Overcoming Interview Anxiety

It’s natural to be anxious about a job interview.

The process itself can be overwhelming – from perfecting your handshake, to choosing the right outfit, drilling in power poses and answering questions competently, there is a lot to consider.

For those with social anxiety disorder (SAD), a job interview can be even more difficult. Interview anxiety can be a significant obstacle when looking for work. There are many SAD triggers associated with interviewing:

  • Meeting strangers in a position of authority
  • Talking about yourself
  • Being evaluated and judged on your appearance, demeanour, and performance
  • Having all eyes on you

Recognizing that anxiety can distract you or weaken your memory, it is important to take action in mitigating it. Whether you have SAD or are simply nervous about interviewing, consider the following tips for your big day:

1. Practice good health habits

  • Get enough sleep and exercise the night before. Avoid too much caffeine, and eat something light before your interview so your stomach isn’t making any funky noises or causing you to feel light-headed.

2. Visualize success

  • Find a quiet space, close your eyes and visualize yourself being successful in your interview. When we visualize, we are priming our brain to behave in an optimal way.

3. Breathe

  • When you’re anxious, breathing tends to be shallow. You can practice breathing anywhere and it only takes a few minutes. Take a breather in your car after parking at the interview site or while you are waiting to be called.

4. Practice self-compassion

  • Self-compassion is defined as ‘‘being open to and moved by one’s own suffering, experiencing feelings of caring and kindness toward oneself, taking an understanding, nonjudgmental attitude toward one’s inadequacies and failures, and recognizing that one’s experience is part of the common human experience” (Raes, 2010). Self-compassion is related to psychological well-being and it is considered an important protective factor in promoting emotional resilience (Raes, 2010).
  • While breathing, repeat positive words of affirmation to yourself: wisdom, strength, warmth, non-judgement.

5. Prepare ahead of time

  • Research your potential employer and prepare answers to expected questions. This will increase your comfort level and confidence for the interview.
  • Pack items that you think you might need the night before e.g. resume, cover letter, business cards, references, licenses, certifications, pen & notepad.
  • Virtual reality (VR) software is becoming a promising intervention for those with SAD. In a study by Bell & Weinstein (2011), it was found that using a VR program to systematically improve interview skills, reduce fears, and simulate a job interview lessened anxiety amongst users. Examples of VR applications include Big Interview and Molly Porter.

6. Get outside yourself

  • Anxiety causes us to become very self-centred. Try focusing on others to draw the attention away from yourself. People watch, greet the receptionist at the interview site, and others how their day is going.


Feeling anxious about an interview can actually be a good thing. It is a sign that you want to do well. Anxiety motivates you to become better prepared, and keeps you alert during the process.

We will all likely experience a certain amount of anxiety at an interview. However, it is important to recognize when our anxiety becomes debilitating and keeps us from moving forward in job searching. In this instance, seek additional help from a trained psychiatric professional.

What else do you do to overcome job interview anxiety? Let us know in the comments below!

Photo Credit: http://www.careerbuilder.ca/blog/wp-content/uploads/Interview-body-language.jpg, http://www.careerbuilder.ca/blog/wp-content/uploads/Interview-body-language.jpg


Bell, M. D., & Weinstein, A. (2011). Simulated job interview skill training for people with psychiatric disability: feasibility and tolerability of virtual reality training. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 37(2), S91-97. doi:10.1093/schbul/sbr061.

Raes, F. (2010). Rumination and worry as mediators of the relationship between self-compassion and depression and anxiety, Personality and Individual Differences, 48, 757–761. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2010.01.023