Although we see stress as negative emotion, my belief is that in interview and presentation situations, stress CAN actually become your ally! The key is to see the stressful situation as a challenge that you are going to step up to and can manage in some positive way, rather than an overwhelming nightmare you would rather avoid.
With that in mind, I’ve outlined below how I think, whilst not trying to eliminate all stress, we can somehow manage our anxiety throughout the whole process of interview preparation through to the interview itself.
1. Being thoroughly prepared – you can work through a checklist making sure you have done everything you can to be able to perform at your best when the interview day comes:
- Study the job spec in detail and pick out the key skills and competencies that are required for the job. Come up with 5 or 6 interview stories (key achievements over the course of your career) that you can use to demonstrate you have the skills/experience they are looking for. You need to go into depth here and include specific examples of what you did and what happened as a result of your actions.
- Find out who will be interviewing you/how many people and ideally the type of interview that will be conducted (admittedly this is easier for internal interviews) – the fewer surprises on the day, the better!
- Research the company and/or department in depth so that you can ask meaningful questions on the day and show your genuine interest in the company and the job.
- Practice with a coach, friend, or colleague or even in front of a mirror so that you have ample opportunity to get feedback and tweak your answers. Remember, practice makes perfect!
- Plan way ahead of time how you will get to the interview, so that you are not worrying about this on the day of the interview.
- Don’t make the success of the interview the only thing that matters to you – just think of it as an opportunity you have been given – you’ll get to meet new people (useful for networking) and get to brush up your interview skills.
- Try to apply for more than just one job – ‘have many irons in the fire’ – again to alleviate the feeling that this is the only thing that matters.
2. Just prior to the interview
- Aim to arrive early so that you are not stressing about getting there on time.
- Use visual imagery to imagine the interview going well, particularly just before the interview.
- Get a good night sleep and a good meal on the day of the interview.
3. During the Interview
- If you are still feeling nervous when the interview starts, remember to breathe. When you breathe deeply, it sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax.
- If you can’t answer a question straight away, just ask for a minute to think about your answer.
- If you think you may not have performed well at any point in the interview, try to stay positive. There are plenty more opportunities to impress the employer. Most interviewers are looking for evidence to show you can perform in the role, not to catch you out.
Please share your experiences below of how you like to prepare for interviews and how you stay stress free!