Anxious Moments - Executive Interview Tips

Job or promotion interviews can be the source of much anxiety and stress.  They are typically big and defining moments in our careers.  We are in equal measure anxious to be successful, and concerned that we don't screw-up or let ourselves down.  And of course we all deal with this kind of stress in different ways.  

Some naturally and by personality type, actively crave the challenge and adrenaline surge of in-the-moment situations like interviews, and they use this to pump themselves up to perform well during the interview.  Most of us however, to a greater or lesser degree, can find interviews somewhat daunting and we need to develop good strategies for dealing with any anxiety, so that it doesn't inhibit our performance.

Stress Sources

So why are interviews the source of so much stress and what might we do about this to ensure that our anxiety doesn't trip us up, or damage our chances of success.  Here are some of the most common reasons:

RUSTY - It may be that an interview is something you have not participated in for some time; if you have been in your current job for a number of years, an interview will be unfamiliar territory; it will also not be easy (but not impossible) to practice and role play interviews so this may leave you feeling a bit rusty and exposed

UNKNOWNS - There are a lot of unknowns about an interview.  You may not have met the interviewer(s) before, you won't know with certainty what questions you will be asked.  You also typically won't know about your competition for the job – who they are, what talents they have etc.  Entering situations with lots of unknowns can seriously raise our level of anxiety and nerves

CONTROL – we are not in primary control when being interviewed; the interviewer holds most (but not all) of the cards, and will be consciously steering the dialogue to obtain the information that they want in the way that they choose.  Not being in control is often the source of much anxiety in life; when we have it we are typically more self-assured and confident.  Without it we have to work particularly hard to ensure we don’t let our anxiety get the better of us

ENGAGEMENT - we have no idea how quickly (or if at all) we will be able to establish a good rapport with the interviewer.  We do not know if they will be warm and friendly, cold and clinical, tough and uncompromising, encouraging and informative or some other combination. This might be particularly daunting if you are being interviewed by a panel.

SPOTLIGHT – an interview like no other process puts a very personal spotlight on us; this can feel very uncomfortable, particularly if we feel that the interviewer is trying to trip us up or expose our weaknesses

Ten Tips

Here then are 10 tips for staying calm and managing your own anxieties in the period immediately before and during that critical job interview.  Try these out and pick the ones that work best for you:

  1. BREATHE - Breathe deeply and slowly – be very deliberate about this so that you regulate your breathing in an even way – this will help you channel your adrenaline and make you feel calmer

  2. PICTURE - Immediately before the interview, put a positive picture in your mind (place, person, memorable experience).  Focus on your image for 30 seconds and draw on the pleasant memories and positive feelings that the image creates in your mind.  The stronger the image and the associated feelings then the more this will put you in a more relaxed state as you start the interview
  3. CONTEXT - Put the interview in context – yes it is important and yes you want the job and you intend to do your best- but your ultimate life success will not be determined by just one interview – and there will be many more important things in your life.  So remind yourself that you are in no way defined by your success or otherwise at interview and then simply do your best

  4. PAST SUCCESS - Remind yourself of a previous time when you had a very successful interview and use this to play a positive audio message in your head I.e. You are a successful individual, you have done this well before and so you can be very successful again.  Picture your previous success in your mind’s eye and how you felt at the time

  5. PAUSE & REFLECT - In the interview, when asked a difficult question, don't be afraid to pause and reflect to give yourself adequate time to formulate an appropriate response, rather than saying the first thing that comes into your head.  Often a more reflective answer will be a better answer and this will also be apparent to your interviewer

  6. CONNECT - Without faking it, do all the body language things that you can to connect positively with the interviewer(s) i.e. make good eye contact, smile, show your warmth and enthusiasm, listen carefully, don’t show any negativity or defensiveness, adopt a comfortable body posture.  Above else pay attention to the body language reactions you are getting from the interviewer and adapt your approach accordingly

  7. ASSERT – take opportunities throughout the interview to assert yourself clearly and ask a few questions (without over-talking).  Do not be afraid to express your honest and appropriate opinions about key issues.  This will help you feel more in control and make you feel easier with the process

  8. MANTRA – devise yourself a brief personal “mantra” that in a few words describes the essence of you and your success.  It needs to be memorable and therefore something you can easily playback in your head when feeling under pressure e.g. the most valuable thing about me is that (and then complete the sentence) ….. I am enthusiastic, flexible, professional and build great relationships.  If you are struggling to formulate this mantra ask a close friend or relative to suggest some words

  9. IN THE MOMENT – coach yourself not to over-think or over-anticipate what is coming next in the interview.  Be very focused on the here and now interchange with the interviewer by listening intently to each question and the emphasis and nuances, so you can be very precise and relevant in your response.  If you are always worried about what is coming next you risk under-performing in the moment

  10. PREPARATION – and of course finally, there is simply no better strategy for reducing interview stress than to ensure that you have prepared well i.e. you have isolated the competencies that the interviewer is likely to be looking for, you have great examples that show how your capabilities match the requirements and you ask great questions.

If you need more help with job interview preparation, get in touch with us at 

Brosna Career Consulting