Some people would rather go to the dentist for a root canal than undergo a job interview! Personally, I’m not that fond of root canals, but then I’m also not looking for a new job right now–I love the one I have (helping clients with their resumes, cover letters, LinkedIn profiles, interview preparation, and so on). Having been there, done that, in the past, however, I can understand and sympathize with the stress job seekers experience both before and during employment interviews–after interviews, too, for that matter.
Few of us are at our best when we feel we’re in a situation we can’t control, particularly if the outcome seems critical to our career and our economic well-being. To some, it might appear similar to being in a high-stakes poker game, competing against an opponent who is doing a good job of convincing you that he/she “holds all the cards.” However–and it’s a big however–you will sabotage your own efforts at achieving successful interview results if you don’t at least come close to mastering your interview gremlins. It’s important that you take a thorough look at what’s holding you back from performing at your best in interviews and take steps to reduce the stress level, even if you can’t entirely eliminate it. You can’t control what your competition does or doesn’t do; but believe it or not, you can do a lot to improve your interview performance by minimizing the impact stress has on it.
Once you’ve pinpointed the major problem(s) you have with interviewing, you can take appropriate steps to overcome or at least mitigate those problems. For example, if you typically have a “blank mind” reaction when asked questions, practice on your own or, even better, with someone who can view your situation objectively and help you develop some coping techniques. Here’s another example: Instead of having a hard time thinking of something to say in response to an interview question, you experience “run off at the mouth” syndrome, where you don’t know when to shut up! In that case, you definitely need to rehearse succinct and on-target responses to many of the most likely questions, keeping those responses to no more than a couple of minutes, preferably a bit less. Notice I said rehearse, not memorize. That’s an important distinction. You don’t want to sound as if someone had just flicked the switch to play back a recording!
For years I’ve pointed out to clients during interview coaching sessions that the people who will be interviewing them don’t always have their act together, might have little or no formal interview training or have other stress-inducing issues that can derail an interview–or at least make it tougher than it needs to be. A December 2011 article by Tony Lee, Chief Alliance Officer and EVP of East Coast Operations for Adicio, underscores this point (“Use Positive Visualization to Succeed in Job Interviews“). As Lee says in his article, “at many small companies where hiring exactly the right person is so important, interviewers fret for days before each meeting with a top candidate…If you believe that you must succeed at all costs, your tension level will soar.”
So when preparing for and during job interviews, keep this in mind. Every interview has at least two participants, and both of them might have some stress-related baggage that could stand in the way of a successful interview. Take action to make your part of the process as stress-free as possible.