Your Step-by-Step Guide to Tackling Your Biggest Interview Fears

You may be excited about the prospect of getting a new job, but chances are you're less excited about the interview that could land it for you. Most people have a certain amount of trepidation about job interviews, worrying about everything from making a good impression to answering curve ball interview questions (like What would you do in the event of a zombie apocalypse?) to how to sell themselves effectively, without looking like a braggart.

Your Biggest Interview Fear

And the stakes are high, especially if you really want or need the job. "All of the universal fears come out to play in a job interview, including the fear of being judged," says Melody Wilding, a licensed social worker who coaches professional women and entrepreneurs.

Reality versus imagination

Most of the time, however, the interview will be far less terrifying in reality than it is in your overactive imagination. Even so, you can't do well if you don't get your nerves under control. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you attain Zen and help ensure a confident performance at your next job interview.

Step 1: Change your mindset. Probably the most important thing to keep in mind is that getting an interview means you're already on the right track. The interviewer is hoping you'll be a good fit for the job and is investing time and energy to bring you in. But the interview isn't only about them figuring out if they want to hire you. You also need to decide if the job is a good fit for your needs. "It is essential to shift away from a 'will they choose me?' mindset," says Hana Ayoub, a career coach. "Instead, embrace an 'is this a mutual fit?' approach to the interview." In short, you're interviewing them as much as they're interviewing you. Keeping that in mind can help you feel more in control of the situation.

Step 2: Prepare, prepare, prepare. One of the biggest fears many people have about an impending job interview is that all-encompassing fear of the unknown.  "Not knowing what you might be asked," says Karyn Schoenbart, CEO of The NPD Group and author of “MOM.B.A: Essential Business Advice from One Generation to the Next.” Head off those fears by being prepared for anything that might come your way. This might mean practicing responses to interview questions, particularly those difficult questions on topics you feel squeamish about, such as why is there a gap in your work history or why you're choosing to leave your current job. Also, be certain to outline in your mind the points you want to make about how your accomplishments or work history relate to the job you're applying for. But while your preparations should focus on the job itself, don't forget to take time to get yourself mentally prepared for the interview, whether it's listening to music, meditating or going for a walk on the beach. Lastly, don't forget to get enough sleep, and leave early for the interview to avoid the stress of being late.

Step 3: Plan the interview to suit your needs. Not a morning  person? Don't schedule a morning interview if you can help it. Also, request as much information about who you’ll be meeting with and when so you can mentally prepare. If you're going to be meeting with a number of people it's good to know who they are and what they do, so you can determine if you have common interests or history in common that can build a connection and get the conversation moving.

Step 4: Stop obsessing about small skill gaps. The number one interview fear many people have is related to imposter syndrome, says Wilding. This is when an individual, who is truly well qualified, feels like they're not. It's a common phenomenon that strikes many successful and accomplished people. You might feel like this because you lack of confidence or because your experience isn't a perfect match for the position listed. Does this sound like you? If it does, remember you don't have to have every single qualification listed to be a good candidate for a job. But if you do have a small gap, be prepared to fill it by showing you have experience that makes up for it. This might include experience outside the job in a volunteer position or your personal life.

Step 5: Ask questions. Remember, as we discussed earlier, you're interviewing to find out not only if the company wants you, but also to find out if the position is a good match for your needs. Asking questions can not only give you a better picture of whether the job a good fit, but informed questions will also let the interviewer know you're interested and engaged. "To me the questions a candidate asks can be even more important than those they answer," says Ayoub. Prepare questions before the interview. This way you won't have to scramble to come up with them on the spot. But remember, avoid obvious questions that you could have, and should have, learned the answers to by looking at the company website. You want to showcase your desire to learn, not your lack of preparation.

Step 6: Keep it in perspective. What if—despite your best efforts—your interview goes terribly wrong? Chalk it up to a learning experience, one that will help you perform better in the future and prepare you for that dream job down the road. Interviewing is a skill, one that you develop over time. Each interview, even the failed ones, allow you to build your skills and improve, which should assure you that in the end a job interview, even a bad one, is truly nothing to fear. 

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