Doesn’t it bother you when you read articles from what are supposed to be reliable and trustworthy websites and they give you advice like “Don’t drink coffee before an interview” or “Visualize success before you enter the room” or “Love yourself and they will love you too.”
That advice is about as useful as telling a burning man to visualize somewhere cool and wet.
Job interview anxiety is as natural as being afraid of a man eating tiger in your bed, but fear is born in the body and takes root in the mind.
You cannot control what signals your body gives you, but you can control how you react, and you can take control of what your mind does with the naturally-occurring anxiety that comes from job interviews.
1. Do It A Lot
Were you nervous the first time you had sex? Do you still drive like a nervous learner? Are you still as nervous today with your spouse as you were on your first date? Take a little more of a back seat and make peace with the fact that you are going to have to go through a lot of interviews before you get a job, and start using that fact to your advantage. The more you do something, the easier it becomes. The more experience you get, the better you get at being able to handle your anxiety.
To make the most of your experience, make sure you treat every interview like yet another chance to get more interview experience. Do not treat your interview like you one-and-last hope for happiness, and never beat yourself up after your interview. Your goal is not to get the job, your goal is to learn something from each interview so that you become a better interviewee. Make this your goal, and the only way you lose is if you give up trying.
2. Have A Backup Plan
A big cause of anxiety is uncertainty. The world’s best organizers feel no anxiety at all because if plan A doesn’t happen, they skip to plan B, to plan C, plan D, etc. If you are putting all your eggs into one basket and putting all your effort into one interview, then you are the only one to blame for your anxiety.
College students do not pick a single college; they pick between three and five. Having something to fall back on is a great comfort.
Consider this – What if your backup plan is just as good as your primary plan? Your anxiety may have more to do with your lack of flexibility regarding your options than it has to do with you wanting the job. If your backup plan were as exciting as your primary plan, would you be all that nervous if you didn’t get the job?
3. The Fight Club Method
Fight Club features a section where the fighters are told to go out, to start a fight, and to intentionally lose the fight. As contradictory as it seems, as soon as a fighter sets out to lose a fight, the fighter no longer has any fear of fighting. It is one of those weird psychological missteps (cognitive dissonance maybe) that us humans have hard wired in us for some reason.
Nobody is saying you should resign yourself to defeat. That wasn’t the point of the section in Fight Club. The point is that you have control over what happens, and you can retake that control even in loss, especially when you remember that you have the power to cause the loss.
For example, a ten year old kept failing his 2-times tables test despite the copious amount of practice and studying he kept doing. Every week, the clock started, he tried and tried and tried, but just kept failing. Then, one week, he said to himself, “Screw the test, screw the clock, I am going to work at my own pace and I am not even going to look at the clock.” He passed his test easily, and it is not because he resigned himself to defeat, it is because he retook control. The clock used to have control, and now he has control. When you walk into the interview, you give the interview the same power the clock had over the ten year old, and you can change that by remembering that you have the power to do whatever you want in this interview. You can drop your pants and whistle the pledge of allegiance if you want because you have the power.
4. Practice Like A Stage Actor
Go over all the questions that you will be asked and come up with answers in advance. After each interview, whip out your phone and start writing down all the questions you were asked. Go home, add them to your list of questions, and start working out some answers for them. Doing this sort of perpetual preparation gives you worlds of confidence to the point where taking an interview becomes more like an art than a chore.
People always say, “Oh, you should be more confident and project an air of confidence,” but they do not realize that you have nothing to be confident about.
Confidence is powered by something, it doesn’t come from nothing. A handsome guy is confident with women because of his looks, a muscular man is confident in a fight because of his strength. Perpetually prepare, and it will power your confidence, and over time that confidence will replace your anxiety.
Good Advice Works!
Let’s face it, the advice you read here is far better and more useful than the other wishy-washy stuff you have read online about managing stressors and releasing anxious energy. The truth is that most online articles on this subject are useless because they are written by writers who haven’t had an interview in the last 20 years. Most of them took up writing because they couldn’t get a real job in the first place.
Any of the tips in this article will work instantly because they deal with the problem on a psychological level. They shift the goal posts, they move your priorities, and they alter your motivation. You are not tricking yourself, and you will still feel some anxiety (you are human), but you entered the interview with nothing, you lose nothing, and you will probably leave with nothing, so what is there to fear? No matter which job you go for, there is always another one just as good out there; lady luck is a harsh mistress, but sometimes she throws you a bone.