Tips for Coping With Job Interview Anxiety

Job interviews don't have to be terrible experiences.
Focus on your strengths to quell anxiety in a job interview. BraunS / Getty Images

Job interview anxiety can be an obstacle for those looking for work. For those with social anxiety disorder (SAD), job interviews can be even more difficult.

Meeting strangers in a position of authority, talking about yourself, being evaluated and judged on your appearance, demeanor and ability to sell yourself—these are all triggers for social anxiety. 

If you suffer from SAD, it is important to seek formal treatment, such as medication or cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

However, there are also strategies that you can use to help alleviate anxiety before an interview.

If you have social anxiety disorder or are simply nervous about a job interview, the following tips may help you to cope with your anxiety.

1. Treat Yourself Well

Avoid caffeine, get enough sleep and exercise regularly. Keeping yourself in good health is paramount when facing potentially stressful situations.

2. Visualize Success

Find a quiet space where you won't be disturbed, close your eyes and visualize yourself being successful in your interview. Visualizing success is more than just positive thinking; when done correctly, you are preparing your brain to behave in a certain way. This technique is used by elite athletes before competitions to improve performance.

3. Reduce Stressors

Reduce stressors unrelated to the actual interview, such as

  • uncomfortable clothing
  • getting lost
  • showing up late

Well in advance, choose an outfit that is comfortable and that looks good on you.

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.

4. Do Your Research

Being well-prepared is a great anxiety-reliever.

  • Research your potential employer.
  • Prepare answers to common 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 th interview.

5. Don't Succumb to Pressure

Once in a while, you may be interviewed by someone who grills you to see how you handle stress. Although, as a person with SAD, it may be tempting to start spiraling into negative automatic thinking, such as

"He knows 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, realize what the interviewer is trying to accomplish and don't let him ruffle your feathers. Know that the other candidates have been treated the same way and that it is not a reflection of you or your capabilities.

6. Interview the Interviewer

A great way to feel less self-conscious in an interview situation is to realize that interviews are a two-way street. You are deciding whether you want to work for an employer just as much as they are deciding whether they want you to come work for them. Try putting yourself in this mindset and see if your focus doesn't change.

7. 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, try doing something to release anxious energy that will be less noticeable, such as wiggling your toes.

8. Take Your Time

Realize that you don't have to answer questions immediately.

  • Pause before answering and collect your thoughts.
  • If you worry about drawing a blank during interviews, take notes as everyone talks. This takes the focus off of you and allows you to refer to your notes after a question has been asked.

If you start to draw a blank, keep making notes and comment that you want to collect your thoughts before responding.

9. Be Prepared

A well-prepared interviewee has an immediate advantage in an interview. In addition, being well-prepared and proactive will take the edge off of job interview anxiety.

Be sure to bring everything that you think you might need, such as the following:

  • resume
  • cover letter
  • business cards
  • references
  • licenses
  • certifications
  • a pen and notepad

10. Congratulate Yourself

Regardless of how you felt that the interview went, congratulate yourself afterward for taking the chance. Do something that you enjoy as a reward. Above all else, avoid ruminating about how the interview went or what could have gone better.

Research on Job Interview Anxiety

In a 2015 study of 82 Chinese individuals, it was found that strategies involving reappraisal and acceptance were more effective to regulate anxiety than suppression during a simulated job interview.

This indicates that learning to accept you will be anxious, and reframe anxiety in your mind, will be more helpful than trying to ignore the fact you are anxious.

A 2011 study investigated the effectiveness of using virtual reality to improve job interview skills, reduce fears, and increase confidence about job interviews. In a small sample of 10 individuals, it was found that anxiety lessened through use of the VR program. Features such as ongoing feedback and being able to review a transcript of the interview were cited as helpful. 

It can be envisioned that in the future, VR programs such as this one may help those with social anxiety disorder who have severe anxiety about job interviews.

Sources:

Bell MD, Weinstein A. Simulated job interview skill training for people with psychiatric disability: feasibility and tolerability of virtual reality training. Schizophr Bull. 2011;37 Suppl 2:S91-97. doi:10.1093/schbul/sbr061.

Georgia College and State University. Managing Job Interview Anxiety. 

Gong L, Li W, Zhang D, Rost DH. Effects of emotion regulation strategies on anxiety during job interviews in Chinese college students. Anxiety Stress Coping. June 2015:1-13. doi:10.1080/10615806.2015.1042462.

Salisbury University. Interview Stress and Anxiety

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