Managing interview anxiety: don’t flunk an interview because of nerves

Here are some effective ways to stay calm during an interview.

Anna Maksimchuk

— Anna Maksimchuk, a talent manager at EPAM, explains that preparing for an interview is one of the most important steps on the way to getting a dream job. Although it takes effort, properly preparing can spare you from a lot of nerves in the future. Below, she shares her recommendations for how to manage your interview anxiety, and successfully pass your next online interview.

Preparing for an interview

— The better prepared the candidate is, the less nervous they will be during the interview. The unknown causes stress. The day before the interview, you can scroll through different scenarios in your head. This can help your brain stay calm during your interview.

To avoid feeling anxious when meeting with a recruiter, try the following:

  1. Find out where you are going. Look up some facts about the company. Information available from open sources is sufficient; usually you can easily find information about the company’s history, values, latest news, etc., on its website. Having it will boost your confidence on a subconscious level. In addition, your effort will show the recruiter that you are genuinely interested in the vacancy and the company.
  2. Make crib sheets. Stickers with reminders on your monitor, noticeboard, or laptop will help you focus if you lose your train of thought. For example, a typical non-technical request to tell something about yourself can be somewhat confusing. There is no need to tell your whole life story from your early school years to your recent cooking lessons. It is worth sharing a few key points. So have those points ready in advance. If a person answers quickly, they give the impression of self-confidence.
  3. Think about your strengths. Modesty, no doubt, is a virtue, but it may not be very helpful in an interview. Take the time to compile a list of your areas of knowledge and your skills. Doing so is an investment in your composure when talking to a recruiter. Apart from providing useful information to the company representative, clear and concise answers to questions about your strengths and achievements can have a calming effect on you, and set a positive tone in the early part of the interview. By the way, don’t forget that recruiters may be nervous too because, in the interview, they represent not only themselves but also the company.
  4. Prepare your workspace. Check your Internet connection, image quality, and background. Reduce possible noise in advance so as not to add to your strain during the meeting. Make sure you have a glass of water within easy reach. Drinking water allows you to pause for a minute, think about the answer, and regain your equilibrium to reduce anxiety. Sitting down in the chair you will use during the interview, focus on your body, ask yourself if you are comfortable. Often, after hearing the phrase “Make yourself comfortable!” a person shifts their body to a more relaxed position. Also, check to make sure your camera is working and see how you look. At the meeting, switch your camera on without waiting to be asked: this signals openness and sociability.
  5. Get some rest and a good night’s sleep before the interview. Lack of sleep affects your appearance, as well as your cognitive abilities and your stress resistance.

What should you do during an interview

  • Even out your mood. Before the interview, I recommend taking a walk, drinking a cup of tea — something to switch your focus away from the interview for a brief time. Doing so will help reduce your anxiety from the pre-interview peak to its usual everyday level.
  • Be sincere. Everyone understands that first interviews are not at all easy, so it is quite natural to be nervous. If you need a little time to collect your thoughts, just say so. Honesty will be appreciated. Don't pretend to be someone other than yourself. In the end, your personal qualities can influence the hiring decision in the same way as your professional experience.
  • Ask questions. This is a must. The interview is a perfect chance to demonstrate your commitment and proactive approach. You can prepare questions in advance, or you can ask some standard ones: what will be your area of responsibility; what frameworks and programming languages will be used; what opportunities are there for Junior specialists, i.e., English courses, mentoring, training, etc. To establish good communication and meaningful dialogue, you can also voice your expectations. This gives you time to think and calm down. And don't be afraid to ask the interviewer to repeat a question if you did not understand it: “Could you please rephrase the question? I would like to make sure that I’ve got this right...” Without understanding the question, you will not be able to answer it correctly.
  • Breathe. When being interviewed online, it is crucial to interpret the reactions of the interviewers correctly. Has my answer gone well? Or have they been disappointed? Should I continue or stop? The uncertainty, as you know, only increases stress and anxiety. There are many breathing practices that can help you deal with this. But even if you are unfamiliar with them, simply taking a few deep breaths and saying: “I feel a little nervous. Would you please give me a minute?” should do the trick.
  • Feel at ease. This may seem easier said than done. But in fact, it is not that complicated. Just recall your successful experiences. Surely, you had difficult exams or tests that you nailed. Remember that feeling of success and lean on it.

How to end an interview

— When there are no more questions, the interview seems to be over. I want to highlight a couple last points that I advise you to pay attention to.

  • Say thank you. After all, regardless of the outcome, it was a valuable experience. People gravitate to people who reach out to others, so let the interviewer know that you appreciate their time and effort.
  • Assess. Note what worked out well, what still needs some improvement, and what questions you struggled with, so that you can prepare for them in the future.

My thanks to Anywhere Club for this topic

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