Job interviews are high-pressure situations. For many people, they are initially excited about the opportunity, but then spend days and even weeks worrying about the upcoming meeting.
If you are the type of person who frets about the worst possible scenario, it is important to know that this negative thinking can dramatically impact your mood, behaviour and self-esteem, which can then affect how you perform during your interview.
Lauren Povey, a cognitive behavioural therapist who treats people with anxiety at Priory Hospital Chelmsford, has outlined strategies that you can use to distract yourself from these negative thoughts so that you can go into interviews motivated and self-assured.
Recognise and re-frame your negative thoughts
There is a method that you can use to help you to pause and move past any disruptive or cynical thoughts you have about yourself. Every evening, write down any moment in the day when you became anxious. Write down what you thought at the time, how you felt, and how you went on to behave.
Some questions you could ask yourself include:
- What caused you to become anxious? Was it when you were thinking about the upcoming interview, or when you were reading through the job requirements?
- What did you think at the time? Did you think that you were going to do badly, or that you weren’t good enough for the job?
- What will happen if you continue to think like this? Will these thoughts affect your ability to do yourself justice in job interviews? Could they also impact on your health and relationships?
- How could you challenge the initial thought you had? You know that you are qualified for the role because they invited you for an interview
- What would be a healthier way of viewing the situation? You may want to think “I know that interviews are high-pressure situations, but I am prepared and will be able to properly convey my skills, experience and abilities”
- What can you do the next time you have this thought? When you next have a negative thought, make a conscious effort to pause, challenge it and focus on motivating yourself instead
By doing this every day – even on the days when you don’t have job interviews – you will start to realise the impact that your negative thoughts have on you. Once well-practised in the technique, you will be able to start redirecting yourself away from your negative thoughts the moment that they occur, stopping them from affecting you during any future job interviews.
Visualise your success instead of your failure
Rather than imagining all the things that could go wrong in your interview, spend time visualising what you want to achieve. This will act as a non-verbal instruction, teaching your mind and body to stay calm and confident in moments you’d normally be worried about.
- Find a private, quiet space and make yourself comfortable. Take a few slow, deep breaths to calm yourself, and then close your eyes
- Set the scene – imagine what the interview space will look like and the number of interviewers in the room. Even try to think about what you will hear, smell and feel
- You may want to go through the entire interview. If so, imagine yourself poised, relaxed and focused when answering potential questions, and when entering and exiting the room. If you want to focus on one part you are particularly nervous about, imagine yourself doing it perfectly and confidently
- Remain in the moment for 5 to 10 minutes or until you feel relaxed
When you have practised this technique, make sure you go back and visualise your successful interview whenever you start to think negatively, so that you can stop the destructive thoughts from continuing or intensifying.
Leave behind negative self-talk in favour of a positive inner dialogue
When you’ve been in stressful situations in the past, have you spurred yourself on when something has gone a little bit wrong, or have you shot yourself down? If your inner dialogue tends to be negative, where you tell yourself that something is too tough or that you can’t do it, you should practise changing this for positive self-talk.
In the hours before a job interview, leave behind thoughts like, “this will go badly” or, “they’re going to hate me” and instead think, “do your very best” or, “I can do this” to keep yourself motivated and focused.
During the interview, don’t get distracted by thoughts such as, “this is going terribly”. Instead, have a simple mantra like, “be positive, strong, and professional”. Also, have some instructional mantras ready like, “sit up straight” and, “speak clearly”.
Once the interview is over, don’t instantly become critical with your performance. Praise yourself instead, and remember that any small step you’ve made is progress.
Getting support for anxiety
If you find that your feelings of anxiety are become persistent, more intense or are having a detrimental impact on your day-to-day life, it is important to make an appointment to visit your doctor. They will be able to offer advice on the next steps to take and provide you with access to any support or treatment you need.