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How to start overcoming interview anxiety

Posted on 24 May 2023

How to start overcoming interview anxiety

​5-minute read

Interview anxiety impacts many of us. With a lot often riding on your performance, it comes as no surprise that it can become difficult for some to stay calm during interviews and really showcase their best selves.

A few weeks back, we had the luxury of supporting a very talented engineer. He had been with only two companies during the past 8 years, developing his skills and responsibilities along the way. He reached out to us to engage in a new search, but it was very evident early on that he was talented in engineering but nervous about interviewing.

Recognising this himself, he asked for extra interviewing support to help kickstart his journey to overcoming interview anxiety. With the help offered he was able to stay calm during multiple interview rounds and successfully secure the next stage in his career.

Having supported thousands over the years, this was not a stand-alone example, but what stood out to us is that for the first time in a very long time was that someone proactively realised they suffered from interview anxiety and asked for specific support.

The remainder of this article will be the exact tips we shared with this engineer, offering you the same guidance to help start your journey.

 

Prepare thoroughly for each round

Ahead of each meeting learn what you can about the company, interview step, interviewer, and generic structure of what to expect. This will allow you to mentally think through the interview ahead of time. Being aware of what to expect will help alleviate concerns or worries you might have.

If you are attending a meeting in person, it might be wise to do a test run of the travel time and to ensure you know exactly where the building is as to not have a last-minute panic that might throw you off your stride.

This can also be transferable to online video calls but this time the trial run will be to test your microphone and video setting.

 

Seek guidance from your recruiter

If you are working with a recruiter, anything you cannot organically find out yourself, they should be able to answer for you or discover on your behalf. This will help you learn a little about the specific types of questions asked, maybe the dress code and any focus areas you should pay close attention to during your answers.

If you are not working with a recruiter, we would suggest seeking guidance from peers in similar leveled roles or a mentor, but this is not mandatory.

 

Do something that relaxes you in the lead-up to your meeting

Interviews are unfortunately a forced interaction between company and applicant. No matter how much we try to make them feel like a real-world setting, it is fair to assume we all know they are not.

Therefore, we suggest trying to do something that relaxes you ahead of your meeting, this could be exercise (albeit give enough time to settle your heart rate after), playing a musical instrument, or simply reading a book. Whatever you do normally to relax, this is a great tool to do it during a heightened sense of stress.

 

Breath to regulate your heart rate

If you suffer from any anxiety, you will know that it causes shallow breaths which increase the amount of carbon dioxide in your body which in turn can make you more anxious. Taking deep breaths ahead of your meeting and even in the waiting room / or interview itself will help regulate your heart rate, calm your nerves, and reduce carbon dioxide all at the same time.

 

Think before speaking during the interview

Whenever we are anxious, we often talk a million miles an hour and not always on the topic at hand. This is one of the most common rejections we hear, when an applicant tries to over-communicate instead of simply answering the question with concise detail, they go on a long tangent that answers it in a roundabout way.

Taking a moment to digest what the interviewer has truly asked you before speaking and in your own mind understanding the key points you wish to cover will help keep your answers on track.

When this happens, the interview will flow smoothly, you will feel less rigid, and likely showcase your skills in a better light.

 

Remember the interviewer is there as support

If you do not follow the previous point, you will likely run into a point where you are not sure how to answer something. Either you do not have experience (or limited) in a particular area, or you have got yourself confused and not sure how to get yourself back on track.

When this happens, it is always best to remember that the interviewer sitting in front of you is not there to trip you over or to make you feel small. They are there to offer guidance where possible but can only do this when you inform them you are stuck or not confident in a particular area.

Saying this during an interview depressurises the room from thinking you need to be perfect, and immediately makes the conversation more human, as often humans make mistakes.

 

Bonus tip – start with your least preferred companies during your search

And a small bonus tip a good friend of ours recently shared. When conducting interviews, and especially if you haven’t done one for a while, load up your interviews with your least preferred options first.

That way you can build confidence, learn from mistakes and ensure that when your preferred option is booked, you are able to really put the best version of yourself forward.

 

Interviewing is one of those things that everyone will do at some stage but rarely is it a skill we are trained on. Following these tips should get you on your way to overcoming interview anxiety, but truth be told you will likely never fully overcome it, but at the very least you can start taming it.

Feel free to share this article with those in your network that you feel could benefit from reading it and let's collectively bring simplicity to the chaos of recruitment.

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