Controlling interview nerves

Discuss what to expect in job and course interviews, what topics might be covered, how to manage anxiety, and how to get the desired result!
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Controlling interview nerves

Post by emjayeff » Wed Apr 01, 2015 6:06 pm

Hi all,

I've just recently had a couple of job interviews and have a couple of doctorate interviews coming up and I'm noticing a trend in my performance - I panic when people ask me questions and blurt out everything I can think of in that 5 seconds in a completely unstructured way, whilst leaving out all of the other important stuff I know but can't access in my panic :P

(I'm hoping I'm not the only one!)

I was wondering if anyone had any advice to help control this a bit? I have tried to take breaks and think, but this tends to panic me more as the silence is so uncomfortable. I was once told to write the questions down as they are asked to give me some time to organise my thoughts, but my boyfirned felt this was a bit of an "unsociable" approach.

Any other tips would be greatly welcomed! I come out of interviews kicking myself as often I have reasonable answers, but lose my cool and mess up.

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Re: Controlling interview nerves

Post by ClaireEmma » Thu Apr 02, 2015 5:16 pm

I can really relate to this, I had my first doctorate interview last week and I messed up in a few places because I was so anxious. I was talking way too fast and twice I didn't quite answer the question I was asked, I missed a small detail in the question because I apparently wasn't processing things properly and was just launching straight into an answer.

I think it's hard to completely prevent these things from happening and you have to remember that everyone will be nervous, it's normal and shows you are taking it seriously. How I dealt with it was to try to remember to keep breathing, when you take a pause it will seem longer and more awkward to you than anyone else because you feel anxious. If you need to think just say something like 'that's a difficult question, I'm just going to think about that for a second', I did and it didn't feel that awkward really. The interviewers were quite good at prompting me if I went a little off track, although that might vary from panel to panel. I realised half way through a question that I had misinterpreted it so I was just really open about it, I acknowledged my mistake and just started my response again. That was a bit embarrassing but they allowed me the time to change my answer and in the end I got a place so I certainly don't think they expect perfection!

I know it's hard, but try not to focus too much on what might go wrong or what you might not do very well and try focusing on your strengths. Good luck!

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Re: Controlling interview nerves

Post by hettie » Fri Apr 03, 2015 10:36 am

I feel your pain….
I utterly stuffed up my first qualified interview by being overcome with panic and gabbling like an idiot (about stuff I really new too!). Most embarrassing was the fact that one of the interview panel was my previous supervisor. When he called (to tell me I hadn’t got the job) he was mystified. He asked what an earth had happened, because he knew I knew this stuff (and had the right experience). I really wanted the job and had catastrophized so much that I anxiety and panic took over. Since I’m normally confident and I’ve been lucky enough to not really get anxious before I didn’t have any coping skills (and was completely unable to access all the stuff I use with clients!).
I recently had another interview (for a band 8 post- which was a bit above my level, but a good match for skills and knowledge). This time I has some strategies for the nerves. I’ve remembered all my CBT skills and knowledge (look up CBT for social anxiety/panic if you’re not familiar). I did some mindfulness and calm breathing- even a bit of CR on myself! I normalised the anxiety, reminded myself that it wouldn’t be a catastrophe if I didn’t get the job and that I won’t come across as badly as I think…. It didn’t eliminate the nerves and I forgot some bits that would have been good to have mentioned. But the feedback was good, they didn’t think I came across as anything but competent and skilled. I didn’t get the post as I someone with considerably more experience had the edge, but I’m pleased with how it went and at least now I know that I have some tools to manage (the very normal) anxieties that come with interviews.

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Re: Controlling interview nerves

Post by midas » Thu Apr 16, 2015 2:46 pm

I'd echo all that people have already said, and I would add to repeat the question, either out loud or in your head, especially if it is a long winded one! This can give you more chance to process the elements of the question and try to formulate a structured response. Remember that blurting out all that you think you know will suggest that you aren't really considering or thinking much about it, or just churning out something you have previously rehearsed which doesn't really answer that question, whereas taking some time (as awkward as it may seem) shows that you are giving it some thought. Ask for clarification if necessary, and if there are multiple parts to answer, ask if they don't mind repeating the question "to make sure you have answered as fully as possible".
Good luck!

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Re: Controlling interview nerves

Post by Mikel Arteta » Thu May 28, 2015 3:02 pm

Some good points already mentioned, which I won't go over. I also think leading up to the interview can be a factor. If you revise too much (which most people who are unsuccessful tend to do), you're cluttering your head and then it is not free to access all those nice reflections and experiences. Do no prep the night before; nice dinner, bath, bed, etc. No prep on the day - just get yourself there in one piece (and not a shaky mess!).

As for when you're in there, one thing stuck out for me in your post. You mentioned garbling it all out in five seconds. Take your time to answer. I took an age to answer one questions on my doctorate interview, I'm talking a massive pause. I just could not think of an answer and last second I pulled one out of the bag. I got on. I think they liked that I thought carefully. Think carefull and your answer will be more considered. You can always say 'I'm just going to think about that for a moment'. Take a sip of water or just sit back and think, there's no rush. And if you're not sure what they meant, ask for clarrification.

All the best :)
Blackbird singing in the dead of night, take these broken wings and learn to fly, all your life
you were only waiting for this moment to arise

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Re: Controlling interview nerves

Post by Esuma » Fri Jun 05, 2015 8:04 pm

This has been quite a helpful thread to read! I haven't really had an interview in about two years and the last I had for an AP job was an absolute train wreck. I had to do a presentation so concentrated all my effort and anxiety into that, did the presentation relatively well, then went to pieces because I hadnt thought about the interview itself! I froze up and couldn't answer any questions or only gave very short responses. It was particularly embarrassing and awful but I learned a lot from it! Hopefully next time I get an interview, I'll think through potential interview questions and try not to stress!

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