Tips for Coping With Job Interview Anxiety

Job interviews don't have to be terrible experiences.

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Interview anxiety can be an obstacle for those looking for work. For those with social anxiety disorder (SAD), job interviews can be even more difficult. Meeting strangers in a position of authority, talking about yourself, being evaluated and judged on your appearance, demeanor, and ability to sell yourself—these are all triggers for social anxiety. 

If you suffer from SAD, it is important to seek formal treatment, such as medication or cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). However, there are also strategies that you can use to help alleviate anxiety before an interview. Whether you have a diagnosed social anxiety disorder or are simply nervous about a job interview, the following tips may help you to cope.

1. Treat Yourself Well

Avoid caffeine, get enough sleep and exercise regularly. Keeping yourself in good health is paramount when facing potentially stressful situations.

2. Visualize Success

Find a quiet space where you won't be disturbed, close your eyes and visualize yourself being successful in your interview. Visualizing success is more than just positive thinking. When done correctly, it prepares your brain to behave in a certain way. This technique is used by elite athletes before competitions to improve performance.

In the future, virtual reality might help you prepare for an interview. A small study investigated the effectiveness of using virtual reality (VR) to improve job interview skills, reduce fears, and increase confidence about job interviews. The results showed that the VR program lessened anxiety. Features such as ongoing feedback and being able to review a transcript of the interview were cited as helpful. 

3. Reduce Stressors

Reduce stressors unrelated to your actual performance in the interview, such as uncomfortable clothing, getting lost, or showing up late. Well in advance, choose an outfit that is comfortable and that looks good on you. If you aren't familiar with the location of the interview, give yourself plenty of time to find it or do a trial run a day or two before.

4. Do Your Research

Being well-prepared is a good anxiety-reliever. Before the interview, research your potential employer and prepare answers to common interview questions. Every bit of preparation that you can do will help to increase your comfort level and make you feel more confident and capable in the interview.

5. Don't Succumb to Pressure

Once in a while, you may be interviewed by someone who grills you to see how you handle stress. As a person with SAD, it may be tempting to spiral into negative automatic thinking, such as "They know I can't handle this job; I should never have applied" or "They don't really like me; I'll never get the job."

Stop. If you find yourself in this situation, realize what the interviewer is trying to accomplish and don't let them upset you. Know that the other candidates have been treated the same way and that it is not a reflection of you or your capabilities.

6. Interview the Interviewer

Interviews are also a chance for you to evaluate a potential employer. You are deciding whether you want to work for them just as much as they are deciding whether they want you to work for them. Try putting yourself in this mindset and see if it changes your focus. Ask questions that show you are curious as to how the organization might fit with your goals and ambitions for your career.

7. Release Anxious Energy

Anxiety has a way of leaking out even when you think that you have it well-hidden. If you find yourself fidgeting, do something to release anxious energy that will be less noticeable, such as wiggling your toes.

8. Take Your Time

You don't have to answer questions immediately. Pause before answering and collect your thoughts. If you worry about drawing a blank during interviews, take notes as everyone talks. This takes the focus off of you and allows you to refer to your notes after a question has been asked. If you draw a blank, keep making notes and say that you want to collect your thoughts before responding.

9. Be Prepared

A well-prepared interviewee has an immediate advantage in an interview. In addition, being well-prepared and proactive will reduce your interview anxiety. Bring everything that you think you might need:

  • Resume
  • Cover letter
  • Business cards
  • References
  • Licenses
  • Certifications
  • Pen and notepad

10. Congratulate Yourself

Regardless of how you felt that the interview went, congratulate yourself afterward for taking the chance. Do something that you enjoy as a reward. Finally, avoid ruminating about how the interview went or what could have gone better. While it's important to take note of what went well and how you could improve, dwelling on negative parts of the interview will only sap your confidence.

Accepting Your Anxiety Helps

A 2015 study found that strategies involving reappraisal and acceptance were more effective than suppression to regulate anxiety during a simulated job interview. This indicates that learning to accept you will be anxious, and reframing anxiety in your mind, will be more helpful than trying to ignore your anxiety.

A Word From Verywell

If you have interview anxiety and can't seem to manage to get through a job interview, it could be that you require something more than a bit of self-help, such as treatment in the form of medication or therapy. Meet with your doctor to discuss your symptoms and devise a plan based on your situation.

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