This is a guest post by Martin Hogg.
As I have discussed in a previous article, there are three main times of the job interview process when we can become extremely stressed: before the interview, during the actual interview and afterwards. As I have wide experience of this process from both sides of the desk and from discussing this situation with clients over the years; I will now go on to discuss useful techniques that can be useful for limiting stress in these situations.
BEFORE THE JOB INTERVIEW
There are many stresses than can arise here from prolonged worry causing us to become tired and suffer from poor concentration to last minute rushing – something that can lead to a great deal of stress.
- PLAN WELL AHEAD: As it is a good idea to do some background research into the job, the company and wider industry; leaving plenty of time to do this is a good idea. Rushing and cramming information in the night before not only leads to stress but also only contributes to our short-term, rather than long term, memory – leaving us more prone to forgetting this important information when needed. Leaving an ample amount of time will avoid this stress and should also help us to retain important information whilst also leaving time for any unexpected events.
- MAKE SURE TO GET PLENTY OF REST: This is mainly in the form of a good night sleep. While this differs for every one of us, the recommended amount of sleep per night for the average person is around 8 hours. Not only is getting this rest important on the night before the interview but also during the time from when we know we have the interview. After all, lying in bed at night and thinking about the interview – or any other worries for that matter – will deter us from getting this much needed rest. Indeed, if this happens night after night, our health will also suffer, alongside our levels of vital concentration needed for the interview.
- LEAVE PLENTY OF TIME BEFORE THE INTERVIEW TO GET READY AND ARRIVE AT THE INTERVIEW VENUE: Rushing before an interview is one of the most stressful things that we can do. As being late for any interview is probably one of the most severe interview mistakes we can make; rushing will cause great anxiety. My best advice here is to get up early on the morning of the interview. Eat a healthy and hearty breakfast (and lunch if the interview is in the late afternoon), though not excessive amounts of food as this can lead to discomfort and tiredness, and allow plenty of time to get ready. It is also a good idea to leave the house earlier than we would otherwise for the same journey just to allow this extra time – and to arrive at the interview venue early. When I say early, I mean to say about 10 minutes before the interview time. Too early can be as off-putting as too late and sitting waiting for the interview can cause us to become stressed. If we do arrive very early, it is best to take a short stroll around the local area, look in the shops or just have a quiet sit down. Whatever happens, try not to get hot and bothered. Reading some company promotional material while waiting to be invited for the interview can help us relax – and shows that we are interested in the company/organisation.
DURING THE INTERVIEW
As with any job interview every second counts here, with stress being the emotion that is unhelpful in this situation.
- MEET THE INTERVIEWER AND WALK SLOWLY AND CALMLY INTO THE ROOM: This is one of those times where stress can arise instantly without much warning. We may feel fairly calm up until this point but as soon as we walk through the door and see the interviewer(s) in-front of us, the stress can hit us like a brick wall. This also tends to be a time when people rush – rushing through the door and sitting down straight away without introduction – particularly bad etiquette for an interview! Walking slowly and calmly into the room, taking fairly deep breaths (in through the mouth and out via the nose) can be a good way of not ‘hitting this wall of stress’. This will also make us seem more professional and confident.
- LISTEN CAREFULLY AND THINK BEFORE ANSWERING ANY QUESTIONS: This may sound plainly obvious, but when in the heat of the moment this advice can sometimes be forgotten. Especially in these types of situation, we often hear what we want to hear and not what has actually been asked. Answering the wrong question can do two things: (a) it can make us seem careless – not good during a job interview, and (b) it can have a detrimental impact on the whole interview. For instance, we may realise midway that we are answering the wrong question or not answering properly. This can then make us stop, throw us off course and lead to a loss of confidence – which is difficult to get back in a short space of time. As the traditional saying goes ‘a stitch in time saves nine’, meaning that it is better to take time and then (getting things right) rather than rushing and making mistakes (creating more work and stress for ourselves). I have always been impressed with people in interviews who have actually had the courage to say they did not hear the question properly and ask if I could repeat it.
- PLACE SOMETHING ON THE DESK TO HOLD OR REFER TO: It goes without saying here that this should be something highly relevant to the job interview. It can often be a good idea to place a diary, company promotional material (shows research skills) or notebook on the desk in-front of us. The golden rule here is to always ask the interviewer(s) permission before doing this – although most times they will be happy to oblige and may actually be impressed as this also shows commitment and organisation. Also ask to take notes. Again this shows interest, confidence and from a stress perspective can take our mind of the stress by looking briefly down at the paper and doing something physical such as writing. Placing these items around us -in the most professional manner of course- also allows us to feel slightly in control of our environment and this in turn can help reduce stress.
AFTER THE INTERVIEW
This is a time that is often not discussed but like the interview itself can be very stressful. The main stress created here is caused by leaving the interview room and building and then the waiting for the news confirming or rejecting us for the job. While there is little we can do at this stage to change the outcome of the interview, or the workings of HR departments; this stress can have a detrimental impact on us and our future interviews – especially if a previous rejection from our interview severely limits our confidence.
- ON LEAVING THE INTERVIEW ROOM, LEAVE SLOWLY AND CALMLY: I can’t tell you the number of times I have interviewed people where the interview has gone fairly well but they have been in a stressed panic at the end to leave the room. This rush often results in a poor departing impression on behalf of the interviewer but also can lead to accidents. Often the last impression a person makes in an interview can be as important as the first and a poor last impression may cancel-out the first. I once interviewed a person who was in such a rush to leave the interview room, that they knocked a cup of tea all over the desk, including my notes. I have also heard of a lady in such a rush to leave, that she left the room via the wrong door – walking into a storage cupboard. To avoid this, at the end of the interview, after all of the questions and so forth, simply try to exchange minor pleasantries, slowly collect all of your belongings and shake hands with everyone in the room. Most likely in any interview we will be shown out of the room to the main entrance of the building. Here, just be natural and make minor small-talk – show that you are human and have a personality. Whilst the interviewers may be in a rush to see the next interviewee, be fairly quick, do not delay them but at the same time do not rush and definitely not panic. Relax when outside the building and out of eyesight of the interviewers.
- TRY NOT TO ANALYSE THE INTERVIEW ONCE IT IS OVER: At this stage there is now nothing that can be done to change what was said in the interview, so no-matter how hard it is, there is little point analysing it – even though this is very tempting. No-matter how well or how badly we feel the interview went, we will always find fault if we start analysing it. This can also lead to further unhelpful stress. If we are informed that we have not been accepted for the job, it is important not to lose confidence. This can lead to further stress and can in turn damage our employment prospects for the future.
These are just a small number of techniques that have I have suggested to clients over the years – as a result of past experiences. While there are many more, these should go a long way to reduce stress in job interviews. As I have shown in the article, it is not just the job interview itself that can be stressful but also the preparation and time following the interview – waiting for the results. I hope these techniques will help in future interviews and wish everyone applying for a new job the very best of luck and success in the future.