the question?”

– Regain some confidence by remembering that you are interviewing the organisation just as much as it is interviewing you. You do have some control over the conversation and can (and should) ask questions of your own.

– If you tend to “sweat it out” literally or figuratively, make sure you’re dressed comfortably, in clothes and shoes that allow you to breathe easily and to focus on the subject at hand.

Anxiety

– If you’re freaking out before the interview, remind yourself of your value and ability to learn additional skills. If you tend to suffer from anxiety, consult a career couch or a counsellor. Remind yourself that you might not necessarily get the job, but you’ll know that you’ve done your best to ace the interview.

Finally, remind yourself that stress in an interview is not only normal, it’s necessary. Take the edge off through practice beforehand and by successfully managing your stress in real time.

Having nailed down what you want to say, you’ll be ready to take that deep breath and manage any unexpected challenges.

Copyright Harvard Business Review 2017

Anna Ranieri is an executive coach, career counsellor and speaker.

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