Stress & Interviews

Every single day of your existence you will have to deal with stress. Whether you’re a 5-year-old whose favourite toy has met its gruesome end, a 30-year-old whose car has broken down in the pouring rain or even a student walking into an interview for your dream job, it is completely normal to be feeling some sort of stress. As you grow, you learn your own ways of dealing with stress and your own preferred ways of coping with situations that worry you. But, what do you do when it’s a really important situation and you can’t afford to let your stress, stress you out?

Interviews are a daunting place, it’s the first time that you’re meeting your potential boss and you want to leave the best first impression. Even if you’re an interview pro and you don’t need to stress because you got this …we all get a little nervous sometimes. So, we are going to try and prepare you on how to deal with stress as best as possible in an interview. By the end of this article, you will be that little kid going to school with both of their gloves, a wooly scarf, a matching hat, a packed lunchbox, a fully stocked pencil case and a brand-new uniform. Yes, you’re going to be the kid that’s prepared for anything. 

  1. The best thing to do before any interview is prepare yourself.

You wouldn’t go shark tank diving without a scuba suit and a gas tank, so don’t go to an interview without fully preparing and researching the company beforehand. No matter what you do, you will always feel a little nervous in those first few minutes during an interview, however, to reduce the stress that you’re feeling, help yourself as much as possible before you get there. Be prepared for any type of question that they might ask you about the company or about yourself, go over the typical questions that are asked in an interview and practice going over some of your answers. This way, once you are in your interview or waiting for your interview to begin, you can allow some of those nerves to calm down by reassuring yourself that you are ready for anything they might throw at you. Remember… FAIL TO PREPARE and you PREPARE TO FAIL.

A common question in interviews is ‘so, what do you already know about our company?’ and although you don’t want to start reciting the full business history of the company back to the year 1800, but you’re more likely to feel calmer if you avoid a long, awkward silence and actually have something to say. So, please, for the sake of your future job prospects, and your future, prepare yourself before your interview.

  1. Remember, this is only an interview and not an interrogation, where there is a gun to your head and they are forcing out any information from you. You need to relax.

Just chill out. Your interviewer has been in your position, they are human too and they understand that you’re probably really stressed out and nervous. So, you can take a couple seconds to calm yourself down. Remember, you actually got an interview! There was something that they liked about you, leading them to offer you an interview, so, don’t be too negative. It can’t all be that bad! Also, don’t drink a tonne of coffee before you get in there, you don’t want to be twitching and seeming like a crazy person in front of your potential boss. Coffee will increase your heart rate and could even further increase your stress levels, how about getting an early night sleep the night before, having a good breakfast and keeping yourself well hydrated? Nevertheless, try to maintain your professionalism whilst not stressing too much and answering honestly. 

  1. Let your body do most of the talking.

The way you hold yourself is an indicator of how you leave your first impression, being confident, maintaining healthy eye contact and smiling are all successful ways of fighting stress. Avoid fidgeting and try to resist the urge of looking at the floor or out the windows. The more stressed that you allow your body to look, the more stressed that you’re most likely going to be feeling. Although it’s pretty cliché, mind over matter is vital here, you need to remind yourself that you got yourself an interview, they must like something about you! Now is just your chance to show it off and showcase your best skills. However, it is always important that you don’t come off too arrogant, don’t maintain stealthy, never-ending eye contact as this can be quite intimidating. Try to find a balance of looking at your interviewer but also not being too intimate, by staring into their eyes like it’s the last time you’re looking at your beloved pizza. 

  1. Do what makes you happy.

Now, I don’t mean this in a ‘live every day like it’s your last one’ kind of way. No, I mean it more literally. Before an interview, do something that you know can make you feel a little more at ease, have a cup of tea, have a nice cold shower to wake you up, have a hearty breakfast before heading off or even take your dog for a walk. Make yourself feel a little more comfortable by doing something that you know will make you feel calmer. Now, obviously, this doesn’t mean that it’s the best idea to go and have a hardcore gym session like your life depends on it or have a couple shots to take the nerve off, just something lightweight and easy to take your mind off of the stress. Read a book, sing a song or watch some of your favourite TV series. Avoid thinking negatively before your interview as this will put you into a pessimistic mind frame, try thinking about the company, the job, your skills, all things that would be more useful for you to think about. 

  1. Rehearse what you plan to say

Okay, so if you feel really nervous and you are in panic mode… maybe you should practice a few pre-planned answers that you have in mind. Try to avoid listing off amazing qualities about yourself and don’t just end up reciting paragraphs of information. Instead, focus more on having a professional conversation with someone, where you can showcase some of your best qualities whilst remaining humble, yet confident. Don’t over rehearse because you run the risk of sounding like a robot and it doesn’t sound as genuine. 

Now, there’s also another way that stress can be brought up in a conversation during an interview. Maybe, your interviewer is asking you ‘How do you handle stress in your work environment?’ This would be their way of reading how well suited you are for the job, asking you about how well you deal under pressure, if you can manage all the extra stress and if you are the right person for this job. So, how do you respond to this? Here are a few quick tips on how to best answer this question: 

  • Never say that you don’t get stressed out. We all know that this just isn’t true, we all feel stressed out sometimes and your employer won’t be impressed if you state that you don’t get stressed. Instead, your employer will want to know how capable you are at working under strain and pressure.
  • Give an example from your work history where you have handled a stressful situation well and seen positive results from your work – however, make sure that the situation is not one that you have put yourself into, it needs to be one in which your employer has tasked you with a difficult situation or task. 
  • Try to focus on your thinking and the strategies you came up with to deal with the task and don’t focus too much on how stressed out you felt, show that you were able to face the task head on and come out successful at the end. 

Post by Anika Tazmin

Anika is a 4th year student at the University of Nottingham.