What to do if you are Terrified by Interviews

It is normal to be nervous about interviews. If you weren’t a little anxious, you wouldn’t be on your game. A little adrenalin is a good thing—it makes you concentrate your energy, get ready before hand and stay on your toes during the interview.

But what if you would more likely describe yourself as terrified by interviews? The thought of them makes your blood run cold. Maybe you are just naturally a shy person who doesn’t like to talk to strangers much less be persuasive with them about your personal strengths.

Or perhaps like a recent client of mine, you have had some bad interview experiences and are suffering from the fear of repeating an embarrassing failure. This client actually described herself as phobic about interviewing.

She reminded me that there are two very specific things you can do to manage this fear.

The first thing you can do is realize that there is a perfect storm brewing in the beginning of an interview. On the one hand, you are likely to be your most nervous because, well, you are terrified and all the awful things you imagine are going to happen are getting ready to happen. On the other hand, the beginning of an interview is the most important phase. You really can’t undo a first impression and if you come across poorly as you meet the interviewer and answer the first question, it will be very difficult to bounce back from that.

I suggest that you very carefully craft a response to the question, “Tell me about yourself.” Write it out verbatim because some variation of this is usually the start of an interview and you don’t want to rely on thinking off the top of your head when you are so anxious you can’t be relied on to think clearly. Organize your answer to this question in a way that showcases the three most important things you want to convey: 1) you have got the skills for the job; 2) you’ve got so much enthusiasm for the job you are likely to work hard; and 3) you present yourself with warmth and good graces and like someone who would be a good fit for the team. I often suggest my clients start their answer to this first questions with the phrase: “I am really excited to be here today because I think this job is a great match for my experience and skills as well as what I am most interested in.” And then go on to describe this fit rather than giving a chronological summary.

Second, go the extra mile in managing your pre-interview jitters. The night before your interview (after you have finished all of your interview prep) take some quiet moments to imagine the interview in as much detail as possible and, this is important, in as positive a way as possible. This is called a creative visualization and research has shown that it is another way to practice an upcoming event. What we imagine will happen helps us manifest the experience in actual life. Sports psychology has taught us that imagining success through best practices is another form of practicing.

I know this sounds a little over the top but I believe it. And if you are someone who is terrified of interviews you are not going to be laying in bed the night before, imagining all the success to come. You are more likely to be imagining in great detail how all of your worst fears will come true. This is not helpful and in fact, may negatively affect your interview performance.

Success in an interview has a lot to do with what you do beforehand to get ready for it. And if you are terrified of interviews, an important part of getting ready is to put strategies in place in order to calm down.

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