Job interviews…. most people anticipate them with feelings somewhere on the continuum between mild discomfort and all-encompassing dread. It’s natural, even useful to feel stressed before an interview. How can you channel that stress into positive energy, keep your nerves to a minimum, and perform at your peak?
Stress is a natural physical response to a perceived threat. Under stress, the “fight or flight” response kicks in. We experience the physiological cascade which includes an adrenaline rush, racing heart, and muscles clenched for action.
When our cave dweller ancestors saw an approaching sabre toothed tiger, stress equipped them for action. If we are facing an important performance or deadline, stress marshals our resources to meet the challenge. Stress before an interview shows you are taking the exercise seriously, and you are preparing to meet the demands of the situation.
Learn to relax
Sometimes instead of energising us, stress can paralyse. If stress has you feeling like a deer in the headlights, you can outwit it. Understanding that stress is a physical response, you can take control and relax your body instead.
An easy and effective technique is simply taking some long, slow, repeated breaths, deep into your belly. Focussing your thoughts on your breath further helps you relax.
You can also try some mindfulness techniques, to bring you calmly into the moment, acknowledging and accepting your feelings. A simple practice such as bringing your attention to the senses can help calm you. For instance, be aware for a moment of what you can feel; your feet in your shoes, the breeze on your skin, your hand holding a pencil etc. Continue the exercise by bringing your attention to your other senses; smell, sight, taste and sound.
With these exercises you divert the physical stress response, leaving you feeling calm and composed. You can easily practise these techniques sitting in the reception area waiting for your interview, and no one will even notice!
Now that you’ve got your nervous feelings in check, the next thing to tackle is your thoughts. Sometimes folks are plagued with self-doubt approaching an interview. After the initial elation of being called for the next step in the selection process, the devil on your shoulder might start whispering in your ear. Am I qualified for this job? Do I have enough experience? Will they like me? Now is the time to take control and make sure you are practising positive self-talk.
Self-talk is just what it sounds like, the little voice inside of you keeping a running commentary on your thoughts. When it’s negative, it brings you down. When it’s positive, it buoys you up, and builds your confidence.
How can you keep the self-talk positive? One way is to ask yourself to consider the evidence. For instance, if you question your qualifications for a job, remind yourself that as you’ve been invited to an interview, you must be a good candidate. A panel has assessed your accomplishments against the pool of applicants, and you’ve made the shortlist. The evidence points to your worthiness!
Sometimes when I’m stressed I have a dream that I’m arriving at Uni, and suddenly realise that I’m in enrolled in a class, and I’ve forgotten to attend lectures or hand in assessments for the whole term. In my dream, I’m taking my place to sit the final exam, with no preparation whatsoever about the material being covered. It’s a real nightmare.
If you want to feel calm and confident going into an interview, do your homework. Research the organisation, anticipate probable questions, craft possible answers, practise out loud, with someone who can give you knowledgeable feedback. Even organising some of the little things, like scouting out the interview location and getting your clothes prepared ahead of time can help you feel relaxed and in control.
When you prepare well for an interview, you have evidence for positive self-talk. You can say to that little devil on your shoulder; “It’s okay. I’m ready. I’ve got this!” And then relaxing is a whole lot easier.
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