For most people, interviews tend to cause an attack of the jitters. They are peculiar interactions that require you to sell yourself while still being modest.
You need to talk about your achievements, and your failures – but not come off as brash or incompetent. You need to display insight while still being hands on.
All the while being witty, charming, making eye contact and not fidgeting.
This way of communicating breaks all the normal rules of communication and societal norms. Especially as, generally speaking, we’re not encouraged to sing our own praises.
It’s little wonder that many of us trip over our words or suffer blanks when asked a question.
Part of this is because we can feel out of control. While we can prepare for interviews, we can only guess at the questions we’re going to be asked. We don’t know what the hiring manager will be like, what kind of mood they’re going to be in, or what they’re looking for in a candidate.
Interviews can be stressful, sometimes high-pressured experiences that even the most stoic of individuals can find challenging.
But what if you’re someone who suffers from anxiety?
Anxiety is a Common Condition
In the UK, one in four people will experience mental health issues at some point every year. These issues can manifest themselves in lots of different ways, from mild depression to severe and enduring mental health issues.
Anxiety is a very broad term – encompassing the full spectrum of anxiety from intense feelings of nervousness to panic attacks.
Equally the individual’s ability to cope with these feelings can vary too, requiring different levels of support to function.
However, this doesn’t render someone with anxiety incapable of working or coping with stressful situations. It might mean they simply approach it differently to better cope.
Under UK law you do not have to disclose your mental health and any potential employers are not allowed to ask. Only once you have been offered a job, they are allowed to ask about your health.
However, an employer is not allowed to withdraw an offer of employment based on your health. Rather they would need a letter from your doctor or an occupational health professional to determine your suitability for the role.
If the job offer is withdrawn after disclosing your mental health issues, this may be direct discrimination.
Managing your Anxiety before the Interview
If you’re prone to anxiety, or anxious thoughts it’s useful to have coping mechanisms in place to help you manage it. This is true of an interview too.
By making some preparations you will be able to turn up to the interview feeling in control, if not calm.
Preparing for an interview takes time, so make sure you get any research or presentations completed well in advance – not the night before.
Leaving things to the last minute will compound your anxiety. Equally your answers or delivery won’t be as polished because you will not have given yourself adequate time to absorb the information.
It is perfectly acceptable to take a notebook into an interview. Take advantage of this and go in with notes on your work history, your achievements, successes/failures and notes about your potential employer too.
The night before your interview read through what you’ve already put together. Avoid further research at this point as it’s about solidifying in your mind what you already know.
Avoid Caffeine and Sugar
This is a lot easier said than done but – where possible – avoid stimulants. Anxiety and stimulants aren’t a good mix, especially in stressful situations.
Depending on the severity of your anxiety, they can even make you unwell. Water will give your system everything it needs although you can supplement this with a glass of fruit juice if you choose.
Plan your Route
If you’re travelling to an unfamiliar location, it’s wise to plan your route out in advance. If possible, take the journey to where your interview is being held.
It will make you much calmer on the day as you’ll know where you’re going. You will also get an idea of what the commute will be like.
Also make sure you have the address, printed directions or a reliable Sat Nav/route finder app.
It should also go without saying to give yourself ample time to arrive.
Be Smart but Comfortable
Dress code for an interview varies depending on the organisation. A more informal approach is increasingly common but you will likely be told ahead of time what the expectation is.
Whether you’re in formal attire or not, make sure whatever you wear is comfortable. You could be in that interview for an hour or more so wearing something ill-fitting or restrictive could worsen any anxious feelings you may be having.
Get some sleep
Sleep is important no matter who you are, let alone when you potentially have a stressful day ahead of you. Use mindfulness or meditation techniques or read to get yourself into a relaxed state and go to sleep at a reasonable hour.
Apps like Headspace and Calm are especially good for helping you get to sleep if you suffer from anxiety.
Managing your Anxiety during the Interview
The moments before you are called into the interview are probably the most nerve wracking of the entire experience.
The fear of the unknown and hypothetical situations are some of the main drivers of anxiety. So those few minutes are fertile ground for your worries to take root.
Using Meditation/Mindfulness Apps
Again, apps like Headspace or Calm can help to keep your thoughts in the moment. They have short meditation and breathing exercises to help you relax.
Most require sound so make sure you take earbuds/headphones with you.
Externalise the Anxiety
Doing something creative can help to externalise the anxiety and put you in a good place. Drawing or painting by numbers apps can be useful to help calm you down.
Find a few you like and download them in advance so you can choose what to do depending on how you’re feeling.
If offered a drink, opt for water over tea or coffee. Staying hydrated will help you think clearly and help to keep you calm. Tea and coffee are also diuretics – in other words, they make you need the toilet, which is the last thing you need when trying to stay calm.
Water will also keep you feeling refreshed and sharper far longer than the caffeine hit from a cup of coffee.
Challenge Negative Thoughts
Sometimes negative thoughts can creep in during an interview. This is understandable as it can be a high-pressure environment – especially if you really want the job.
Remember, the person interviewing you is there to ask questions to determine your suitability for the role and the business. In some cases this could mean asking you some tough questions or pressing you for more information.
It’s uncomfortable but not malicious. Resist the urge to react or get upset. Remember, you wouldn’t be sat there if they didn’t think you could do the job.
An interview is not a race. It’s an opportunity for both parties to learn about the other and exchange ideas. Don’t rush through your answers – no one will think less of you for taking your time.
Try writing the questions down to give yourself time to compose yourself and formulate your answer. If you’ve made preparations there’s a chance you’ll already have the answer in your notes.
If you need to ask the interviewer to repeat the question, then do so. It’s okay and you won’t be marked down for it.
Remember to ask Questions
Interviews are discussions and you are as entitled to ask questions as the person opposite you.
Asking questions will help you to understand the role, the business, the culture and – essentially – whether you want the job.
Ask questions about the role, your responsibilities, business objectives and where you fit into organisational structure. Finding out this information early on will help you relax.
Plus, the more information you have the more at ease you’ll be making the decision when you get offered the job.
After the Interview
However, you feel the interview went, it’s good to take a few minutes to unwind. It’s normal to feel shaken, jittery or relieved after an interview. Whatever you’re feeling, it’s quite normal.
By taking some time to compose yourself after the interview you will feel more capable of coping with the rest of your day, whatever that may entail.
Don’t rush back to work
Try to give yourself some time to reflect on how the interview went before heading straight back to work. You may find that you have unanswered questions, or you thought of some further information to a question you were asked.
Giving yourself the time to reflect will give you the opportunity to write those thoughts down and follow up with the recruiter or hiring manager later.
If you are working with a recruitment consultancy, you will also need a few minutes to call them and discuss how it went.
Give yourself a Break
Also take a moment to praise yourself for making it through the interview. No matter what happens you should feel a sense of achievement.
No matter how well you think you did, acknowledge that you completed the interview and you managed to cope.
Starting a new Career
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