Why does the process of applying for jobs bring about a sense of anxiety and nervousness you don’t experience elsewhere?
The common fears and worries relating to job applications brings out experiences and feelings that are unparalleled in the challenges and obstacles you will face in your actual career. For most people, interviews are the worst part of working and the sooner they are over, the better. Applying for a position and being interviewed creates irrational thoughts where we begin to question our abilities, focus on our past mistakes, forget about our strengths and recall our greatest achievements as suddenly mediocre. However, why is this case and how can we teach ourselves to be more positive?
Generally when it comes time to meet a new employer in person, that’s when the nerves kick in, so that’s where we start.
The nerves, panel interviews, sweaty palms and brows, redness, probing questions, what to wear or what not to wear, running late, mobile phones going off, not being able to speak, name a mistake, a weakness, a difficult problem, salary expectations… the list goes on.
Why are we so afraid of interviews?
For me, this is because people always focus too heavily on the unknowns and potential negatives in their interview preparation such as what could possibly go wrong or what they may not be able to offer their new employer rather than focusing on the positives and strengths they can bring to the position.
Refocusing your thinking and starting to recall all the positives of your career experiences is the first part of getting over some of your interview fears and nerves.
This may seem easier said than done on the day, however effective interview preparation focusing on your positive experiences, attitude, core competencies and passions will build your self-confidence and esteem and put you in the right frame of mind for your interview. Generally, people find it easier to talk about their passions and strengths so knowing these traits and being comfortable in talking about them will assist with settling your nerves.
Knowing yourself and what you are going to say is also important in your interview. In your preparation, think about potential questions by identifying the core requirements of the position, key projects and strategic objectives of the organisation/industry and prepare answers to such themes. Remember, think about the positives contributions you can make and challenges you expect to face.
In my current role, a common question relates to using referees. This creates considerable concern even before somebody has submitted an application as they begin to worry about who should be referees.
Worrying about referees before you have secured an interview only leads to unnecessary stress before an interview. Navigate stress by being prepared.
Have a list of potential referees and contact them well in advance. Know where they currently work, if they are available, their best contact details and let them know you may use them as a referee. Negative experiences with past supervisors happen to the best of us. Start to think of a strategy to get around this. Can you use a different manager or senior colleague in place of a supervisor?
Remember it is up to you to provide the most relevant referee. Most employers will be flexible in which referees can or cannot be used so have a current list and keep in touch them to limit potential stress. LinkedIn is a great tool for networking with past managers if you do not have up to date contact details.
Reflecting after the event
People generally take not being successful for a job personally, especially at the interview stage. Taking things personally makes it difficult to identify the positives in the process or to take on constructive feedback to allow you to move forward and focus on the next interview.
It’s important to reflect on the process, taking on the feedback and identifying the positives. The first positive is always being interviewed in the first instance. Not every applicant is interviewed so this is an achievement in itself.
The second part is to reflect questions asked at the interview. Which questions did you answer well? Make a note of these and the examples you used. For questions you struggled with or feel you could have improved upon, re-write your responses and learn how you can make them better.
Overall, ask yourself what you liked about your interview? What compliments were you given after the interview?
Keep these positives with you and continue to focus on developing the areas you need to.