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Anxiety and the Interview

March 10, 2015

Since graduation, your anxiety may have been like waves on the beach. It seemed to overwhelmingly crash forward then recede calmly away. After the excitement of graduation faded, fear of the difficult job market loomed forward. That concern dissolved as you crafted a terrific resume, identified and confirmed great references, and capitalized on your network of friends, colleagues, and family. Now, that anxious feeling came rushing back as everything you've been working toward arrived - the job interview.

You feel the weight of the world on your shoulders. The desire to strike out on your own and become a member of the workforce all rests on how well you perform in this interview, and the ones that follow. This interview is with your dream company. The position is perfect for you. You want to make sure you don't screw it up.

So how do you break through your anxiety in an interview and represent who you are in a professional, direct and interesting way? We asked our experts for their insight, considering they interview prospective hires on a regular basis.

Steve from Caterpillar said, “One thing that is very helpful to prepare for interviews is to research or think of likely interview questions and prepare or even rehearse your response to those questions.  It will help your anxiety if you have thought about answers in advance and have a general idea of how you will respond.”

As Steve points out preparedness reduces your anxiety level. An interview is, for all intents and purposes, a verbal test. Like any major test you’ve taken, the more you feel prepared the lower your anxiety level. He also suggests rehearsing. If you're a nervous speaker, or know that you'll be nervous, practice your responses out loud. This may seem a bit corny, but most people sound great in their own heads. It's not until you actually speak the words can you start to identify where you may get tripped up or areas you think of rewording or emphasizing. 

While being prepared is great it raises a very important question. What should you research prior to an interview?

An expert from Merck, Francis, shared this perspective on items to research.

“Establishing a frame of reference on the following should be beneficial in your preparation.

- Company's History
- Mission Statement
- Products and Services
- Employee Benefits and Wellness Strategies
- Corporate Responsibility, Environmental Position, and Stance on the Issues that are Important to You”

While all of these are important pieces to consider prior to an interview they are just the starting point. It’s important to go over your own job history and experience prior to the interview as well. If you're asked about your internships or leadership experience, what will you say? Also, know your strengths and talk to them. Also, know your weaknesses and be able to describe how you hope to overcome them? If you were offered the position what could you bring to the company/team that would be unique? Furthermore, attempt to find any additional information you can about the position you’re applying for so you can ask specific questions about the role.

Here are some other quick tips to help curb your anxiety prior to an interview. They are rather simple, but can dramatically improve your ability.

Stay away from caffeine if you can. A cup of coffee might be part of your normal morning routine, but it will increase your nervous energy, instead of keep you calm and alert. This is a given but it must be stressed, get a good amount of sleep the night before your interview. A bad night's sleep will make you feel less alert and probably a little cranky. You want to show yourself at your best during an interview.

Exercising prior to the interview has been known to lessen your anxiety. The physical activity increases your endorphins to help you feel more stable.

Remember to breathe deeply. Take deep breaths and fuel your body with oxygen. Lastly it’s important to keep in mind the person interviewing you is exactly that, a person. They’ve been on your side of the table and they genuinely want you to be at ease so that they can ascertain whether you’re the best fit for the available position.

Interviews are exciting and stressful. The more you prepare the better chances you have to knock it out of the park. So make every effort to manage what you can control and it's likely you will see yourself invited for a follow-up interview, or to discuss on-boarding!

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