For many people, the greatest challenge of a job interview isn't how to give the most articulate and impressive answers to annoying questions such as “what is your greatest weakness?”
No, what is perhaps even more vexing than having to give some contrived and ambitious-sounding statement about where you’d like to be in five years’ time is all of the anxiety that accompanies you in the lead up to the interview.
You may be worried about your presentation, messing up, becoming suddenly silent, saying something awkward or idiotic, arriving late, appearing uninterested or forgetting your award-winning spiel.
There are, however, many things you can do to minimise anxiety getting in the way of a successful job interview.
1. Give yourself plenty of travel time
If you've ever thought that you were going to be late for a job interview – especially if it’s an ideal job – then you know how awful that feeling is. Panic sets in and you start berating yourself for procrastinating so much in the morning and how you've ruined your chances of getting your dream job. If only you didn't spend those 20 minutes scrolling the NewsFeed when you woke up!
Arriving late can, for some employers, be a deal-breaker. If an applicant is late for a job interview, then how can they be trusted to come into work on time or manage their time wisely when completing their assigned duties? Even if you don’t arrive late, showing up to a job interview in a post-panic state isn’t going to help you relax.
What will help you relax is arriving early. Issues such as train delays, traffic or getting lost are always a possibility; so take these circumstances into account. Even if you arrive way too early, at least you’re not stressed about being late.
You can always head to a coffee shop to read over any notes you have and refresh your memory about the company, the role, answers to possible questions, and questions to ask the interviewers.
2. Get a good night’s sleep
Being tired before a job interview can be a source of anxiety, since you may start freaking out about how your tiredness is going to spell disaster for you. If you’re feeling exhausted, then you may worry about looking gormless or being unable to concentrate or show enthusiasm.
So it’s crucial, the night before a job interview, to go to bed at a reasonable hour. Also, you want to avoid doing things which are known to negatively impact quality of sleep. This would include drinking caffeine and alcohol, exercising late in the evening (an elevated heart rate keeps you up), and using your smartphone or laptop before going to bed (the blue light emitted by these devices trick your brain into thinking it’s daytime, which encourages wakefulness).
Meditating the night before a job interview will allow you to have a more refreshing sleep. Sitting with eyes closed for 20 minutes, simply watching your breath and paying attention to thoughts and feelings, is also an effective antidote for anxiety.
The aim with meditation is not to eliminate anxiety, but to change your relationship to it. If you spend some time watching anxious thoughts and feelings arise and pass, this will diminish their power over you.
While the practice of just noticing anxiety will not cause it to go away, it does allow you to take a step back and develop some distance between you and the anxiety. Having a detached relationship to anxiety about a job interview allows you to see that the anxiety as just part of your natural response to the situation at hand.
Meditation helps to stop you becoming so entangled with anxiety and taking the related thoughts as gospel. The feared outcome of a job interview never coincides with what actually ends up happening.
Beating job interview nerves involves going into the interview with a particular attitude. When you’re feeling relaxed in a job interview, confidence in what you’re saying manifests naturally, as does enthusiasm.
The trick to being relaxed in a job interview involves viewing the interview as an opportunity to have an interesting discussion. Not getting swept up by thoughts about the interview being a critical, high-pressure situation doesn’t mean you don’t passionately want the job. It means that you’re removing all of that intense seriousness out of the interview so that you can be more fully yourself, which will help both you and the interviewer gauge your suitability for the role.
Sam Woolfe writes for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment agency which specialises in sourcing candidates for internships and giving out graduate careers advice. To browse graduate jobs London and graduate jobs Manchester, visit their website.