Managing interview anxiety

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Managing interview anxiety

Post by hawke » Thu Mar 23, 2017 5:48 pm

I was wondering if people would mind sharing their advice on how to manage interview anxiety.

I am just not someone who thinks well when put on the spot. This weakness hasn't really held me back in work or uni - in my experience, 99% of situations allow me enough time to demonstrate my full potential. I have had really good results and feedback from a range of clinical, academic and professional situations, and feel confident enough in all 3 areas. However, it always takes me a few minutes to collect and structure my thoughts, and then find a way to verbalise them in a coherent way. Once I've done this, what comes out of my brain is generally pretty good!

However, interviews give me a maximum of a few seconds to try to achieve that! I suppose I must be prone to going into the mind-blank of the freeze response, and by the time it's over, I've just about cobbled together a waffly vague answer and they're moving on to the next question looking disappointed.

Does anyone have any advice on how I can overcome this, or at least manage it better given the on-the-spot nature of interviews?! Particularly interested in hearing from anyone else who has had to work at their interview skills, rather than naturally having the gift of the gab (oh, how I envy you people!)

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Re: Managing interview anxiety

Post by purpledot » Thu Mar 23, 2017 10:15 pm

Hi hawke,

I also have a tendency for my mind to go blank in interviews and it was something I worked on a lot during my interviews last year. Whilst everyone is individual, I can give you an idea of some things which helped me, which may or may not be of use:

- During unsuccessful interviews, I was often cramming in the nights before my interview. Stepping away from that, and staying with family members the night before an interview so that I could have a psychology-free evening and an early night made a huge difference!

- I had started using mindfulness & meditation for other things going on in my life, but found that these were really helpful to incorporate into my interview prep and for just prior to the interview. I also tried to use this in the interview, by taking a couple of mindful breaths to centre myself prior to answering a question.

- I practiced phrases to use in the interview so that I would feel comfortable using them. These included "That's a really interesting question, is it ok to take a moment to think about how best to answer?" and "I've talked about x, y and z, would you like me to expand on any parts of my answer?". Silly as it sounds, I found that practicing these out loud before the interview let me feel more comfortable using them (and I used them frequently throughout my successful interview!) so that I could take a few moments to construct an answer in my head. I know a lot of people can feel nervous about asking for a moment, and I was the same, but from my experiences of being on the other side of interviews, I think it allows for a chance to show resilience and calmness under pressure.

- Having a mock interview with a psychologist/someone you trust to give objective feedback might be helpful to practice. Alternatively, practicing questions out loud in front of a mirror/filming it can be useful to pick up on your strengths in an interview.

- This might be a bit more individual, but I found that re-framing the interview so that I wasn't aiming to get a place, but rather trying to do the best that I could, and if that wasn't enough, then it wasn't the right time for me, helped to take some of the pressure off.

I hope this was helpful, good luck for your interviews!

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Re: Managing interview anxiety

Post by Hockeygirl » Fri Mar 24, 2017 10:19 am

I would second this. I've always been guilty of cramming. This year I've taken a different approach, I've only learnt the basics, had supervision around interviews and am trying to be relaxed about it all.

At the end of the day, the doctorate is only a career path. If this one doesn't work out, there's others.

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Re: Managing interview anxiety

Post by DanJJJJJJ » Fri Mar 24, 2017 4:46 pm

Just to add, which has been touched on in previous answers, don't assume that you only have a "maximum of a few seconds" to blurt out an answer. If you think about it your brain freeze is a symptom of anxiety and the more expectation you put on yourself to do a certain thing, like respond immediately, the more stress and anxiety you are putting yourself under. What I have found really helpful in interviews is to allow myself to respond to questions with something like "I am just going to think about that for a second" and give myself a little pause to think through the question. I absolutely believe that interviewers are not going to take anything away from you by doing this. Just the knowledge that I have allowed myself to do this takes away some anxiety, which leads to clearer thinking, with the outcome that actually I might not need that extra bit of time.

Also, as someone else pointed out, lower the expectation on yourself to "I am just going to do as best I can". You are not going to perform better with vast expectations of yourself and lowering the demands on yourself will, again, reduce stress / anxiety allowing you to actually perform better.

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Re: Managing interview anxiety

Post by Geishawife » Fri Mar 24, 2017 7:22 pm

DanJJJJJJ wrote: I absolutely believe that interviewers are not going to take anything away from you by doing this.
As one who has been interviewing others for more years than I care to remember, I can tell you this is definitely the case!! Far better to think and reflect a little rather than blurt out the first thing that pops into your head and get yourself flustered. Also, don't be afraid to check if you are along the right lines. Asking "is that what you were getting at?" (or words to that effect) will not reflect badly on you.

Good luck!

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Re: Managing interview anxiety

Post by hawke » Tue Apr 04, 2017 10:06 pm

Thanks for the advice everyone! Definitely put way too much pressure on myself for the first one, but the feedback said I generally came across really well but lacked depth in my answers. So I am definitely going to practice saying phrases like "I've said x, y and z, is there anything you'd like me to clarify or expand on?", or "Have I understood the question correctly, or is there a different perspective you'd like me to talk about?"

So I can at least acknowledge that while anxiety interferes with the quality of my answer, it doesn't show in and of itself. So I can focus on what I need to feel less anxious and more clear-headed, rather than how I come across. I'm considering taking a pad of paper in with me, asking for a few moments to think and to jot down some key words to help me structure answers as well.

Still not quite sure what to do about not thinking well on the spot. As an introvert, I tend to think inwardly, and verbalising this normally private process is difficult. Think I might go along to a public speaking group over the next year (if I don't get a place) to practice a bit more.

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Re: Managing interview anxiety

Post by anniecat » Thu Apr 06, 2017 8:25 pm

Thanks for this thread - appreciate it.

I very much relate to a lot of what you say hawke. I too have issues with formulating my thoughts into crisp, clear sentences when in an interview I really care about I generally cope with pressure well (work, home life, study...) but these interviews bring out the worst in me. At first I thought it was an issue with 'thinking on my feet' or even with being the focal point of attention in the room but realise it isn't. Your post helped me see it's something to do with speaking it rather than writing. I know some are gifted with the ability to 'riff' in these situations but it is not my gift. I am not really sure what it is about - I can't really figure it out beyond that - why I would be able to write things down under pressure but not speak them. I've often thought of taking a pad and some paper into an interview but dismissed it as being really too weird. Does anyone else have any thoughts on that - would you as an interviewer think that was a strange (or perhaps it is not even permitted)

Thanks again hawke. made me think. good luck with your next interviews and so happy you were able to reflect in a positive way on your experience so far

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