Early in my career, during a training session, the facilitator handed us a sheet a paper and markers and said “Draw how you would feel if you got a call that auditors will be in your office in 15 minutes”. The majority drew an angst-filled face. Mine was not so much angst as a general “ugh”. In the back of my mind, I kept hearing one of my college professors who drilled into us that “there are no problems, only opportunities”, and so I thought about how my perspective and approach at hearing that news would have an impact on the result of the audit.

The same is true when it comes to interviewing. How you view it going in can have an impact on the result.

For some people, going to an interview is an exciting adrenaline rush. They can’t wait for the day to arrive, have planned their wardrobe for a week, practiced answering questions, researched the company to the extent they can quote data points from the most recent annual report, and are confident it will end in the offer of their dreams. Nothing will stand in their way!

For others, it is a frightening prospect, one they might describe as a necessary evil in life. It applies whether the interview is over the phone (where, yes, the interviewer will still pick up on it), in person locally, via Skype, or in a cross-country location that took the better part of a day of travel before they arrived. They get anxious or nervous, perhaps with dreaded physical impacts such as sweating or nail biting, worried they will spill coffee on their suit, or say the wrong thing, or get stuck in traffic, or any number of other things that could create a poor showing. Sometimes that worry alone causes the interview to not go well.

I have a close friend that falls victim to severe interview anxiety, even when he knows he is highly qualified for the position. The whole experience is a complete and utter nightmare for him. He has probably, at times, stayed in a position too long solely because the negative prospect of interviewing for a new opportunity outweighed the positive potential of a new challenge. Obviously, that is not a good place for him – or you.

Ready for some good news? The reality is that some nervousness – in moderation – can actually be a good thing. It causes us to stop and think about our “show”: how we will respond to anticipated questions, how well our resume demonstrates fit for the role, how passionate we are about the company, the position and our goals. It helps to keep you from coming across as smug or arrogant or complacent.

One thing that may help manage your apprehension level is to view the interview as one step of a process that serves as a fact finding mission, without as much focus on the desired end result. Realize it is a two-way street where you are interviewing the company just like they are interviewing you. Take that a step further and realize it is also an occasion for you to learn about you! You get the chance to determine:

  • Is this a company whose style, corporate culture, and philosophy blends well with mine?
  • Knowing the type of environment where I thrive, does the manager’s leadership style mesh well, or would I likely feel unsatisfied?
  • What is the company’s planned trajectory, and how will that benefit the employees?
  • Can I stand and support their products and services?
  • Is this somewhere I can see myself in 2-5 years, still happy and engaged, or at least as a valuable pit stop on the career development road?
  • Am I really targeting the types of roles where I will be the most successful and the happiest, or do I need to amend my strategy?
  • Do I know what I really want, and why?

Remember that interviewing is always a learning experience – even, or perhaps more so, when you do not get the offer.

  • You learn about yourself, including where you were well prepared and where you need to focus for your next interview.
  • You learn more about an industry as well as a particular company and/or role that provides insight to make educated decisions as you continue applying and interviewing.
  • You learn where you are on the anxious to stoked scale, and what activities have helped you find balance.

Think about the good that will come from interviewing, regardless of the outcome. Adjusting your viewpoint going in can help channel your energy and emotions in helpful ways. Give it a try, stop and evaluate, adjust again, and keep applying/interviewing until you reach your happy balance place in the new job of your dreams.

Best wishes in your search!