Tackling Interview Anxiety


If you experience some degree of "stage fright" or nervousness that actually affects your performance in an interview in some way, then congratulations, you are a normal human being! As you participate in more interviews, you will experience less anxiety, but if you are a novice, it may be helpful to know some ways to manage your fears.

Why Stage Fright Occurs & How to Respond: 

Even very gregarious, extroverted, confident individuals experience some degree of nervousness from time to time in interviews. This is because nervousness can be caused by several factors which are not necessarily remedied by the gift of gab.Fear of failure, self- evaluation resulting in failure, fear of the unknown, and a highly critical self-image are the most common reasons that individuals freeze-up, draw blanks, perspire, stammer, talk too quickly, or say things they didn't originally intend to say. The physical responses to psychological stimuli are usually involuntary, so the best way to tackle stage fright is to follow two important strategies: 1) reduce the likelihood of succumbing to one of the common psychological stimuli and 2) learn how to control the physical responses to stage fright if it occurs during an interview.

Preventing the Psychological Stimuli the Cause Anxiety:

List your fears on paper, taking care to be as specific as possible. Realize that for each specific fear, there is a way of coping or managing. Next to each fear, list a positive counter statement. You will find that some fears are simply irrational ones you should at least recognize them as such and replace them with positive beliefs. 

Re-conceptualize the Role of the Interviewer: One very successful technique of controlling negative self- images is to re-conceptualize the role of the interviewer as an information-gatherer rather than as a critic. While it is true that interviewers must work within the hiring criteria of their firm, they are also acting as recruiting agents and are instructed to look for individuals who have strengths in particular areas needed by departments within the firm. If you are aware of the employer's needs and are conscious that you have strengths in those areas, you should think of the interview as an opportunity to provide information about your strengths to the interviewer. At all costs, do NOT think of the interviewer as someone who has X-ray vision and is able to see all your weaknesses at once. You are in control of the information you supply, and the way in which you supply that information.

Build Your Confidence Through Preparation & Practice: This is the number one way to ensure that you are able to realistically approach the interview. Take away some of the fear of the unknown and fear of failure by rehearsing answers to your questions with a friend or arrange to have a mock interview through Career Services. Do your research on the employer. We highly recommend that you take advantage of this service to get specific, individualized feedback on your particular interview style. You will gain valuable experience and confidence.

Practice Positive Visualization: If you ever participated as an athlete in either team sports or as an individual competitor, then you know that visualizing success and developing a positive psyche can often be instrumental in maximizing your physical performance. The concept is the same for interviewing. When preparing for the interview, do not let yourself think about or imagine failure. When you begin to have negative thoughts, replace them with a positive scenario such as the ones you have written above. Rehearse these positive scenarios in your mind several times a day, especially on the day of your interview. Imagine the interview scenario. Picture, instead of a scowling or bored interviewer, someone who is genuinely interested in learning about you and picture yourself giving the kinds of answers you want to deliver. Build into your scenarios contingency plans. Picture what you will do or how you will handle the situation if you do draw a blank or if you encounter a period of silence. Imagine how you will respond if the interviewer seems bored or even brusque or rude.


Eye Contact: Direct, sustained eye contact is very important. It conveys confidence, sincerity, truthfulness, and interest in the employer. Some job candidates manifest their anxiety by looking down at the ground or at their resume, around the room, at the interviewer's hands or paper, and generally avoid looking the interviewer in the eye. Make a conscious effort to maintain eye contact instead.

Posture & Gestures: Rest your hands lightly on the chair or on your resume folder, where the interviewer can see them. It does not really matter if you tremble or shake slightly this will go away after the first rush of adrenalin subsides. However, you should make a deliberate effort to avoid playing with hair or jewelry these are signs of nervousness that can actually be distracting to the interviewer and may also make you seem insecure. Additionally, avoid tapping your feet or shifting around in your chair too much.