Feelings of anxiety during an interview are common and normal. Unfortunately for some people feelings of job interview anxiety seems to be overwhelming and a source of interference when it comes to responding to the interview questions. To help understand where job interview anxiety stems from and what someone can do to reduce job interview anxiety, I have interviewed therapist Michael Reeder LCPC.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“I am a licensed clinical professional counselor (LCPC) with offices in and around Baltimore, MD. I have a master’s degree in clinical community counseling and a post-master’s degree in spiritual and existential counseling, both from Johns Hopkins University. I do individual adult counseling on a wide variety of topics including depression, anxiety, bipolar illness, spiritual concerns, and major life transition. I take a holistic approach that incorporates mind, body, and spirit. I believe it’s important to integrate a sense of life meaning into counseling. I guess what might set me apart from many other therapists is that I find ways to combine very concrete action-oriented tools and plans with more contemplative approaches like what matters in life and spirit.”
Where does job interview anxiety stem from?
“There are lots of theories about this ‘” the trick is to pick one that works for you. “Works” as in the explanation is clear, the path to fixing the problem is clear, and a solution to the problem can be reached. I personally see the issue as stemming from illogical thinking patterns, and a need to “prove” to the unconscious that all is well.”
“Most of us develop illogical thought patterns as we grow older ‘” thoughts that become so automatic that we barely even notice them as they slip by. Thoughts like “I look awful”, or “nothing nice ever happens to me”, or “I can’t do anything right”. These thoughts are originally formed ‘” or told to us by adults ‘” when we are young enough not to challenge them. As adults they slip by real fast and we find ourselves feeling nervous, afraid, inadequate, or any of the other negative emotions that we would of course feel if these thoughts were true. The idea here is that thoughts lead to feelings. The unconscious believes whatever thoughts it gets fed. Persons with job interview anxiety have formed automatic thought patterns that make them nervous in interview situations.”
“The unconscious mind, while capable and clever, relies upon the conscious to tell it what is true in the world. Observations and judgments and logic are up to the conscious mind. So the illogical thoughts above passed to the unconscious (where emotions are formed) make the unconscious upset. This also means that if the conscious mind can be convinced that all is well, then the unconscious will respond with confidence, happiness, etc. This opens the door to several strategies (explained below) for convincing the conscious mind all is well so that the unconsciously generated anxiety will go away.”
What type of impact can job interview anxiety have on a person’s life?
“It’s easy to say that being anxious at an interview can mess-up interviews. But really the damage is far deeper. I have had clients who turned around before arriving at interviews because they were too afraid. I have had clients who otherwise sabotage themselves so they don’t have to go to an interview. This leads to all sort of economic and self-esteem problems. The economic problems are obvious. The self-esteem problems can affect all areas of one’s life. Some people will assume that every job they don’t get is proof of their own inadequacy. It may have been that the employer simply decided not to hire after all. But in their minds it’s another personal failure and another reason not to bother submitting resumes, and to be depressed and withdrawn. So what starts out as anxiety leads to depression, withdrawal, failed dreams, you name it.”
How can someone reduce job interview anxiety?
“One excellent way is by examining the thoughts you are telling yourself. You might try creating a chart with the headings “Situation”, “Automatic Thought”, “Feeling”, “Alternative Thought”, and “Re-Rated Feeling”. This will help you become aware of the automatic thoughts you are telling yourself. You can then dispute the patiently untrue thoughts (like “I always mess up” ‘” which can’t be 100% true) with a more true replacement thought (like “I sometimes do okay”). You compare your feelings before and after the alternative thoughts are created to see if they work. This style of self-help comes out of CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and there are countless self-help workbooks on the market. A good general classic workbook is the Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Bourne which devotes chapters 9 and 10 to this CBT approach (with worksheets) and contains countless other anti-anxiety strategies as well. You may also want to look at the online self-help tools from Optimism Apps (http://www.optimismonline.com) and Ecouch (http://ecouch.anu.edu.au).”
“You can also create a strategy to convince your conscious mind that all is going to be okay. If your conscious mind believes it, your unconscious will follow. Here are a few excellent examples for job interview anxiety:
1. Create a readiness checklist then follow it. Maybe you study about the company for 4 hours, write out answers to 10 commonly asked interview questions, layout you’re clothing the night before, and have printed driving directions ready. Or whatever. Write out a checklist of items that make sense to you and prove to yourself you are ready by doing them. This sends the right message to the unconscious and helps fight illogical thoughts as well.”
2. “Run a complete mock interview. Get ready as though for an interview and have a friend interview you. Have them do it twice ‘” once as a nice interviewer and once as a mean interviewer. See ‘” you can do it.”
3. “Relax. Relaxed people usually do better at job interviews. What is your best method of relaxation? Do it the morning of the interview. You could also practice a guided meditation using all 5 senses. See yourself getting the job and answering questions flawlessly. Hear praise. Smell the new car interior of the car you will buy with the new job money. Feel surroundings of your new work environment. Your unconscious will respond to these positive meditations with the correct emotions.”
4. “Spiritually connect. If you happen to be spiritual, then take a moment to design the best way for you to connect to spirit and ask for help, support, connection, luck, and guidance. If you are not, then ask your friends to support you and wish you well. I can explain this practice as working according to the theory above (if your conscious mind believes a spiritual connection will help, then it will tell the unconscious all is well and the anxiety will go away) but I’m not that cynical. I actually do believe spiritual connections are real personally. So elicit their help!”
What last advice would you like to leave for someone who has job interview anxiety?
“Employers expect their interview candidates to be nervous. They need to hire someone regardless. They are looking at the whole package ‘” not any one weakness. I myself am an employer. I have personally hired people who arrived 10 minutes late or dressed too casually. I have hired people who stuttered a bit. If you know you are a good overall fit for the job, you can convey that regardless of minor foibles. Minor stuff is just that ‘” minor.”
Thank you Michael for doing the interview on how to reduce job interview anxiety. For more information about Michael Reeder or his work you can check out his website on http://www.hygeiacounseling.com. You can also contact him at 877-823-3439 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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