How to Overcome Interview Fear

By Rich DeMatteo

The candidates brought in for interviews will most usually look outstanding on paper and/or computer screen.  Recruiters and Hiring Managers grind their teeth in excitement as they review their candidates top level education, perfectly matching experience, and a long list of mostly unnecessary nice to haves.  Through experience, however, these staffing veterans have learned to keep calm, for the real test is coming – the in-person interview.

Why is it that so many candidates give organizations that overwhelming “found the golden ticket” feeling, only to be under whelmed and disappointed after the candidate’s in-person interview?  One reason may be poor resume and phone screen evaluations, which falls on the organization, but there’s a far more common reason – fear.

A fear of public speaking is the most common phobia in people.  Given that interviewing is another form of public speaking, it’s easy to do the math as to why so many candidates perform poorly on interviews.  While candidates may not be asked to stand and speak to hundreds or thousands of people, when you enter the thought that an interview is a judgment and review of ones skills and experience, then you’re inviting a many number of reasons for one to become anxious.

Fortunately for many of those who can’t stand the thought of interviewing one-on-one or in front of a panel, there are a number of helpful methods to ease their mind.

Here are six ways to overcome interview fear:

1. Preparation and Practice

Surprisingly, many candidates fail to prepare for the length of time needed for them to be successful on interviews.  Candidates should research the company, the interviewing team that they will meet, and an understanding of the interview method being used.  It’s quite OK to ask the recruiter or contact about the interview process and methodology if it’s not provided.

On top of being prepared with the right information, candidates should either practice by themselves or grab a friend to interview them.   Each person is different, but it’s suggested to practice and research for a minimum of 2-3 hours for an interview.

2.  Memorization of Resume

A candidate should be able to recite their resume without ever needing to look down at the page.  When candidates are forced to look down and say, “umm”, it comes off as a lack of confidence and candidates may feel flustered or lost. Candidates should read out their skills and qualifications over and over until it’s solid in their memory. 

3. Candidates Are Also Interviewing the Company

Nervous, anxious, and/or fearful candidates must remember that they, too, are an interview.  They must make sure that everything at the organization is up to par with their hopes and expectations.  Candidates should bring a list of 5-7 questions to an interview, as recruiters will most always ensure there is time for candidate’s questions at the end.

4. Think Positive

What’s the worst thing that can happen?  Sure, a candidate may not get the job, but another will come along.  One source of interview anxiety and fear comes from the idea that if the candidate messes up, then they won’t get the job.  Thinking this way can lead to even more anxiety.

5. Arrive Early

It’s critical for candidates to arrive early for a few reasons.  For one, it helps them get acclimated to their surrounding.  There’s nothing worse than being late and feeling rushed to find the building, suite/office, and wondering what the company will think about their timing.  Another reason to arrive early is that it provides the candidate more time to prepare and read their notes.

Candidates should practice driving to their interview location the night before or earlier in the week.  If possible, arriving to the parking lot 25-30 minutes early is desirable, but do not plan to walk into the office until about 10 minutes before the interview.  Recruiters hate feeling rushed, but being early is certainly better than the alternative

6. Smile

It’s amazing how many candidates forget to smile.  Smiling tricks the candidate into feeling confident, while doing the same thing to the interviewers.



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