Despite of advising students for over 10 years, I still find myself riddled with anxiety when I attend an interview. There’s something about being in the spotlight; that one chance of either securing the job or being rejected, that is guaranteed to bring me out in a sweat. I recently stumbled upon this this article from The Muse which made me reflect on why do we all fear interviews so much? When I ask students, what worries them about interviews the most, these three consistently make it on top of the list:
- Mind going blank
- Not being able to think of an example
- Stress and anxiety bubbling over
So what is the solution? Well to a large extent it is about practice and self-reflection. Interviews are a solitary activity and most of us would rather not ask for feedback or reflect on our performance. However a sure way of improving your interview technique is to get objective feedback. One way is to book a practice interview with a Careers Adviser or to use InterviewStream which enables you to record your interview and review your performance.
That aside, what is the solution for the three biggest fears?
- Mind going blank: you can’t stop your brain freezing, however you can control how you respond if this happens. My top tip is to acknowledge what’s just happened, and start again. Or you may wish to ask the recruiter to repeat or clarify the question buying you precious time.
- Not being able to think of an example: another form of brain freeze! Again, it is all about composing yourself. Feel free to ask the employer for a few minutes to think about the question. If inspiration doesn’t strike, then consider answering hypothetically… “Although, I haven’t experienced such a situation, if I did this is how I would tackle it…”
- Stress and anxiety bubbling over: I think this article from the Guardian offer excellent tips on how to tackle anxiety before and during the interview. I would add that it is OK to be open about being nervous, it makes you human and the interviewer will relate to you better.
Finally and most importantly, interview anxiety can get out of hand if you build the interview up in your mind to a point where you start to loose perspective. Take a moment to consider: this isn’t the only job out there. They wouldn’t be interviewing you if they thought you lacked potential for the position. Replace negative thoughts with positive ones: ‘I could get the job’ rather than ‘I might not get the job’.
Is this you:
- You have an essay deadline looming
- A mountain of exam revision to do
- Deadlines to apply for placements / graduate job / PG course (delete as appropriate)
Yet you find yourself making endless cups of tea, which leads to a quick visit to the shop to get more milk followed by a 5 minute nosey on Facebook where you start looking at cute cat videos your mate shared and next thing you know you've nodded off and the list above is untouched.
Hello Procrastination, my friend.
pro-cras-ti-na-tion |prəˌkrastəˈnāSHən, prō-|
the action of delaying or postponing something: your first tip is to avoid procrastination.
Who would have thought the dictionary held the solution all along. Avoid procrastination. So elegant in its simplicity.
This piece from the Huffington Post provides a beautiful explanation about why procrastinators procrastinate. Really worth a read. At the very least, do get acquainted with the gratification monkey.
But why is this relevant I hear you ask? Well, we have seen so many of you lately - stressed and telling us it is just easy to bury your heads in the sand. Whether it is mounting course work, revision or deadlines for job applications - procrastination is the perfect ingredient to induce anxiety. And before you know it, you'll find yourself locked in the cycle of worrying and not doing.
So here are some tips to cut through procrastination:
- Control your web browsing - OK, this is going to be really hard but stay with me. Log out of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, WhatsApp, YikYak etc. Reward yourself with social media time when you tick something off your to-do list.
- Ask someone to check up on you - dare I suggest your mum for this task? Joking aside, peer pressure works! This is the principle behind slimming and other self-help groups, and it is widely recognized as a highly effective approach.
- Worse case scenario - identify and write down on a post-it the unpleasant consequences of not doing what you need to do.
- You can't eat an elephant whole - that old saying... break down revision or course work into smaller chunks (and reward yourself with cake every time to accomplish one of those tasks).
- Change your environment - if there are lots of distractions at home then go to the library or vice versa.
- Hang out with do-ers - identify people/friends/colleagues who are are driven and doing stuff. Some of their energy is bound to rub off and inspire you.
- Prioritise - this time of the year there are going to be lots of competing demands on your time. Identify what is important and focus on these first.
- Accept imperfection - no one is perfect! You are only human and are bound to make mistakes now and again. Failure and being imperfect can be so intimidating it can cripple your capability to function properly. You must remember that perfection is neither possible nor necessary.
Finally and most importantly be patient! Habits are hard to change but little steps do make a difference. One of the ways we can support you in the careers service is by talking through actions that will help with your career planning. Feel free to book a 15-minute quick query sometime.
We’ve just put up the Christmas decorations in the Careers Service and whilst it is nice for our team to be thinking about fun things like our Christmas meal together and a break from work, we realise that this time of year is a very stressful time for students. With course work deadlines and applications or interviews to juggle, things can feel very overwhelming. You are also tired and that can make problems seem a whole lot worse than they are. You are not alone and we are happy to discuss your concerns. You should also remember that the University has excellent counselling support for students if you are in need of support because your mental wellbeing is affected.
A few students I have seen previously have booked a quick query this last week or so to have a bit of a catch up. They haven’t really had a question as such but have found it helpful to talk out loud about where they have got to with their applications and any interviews they are facing. My message is to share your worrying thoughts with us, with trusted friends or family members or the counselling service. A good listener can really help you put things in perspective.
Some of the students we talk to are worried about the impact their job applications are having on their academic work. We would never advocate that you put job applications before your study so if that is a choice you face there is a simple answer. You have one chance at your degree but plenty of time in the future to apply for jobs. We are happy to discuss this with you.
Some of you may have made applications and been unsuccessful. This might be the point at which you seek some help from us to make sure your application is the best it can be and it is also a chance to review whether what you are chasing is really the right thing for you. This is a tough situation to be in but you will find that we are ready to support you and help you consider your options.
We are also seeing students come in who are concerned that they are only starting job hunting now and think it is too late. So much of the timing of your job hunting depends on when the jobs or courses relevant to your chosen career are advertised. Make sure you are clear about the recruitment timetable for your preferred job. After all there is no point in be anxious about something that is not actually a worry. Even if you have left it a bit late to start we are continuing to receive job information from many employers and will continue to do so throughout the year. To get a better idea of job hunting please read our guide “Finding a Graduate Job” and talk to us.
These are just a few of the examples of concerns students have about their careers at this time of year. Please be assured that you will find a confidential, impartial listening ear and helpful support here at the Careers Service regardless of how big or small your worries are about job hunting. Who knows a short chat with us might help you get things in perspective so you can enjoy a short break over Christmas without feeling guilty.