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Interview Anxiety | 3 Tips to Calm Your Pre-Interview Nerves

Jennifer Abcug profile image

Jennifer Abcug

An abstract illustration of interview anxiety, featuring a pair of glasses, a bead of sweat, and yellow talk bubble on a dark blue background.

You’re on your way to a job interview! You must be so excited, right?

Then why do you feel like throwing up, why is your shirt soaking wet, and what is that ringing in your ears? It’s your friendly sympathetic nervous system doing its job by shifting into gear as your body responds to its heightened state of stress.

How can you possibly answer questions in this state? While you may think your anxiety will prevent you from having a successful interview, perhaps it won't. Maybe—even while stressed—you can use your anxiety to your advantage and reflect on why you're experiencing these feelings in the first place.

Anxiety can be a form of excitement (and that’s a good thing!)

A recent study found that subjects who used a technique called “anxiety reappraisal” in high-stress situations reported reduced negative emotions and an increase in positive emotions.

For most of us, our conditioned reaction to stress (in addition to that soaking wet shirt) is fear. This is called the threat mindset, and it negatively impacts our response to high-stress situations (like job interviews). But what if you could reframe your mindset to embrace the panic rather than run from it?

To channel your energy and attention into your job interview, here are some tips for working with your pre-interview anxiety:

  • Recognize your fears. Instead of trying to overcome your anxiety, lean into it. Identify what facets of the job interview are making you nervous and sit with them.
  • Reframe the negative thoughts in your head. Now that you’ve addressed your fears head on, remind yourself of how smart and capable you are. You might be nervous about misspeaking or jumbling your words, but you should also have a list of accomplishments to impress the hiring manager.
  • Remember that you’re excited, too! Instead of giving in to the threat mindset, use your anxiety as a reminder of why you agreed to a job interview in the first place; you’re likely excited about the role and the opportunity to share why you’d be a good fit. This is known as the opportunity mindset, and it is as simple as telling yourself, “Hey, wait a second; sure, I’m feeling anxious because I’m nervous about this interview, but I’m also excited about the possibility of getting this job!”

Befriend your sweat

So, wipe your brow, pack an extra shirt, and walk into that interview with excitement and anticipation (and your opportunity mindset engaged). And remember, you can feel stress and still remain present enough to ace the interview.

Life 101 plug: Remember that anxiety reappraisal is not just a technique specific to interviewing. I was the most present I’ve ever been that time I parasailed—fear of heights and all. But had I allowed my threat mindset to override my opportunity mindset, it would still be on my bucket list and I would have missed an experience of a lifetime.


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Jennifer Abcug profile image

Jennifer Abcug

Jennifer Abcug, LCSW, is a licensed psychotherapist in New York City, where she specializes in women’s life transitions. Prior to this, she counseled patients and families at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Convinced the earth moved after reading Mary Oliver’s poem, “The Summer Day,” the question: “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” has become a focal point of Jennifer’s practice.

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