The CV Blog

Has your interview been hijacked before? How to take control next time around.

One of my current interview coaching clients, Ms R, told me this week about the recent interview that smashed her confidence and left her feeling terrified of the next one. As you’ll appreciate, a fear of interviews can be a major obstacle to job search so it’s fortunate that she reached out for some help and is getting back on track.

Ms R’s interview was stressful from the get go. At the scheduled time she was ushered into a room and given six complex questions with 10 minutes to prepare. Panic set in immediately. Her body stiffened and she felt like her mind was in shutdown, rather rising to the task at hand. In fact it was. With our fight or flight response triggered, it is difficult for us to access our higher order brain functions to rationally navigate the situation. The great thing is cognitive behavioural therapy tells us that by tackling our beliefs and thoughts, it is possible to create more effective responses to avoid the panic.

Appropriately preparing yourself before the interview can make a huge difference to your experience. Remember that getting shortlisted means that they already think you’re a solid fit for the role. Take in the mindset that interviews are simply an opportunity to communicate what the interviewer(s) needs to know to confirm your fit for the role. Be in touch with what you offer, take your achievement examples in with you if you can and recognise the need to remain calm so they get an opportunity to see the best of you.

Once Ms R was taken into the interview room, it went from bad to worse. She felt highly anxious and the panel not introducing themselves definitely didn’t help. One panel member was a psychiatrist and she noticed him writing notes on his pad. She immediately thought “He’s judging me, I can see he doesn’t like me” and it threw her further off course.

So what could Ms R have thought instead and how might it have changed the experience? That interviewer certainly was judging her but most likely on her fit for the role. She might have thought “I’m glad he’s so interested in noting what I’ve got to say today” or “I’ll take a moment to become really present by feeling my feet on the floor, rather than imagining what the interviewers are thinking”. These responses are likely to have a much more positive effect on our mindset and subsequent actions.

One of my key takeaways from Russ Harris’ Happiness Trap book was to question our thoughts, eg. “Is this thought helpful?”, “Is this thought going to take me to where I want to go?” You don’t even need to think about whether they’re true or not. While it takes some practice, it is totally possible to not buy into such thoughts and to replace them with others that are more helpful.

Unfortunately, not all interviewers set candidates up for success, however, there is often an opportunity for us to influence the experience and increase the likelihood that we will present the best of what we have to offer. While you might not want to work with a company like the one in this story, you’ll definitely will want to preserve your confidence for interviews.

If you want to shine at your next interview, consider a coaching session with Career Vitality.