Interview nerves costing you the job?

  | James Innes

Many find the idea of an interview a daunting prospect, and suffer severe nerves and anxiety before and during the interview itself. In fact, interviews are ranked, along with a death in the family, getting divorced and moving house, as among the most stressful experiences people face in their lives. However, while some nerves can be natural and even healthy –top sports people, for example, usually feel some tension before a big match or competition – for others crippling anxiety can actually spoil their chances of getting the job they deserve.

In part, this is the fear of the unknown. Unless you are an HR professional or the equivalent, interviews are not something you do every day, week, or even year. If you have been with the same employer for a long time, it could literally be years since you last found yourself in an interview situation.

Then there is the element of competition. On average, five candidates will be interviewed for every vacancy. That means, on paper, you have only a 20% chance of success (of course, the well prepared candidate can radically improve these odds.) Furthermore, you might actually meet some of these rivals for the job in the waiting room before the interview itself. Perhaps they look calm, collected and confident compared to how you are feeling?

There is also the irrational fear of discussing the one subject you know most about – namely you! An interview is an opportunity to discuss and highlight your strengths and achievements, and showcase your talents. However, for many people this does not come naturally to them and they can feel inhibited about what some may feel is showing off or bragging.

Finally there is the interviewer themselves, this strange forbidding creature who holds your fate in their hands.

There is no magic pill to overcome interview nerves – if there was everybody would take one! However, there are things you can do to help overcome your anxiety.

Firstly, prepare thoroughly. The more preparation you do in advance –on the role, the company, and the industry – the better you will perform during the interview. Look at the job description and your CV and identify matches and also divergences. Consider how you might fit into their organisation and also any reservations you would have about the job.

Get as much interview practice as you can. This may mean applying for jobs you don’t want just to get the interview practice or conducting mock interviews with a friend or family member. You could also get professional interview coaching through a reputable firm like the The CV Centre ZA. As in many things in life, the more you practice, the better you’ll get at interview.

Finally, remember you are not the only one to get nervous. Those other candidates may appear as cool as ice but is just likely they are good at hiding it – inside they are probably as nervous as you, perhaps more so. And the recruiter themselves might be nervous as well, especially if they are not a trained interviewer. In any case, in most cases, they will be sympathetic and go out of their way to try and calm nervous candidates.

Interviews are stressful situations and it is easy to get nervous about them. However, with proper preparation, lots of practice and a sense of perspective you can master your nerves and present yourself convincingly.

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