Anxiety and fear of interviews is a common problem. As a business coach, I have worked with clients whose fear has crippled their career development and earning potential. My clients are very capable and know their anxiety is irrational but sometimes that’s not enough. It takes time and effort to understand and overcome such emotions but all is possible with the right help.
One of my clients Eoin, a Senior Marketing Manager, wanted to move to a larger company but severe anxiety in interviews was holding him back. Very successful in his career, he regularly won tough sales pitches and gave presentations at C-Suite level. However, the very thought of an actual job interview reduced him to a cold sweat. Eoin understood that not facing his fear would limit his career growth so he came to me for advice and guidance.
We worked together to explore his anxiety and pinpoint the underlying issues. Through our sessions, these three tools proved particularly effective in helping Eoin master his nerves:
When stressed, our breathing becomes shallow; not enough oxygen gets to the brain and this typically causes our minds to freeze. Becoming aware of our breathing patterns in times of stress allows us to control this. Taking slow and deep breaths relaxes our body, calms our mind and allows our thoughts to flow freely again.
In Eoin’s case, he practiced breathing exercises in the period before the interview. He became conscious of his breathing pattern in stressful situations and used this as a prompt to slow his breathing down. This greater awareness allowed him to instinctively manage his breathing in the interview and feel in more control. He also took a 10-minute walk just before the interview to focus on deep breathing. He found this process deeply calming, and it allowed him to enter the interview feeling more confident and settled.
Reframing the interview:
We explored stressful situations Eoin experienced at work that closely mirrored an interview scenario. Pitching for new business, he regularly faced a number of people and answered a volley of questions. Drawing parallels between this and the interview allowed Eoin view it in a less emotive manner. Reframing the interview as a sales pitch enabled him to access his true skills.
This is something we experience daily – certain songs, smells or gestures act as a trigger taking us back to a specific experience, often evoking strong emotions. By learning to link positive emotions to a particular gesture we can quickly tap into a confident state of mind Training this response can be very effective in overcoming anxiety. The stronger the emotion and the more senses you can tap into when reliving it, the more effective the trigger will be.
I helped Eoin identify a situation where he had performed particularly well in a stressful setting. He mentioned a challenging Q&A session with a group of global CEOs where his performance was a success and widely praised. I invited Eoin to relive this experience to evoke the positive feelings he experienced and tie them to a physical trigger. This technique provided him a way to tap into his feelings of strength and control in the interview scenario.
Anxiety won’t magically disappear but it can be controlled and managed better. Accessing different techniques at the right time can help in numerous situations. As for my client Eoin; he successfully managed his anxiety, went for a number of interviews and secured a promotion to Marketing Director with a Multinational Company.
About the author:
Laura is a qualified executive coach, EMCC Certified with over 20 years’ experience in executive search and recruitment. She’s the owner of Interview Techniques, a leading provider of interview and career coaching services and has been a guest lecturer with Trinity College Dublin and TU Dublin. For a consultation, please call 087 669 1192 or go to www.interviewtechniques.ie.