How to Handle Interview Stress to Secure a Job?

Maybe it’s your first time attending an interview or maybe you’ve experienced a handful of them throughout your career, you certainly find it stressful one way or another. Interview fears take many forms, either subtly or in a major way.

Although a healthy level of stress can affect an individual positively, not many people know how to control a stressful situation to keep them on their toes. So what can you do to avoid flopping a job interview?

Understand your weaknesses and the coming challenges

There are many factors accountable for an individual’s fear of a job interview. Understanding the root cause of your anxiety is the first step to managing your stress level.

Think about the biggest obstacles that knocked you off your feet during the previous interview, was there anything you could have done differently? Use that experience as a practical guide to improve your skills before jumping into another battle for jobs.

Tip: If it’s your first, consider having a mock interview to familiarise yourself with the process.

By nature, a job interview is like a blind date. You show your interest in a company through an application, they think that you may be a good fit based on your resume, so the two parties meet up to get to know more about each other.

What makes a job interview so stressful as compared to a blind date is that you are placed in a passive position most of the time. The uncertainty of the interview questions also poses as the top challenge faced by most candidates. On top of that is the tough competition with other job seekers.

By evaluating which aspect of an interview is more challenging to you, you’ll know the right skills needed to combat it.

For instance, if you worry about the questions that the interviewer may ask, you would want to do sufficient research on both the company and the position; if you feel shaky when presenting about yourself, you would want to improve your public speaking skill.

It’s important to do some self-assessment to gauge your competencies as well. Don’t just follow a general advice that you read on the Internet because one size doesn’t fit all. You need to understand about yourself first before diving head first into your interview.


Redefine a job interview as we know it

The truth is, your stress level may accelerate if you are overly prepared. If you anticipate certain topics (that you’ve studied) to come up, you’ll distract yourself from the actual questions being asked. So instead of worrying about what the employer will ask, try to think of what you can demonstrate in terms of professional skills and experiences.

Based on the self-assessment mentioned previously, you should’ve already known which areas would make a good elevator pitch (a succinct and powerful self-promotional pitch), and which would need to be improved.

Do keep in mind that an interview is not an oral exam with right or wrong answers. You are there to find out if the company is a right fit for you and vice versa. As long as you don’t say anything that is outright stupid or offensive, it can be just as enjoyable as a date. So try to shift your focus on what really matters: What can you offer to the employer?. That’s when your knowledge and skills come into play.

Needless to say, the less you think of an interview as an interrogation, the less stressful you’ll feel.

How to achieve a stress-free interview?

Now that you know what to expect, it’s time to go through the whole preparation process, step by step.

  1. Know what to research:
    Everyone knows that researching on the company is the most important step before the interview. However, facts and figures won’t help you tackle all the interview questions, let alone to make a good impression. Besides understanding the company’s business model, challenges, and opportunities, you have to be able to answer the question: “What are the things that I like most about the company?” as well. Tip: If possible, find the info of the person who will be interviewing you to find a common ground. This will help you stay more relaxed before the meeting.
  2. Prepare for the common questions:
    As an unwritten rule, almost all hiring managers follow a set of questions as a standard interview material. It’s not because they have nothing better to ask, it’s because those questions help to lay the foundation of the whole conversation. Check out the list below for the common interview questions that you should prepare for:

    • Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
    • What do you know about us/the position?
    • Why are you interested in this position/company?
    • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
    • What are your achievements?
    • Can you tell me about a challenge you’ve faced at work and how you handled it?
    • How do you handle stress?
    • Why do you think you’ll make a good fit?
    • What are your career goals?
    • Where do you see yourself in five/ten years?
    • Why do you want to leave your current job?
    • What do you expect from this job/your next job?research-on-comnpany
  3. Refresh your knowledge:
    Don’t solely rely on the job description when preparing for the job-related questions. You should equip yourself with the latest updates in the industry and of the employer, it will help prepare you for the unexpected requests or even actual tests during the interview. Tip: Any employer would prefer a candidate who is the true expert of his or her domain, so don’t hesitate to bring up the discussion revolving around the company’s businesses with your own insights. Since you are the navigator of the topic, you’ll be less stressed out over the uncertainty of the interview.

Above all else, you need to establish the right mindset when it comes to attending a job interview. It’s supposed to be a two-way conversation, which means it’s absolutely normal for you to “modify” your responses in real time in case the nerves get in your way.

Below are the scenarios:

  • Forget what you want to say?
    The moment you realise that you’ve missed out on something in the previous answers, you’ll end up thinking about it for the rest of the interview. You wouldn’t want that. Don’t be afraid to add on to what you have to share at an appropriate time. While you can’t just interrupt the interviewer, it’s okay to ask “Before we get to the next point, I just realised that I hadn’t mentioned…” or even make corrections to what you’ve said if you need to.
  • Don’t understand the question?
    This is the single fear that all of us don’t want to face. What’s worse than not knowing what to say is saying the wrong things. A rule of thumb is never making any assumption, clarify everything about the question before thinking about (faking) the answers. You may ask “Could you please rephrase the question?” or “Do you mean…?”. Once you have a better understanding of the subject matter and have delivered a satisfying response, don’t forget to ask “Did it answer your question?”.

Last but not least, don’t skip the small talks or the casual chats with the interviewers, those social interactions will help you calm your nerves as well. That’s how most recruiters set the tone and atmosphere for the interview.

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