Stress management at interviews
The interviewer is buttoned-up, formal and not smiling as warmly as you would have liked. The interview chair is hard and unwelcoming, your palms and face are sweating profusely, your normal eloquence has given way to stuttering and stammering and you have begun to tremble from head to toe. If you are one of the multitude of job seekers who begin to hyper-ventilate at the very thought of interviewing for a new position and to whom the interview is a source of unlimited stress and trepidation.
This guide aims to help you recognise and understand anxiety and nervousness which may arise during interview.This is sometimes referred to as performance anxiety.
What is performance anxiety?
Many people feel nervous while speaking at the interview or to an interview panel.This is sometimes referred to as performance anxiety.
Performance anxiety, however, is not necessarily harmful; a slightly increased anxiety level can motivate you to do the work needed so that you are effectively prepared for the event: it can make you more alert and energised. However, should your anxiety levels and nerves become too great, difficulties can occur, which may impair your ability to prepare effectively for and perform during the interview.
What causes performance anxiety?
Performance anxiety and nervousness can be caused by many factors which may include:
1. worrying about past performance
2. Comparing – how you will compare with your friends or other
3. A thought of any negative consequences if you don’t do as well as you would like
4. Last minute preparation for the interview
5. Not rehearsing and practising enough before the interview
6. Not thinking in advance about the kinds of questions the job provider might ask
What happens when you are nervous?
When you experience nerves, anxiety or stress about an interview, certain physical reactions happen automatically.If you recall a time when you were interviewed you may have noticed that you reacted in some of the following ways:
1. your voice trembled
2. you had sweaty palms
3. you experienced shortness of breath
4. your heartbeat accelerated
5. you had butterflies or an upset stomach
6. you experienced a generalised feeling of fear
Signs of performance anxiety
There are a range of signs indicating you are experiencing performance anxiety and these signs could begin just before your interview, hours or days before it, or even at the moment you find out about it. Signs can even persist throughout your interview process.
The signs could include negative thoughts such as “I am not going manage it”,”It going to be a disaster”,”I am not good at this”. Having thoughts of this kind can distort your perception of the interview and create a cycle where by the more negatively you think about it, the more stressed and anxious you become, which in turn can increase your negative thoughts about the interview and so on.Holding negative thoughts can also have a big impact on your feelings, you may feel scared about the interview or you may feel irritable but not sure about the reason.At times you may also experience headaches, change in your appetite or develop sleeping difficulties.
How to deal with performance anxiety
The strategies outlined below offer some simple steps that you can take to control your level of performance anxiety. However, for them to be effective you need to be active in implementing them prior to and during the interview.
1. Develop positive thinking and visualisation skills
Having negative thoughts is one indicator that you may be experiencing performance anxiety. Try to become aware if you are having negative thoughts and try to replace them with positive ones.visualise yourself successfully completing the interview. Imagine yourself coming out of the interview and moving on to other things in your life beyond the anxiety provoking experience.
Using this process will help you to keep a sense of perspective about the event and stop things from spiralling out of control. Focus on the present and what you can do now to deal with the situation, rather than dwelling on what you should have done or how similar events went in the past.
2. Plan and practise carefully
Planning and practising for your interview carefully can have a number of beneficial effects on your anxiety levels, including helping you to feel more confident and in control. The more prepared you are and the more confident you are.
When you are rehearsing for your interview, picture yourself as if you are in front of your interview panel and rehearse out loud. If possible, do this in front of some friends who could give you constructive feedback about your verbal and non-verbal communication, and your time-keeping. If you do not want a friend to watch you, consider making an audio or video tape of yourself. You can then listen or watch the tape and provide your own feedback. Identify at least five positive things about your skills, as well as areas for further development.
Preparing well with the most frequently asked questions during an interview may also help to lower your anxiety levels.
3. Mapping out your anxieties
You may find it helpful to identify the aspects of the situation which are causing you the greatest levels of anxiety, in order to plan steps to prevent them from becoming a reality.Imagine the interview and write down the aspects which cause you to feel particularly anxious, and then identify something you could do in advance which would help to prevent this from occurring.For instance, if you are worried that a weakness will be highlighted, plan a positive response to this in advance.
4. Look after yourself
Taking care of yourself physically and emotionally will help to control your anxiety levels by making you feel relaxed and using up some of the nervous energy that is produced when you are under stress.
– Eat a well balanced diet
– Aim to have between six to eight hours sleep
– Exercise regularly as this uses up nervous energy and relaxes muscles
– Make time for fun such as participating in a sport or hobby
– Practise taking control of your breathing.
On the day of interview
1. Expect that you will feel some nerves or anxiety
On the day of interview expect that you will have some nervousness or anxiety. This is your body’s way of preparing itself to cope, so do not try to eliminate your nervesness totally, but aim to keep them manageable.You may also expect to feel nervous particularly at the beginning of the interview and it is more likely , you may feel shaky or possibly your voice might tremble. If this happen, change to a slower pace, breathe more deeply and expect that the tremble/shakiness will go away. People do expect to see some nervesness at the outset. Allow yourself time to settle into interview and then you can perform to the best of your ability as it continues.
2. Think positively: don’t jump to conclusions about job provider reactions
Do not forget to use the positive thinking skills that you have been practising up for the interview on the day itself too. Tell yourself you can do it and try not to jump to conclusions about how job provider appear to be reacting to you. Remember some people may look stern or uninterested, when they are actually just concentrating very hard on what you are saying.
3. Try to relax yourself physically
Remember to use the breathing exercise that you have practised. You may also find it useful to do a relaxation exercise to release muscular tension in places such as the neck and shoulders. Take some deep breaths, aim to increase the distance between your shoulders and your ears. This will help to lengthen your muscles and relieve tension.
4.Prepare strategies in case you feel overwhelmed
Do something that will distract you from the frozen state. You could change your posture or focus your gaze just above peoples eyes for a few seconds which may help you to collect your thoughts. If you are really stuck you may need to ask for a short amount of time to concentrate because you have lost your train of thought through nervousness. People are generally supportive and will think more positively if they see you trying to gain composure.
5. Reward yourself for a job done
Praise yourself afterwards for a job done no matter how well or badly you think it went, and then do something which you enjoy as a special treat.