When I do interview coaching with job candidates they often tell me they are nervous about the interview. As soon as I hear that statement I respond by asking them “what are you scared of”. This is an important question and I work with the candidate to get a specific and detailed answer.
First it is important to change the word “nervous” or “anxious” to “scared”. Nervousness or anxiety is generalized fear which is not anchored to a specific concern. By using the word “scared” the fear can be anchored to a specific concern and then the concern can be addressed.
Typical interview fears
Not being able to answer a question: Candidates often state they are scared they will be asked questions they cannot answer. Many candidates try to prepare for this by studying the most frequently asked interview questions. A good tactic, but it is impossible to prepare to answer all of the possible 2000+ interview questions. More importantly, understand your fear of not answering a question. What is your fear of what happens if you are asked a question and you do not know the answer? Does that mean you blow the interview and lose the job? Does it mean that you are not qualified for the job? Does it mean you have to feel stupid and inadequate? Does it mean you will never get a job? Identify these, often irrational, fears and decide if they are true. When you discover they are not, the fear will diminish.
Getting nervous and rambling:
Many candidates are aware of a tendency to ramble and go on tangents when nervous. To avoid this, never speak for more than two minutes at any one time and use a specific format like STAR (situation, task, action, result) to stay focused.
Not being qualified for the job:
On occasion a candidate does not understand why they were invited for an interview and they doubt their match with the position. The fear here is of not being qualified and performing poorly in the interview. To combat this fear realize that a company rarely wastes interview time on unqualified candidates. They must see something in your background and experience that interests them. A perfectly reasonable question for you to ask in the interview is ‘What is it about my background and experience interests you in relation to this position?”
Ultimately, not getting the job:
The ultimate fear is doing poorly in the interview, not being offered a desirable position and feeling terrible about it. This is exacerbated when a person is unemployed and desperate to get back to work. Every interview has tremendous importance and a high price for failure. The best way to combat this fear is to have a active job search with multiple opportunities. If all your eggs are in one interview basket the interview becomes far more scary. If you have multiple interviews and the possibility of more, each interview is less important and less scary. Maintain an active job search!
Fear of being judged and rejected
Adults do not like to be in the position of being evaluated or judged by another person who has the ability to dramatically influence our lives. This feels powerless and scary. The reality is you are judging them as well. Do you want to work at that company and for that person?I understand you may be desperate for a job, however a bad job is worse than no job at all. You will be unhappy and then out of the job looking for another job with a short term job to explain on your resume.
The general strategy to dealing with interview fear is to state specifically what you are scared of and then understand the rationality of your fear. Interviews are very subjective and are not definitive statements of your experience, qualification, or worth as an employee or person. Prepare for your interview, perform your best, keep active in your search and don’t be scared.