Most of us get nervous before and during job interviews. But what causes these feelings of nervousness to arise? The answer is our mindsets—the specific thoughts running through our heads before interviews and during interviews, even after interviews.
Some of the most common thoughts that cause great anxiety include: “I hope they like me,” “I hope I’m good enough,” “Who am I to be applying for this—there are way more qualified people,” and “I need to know all the answers.”
When we think these thoughts we feel pressure to perform, and this creates a sensation in our bodies. When we feel pressure to perform we feel nervous or tense, or some feeling that shows up in our bodies in a way that makes us sweat, our heart to beat fast, and our hands to shake. (I know because I’ve been there.)
We’re not typically consciously aware of these thoughts—which are just sentences in our head. We don’t realize that we’re causing our feelings with the language we choose to run through our brains. Language is what causes our feelings.
So the first step of reducing anxiety is to notice what thoughts we’re having, what we’re telling ourselves about our upcoming interviews. Often, my clients get more and more nervous because they didn’t get chosen for a previous opportunity; they let that affect their confidence in future interviews, before which their thoughts tend to go towards the worst possible scenario. For example, they think things like “I have the skills but I’m just no good at interviewing and so I doubt I‘ll have a chance,” or “I’m probably not going to get this job because I haven’t gotten the last five I interviewed for.”
These are just thoughts. They’re most certainly not the truth. However, most people think that they are facts, when in actuality people are just creating these thoughts with the mindsets they currently have—mindsets that are running on default mode. Once you notice the thoughts you're creating, then you can see how they're affecting your results.
It looks like this: a thought causes a feeling, which causes an action (or lack of an action), which causes a result. For example:
Thought: “I have the skills but I’m just no good at interviewing and so I doubt I’ll have a chance.”
Action: Show up to interview in an unconfident state of mind, not as your best self.
Result: Keep getting rejected for jobs.
Many people will unconsciously go through this over and over in their minds and keep getting the same result, getting more and more frustrated each time.
Instead, where you want to go with your mind is somewhere more useful, like this:
Thought: “I wonder what they’ll need my help with and how I can serve in this role.”
Action: Show up and ask great questions from a place of service and curiosity.
Result: Increased chance of getting the job. Feeling good about interview.
If, at the end of the day, you’re doing your best to shift your mindset around the interview but you still catch yourself getting that nervous sensation, it’s okay—I’ve been there and I totally get it. However, it doesn’t have to cost you the job.
When I find myself in this situation and am able to address it head on, I have a laugh and continue with the interview. For example, during one interview, my hands and face were shaking, and I knew that it was noticeable—it felt very awkward. So I said to the interviewing panel: “If I appear a bit nervous, it’s probably because I am.” After that, we all had a laugh, I was still able to bring my A game with my answers, and I got the offer.
The bottom line is we're all human (including your interviewers). We all make mistakes, we all get nervous sometimes, and we all have uncomfortable feelings at times. It doesn't make us any less valuable, or any less capable of reaching any goal we’re striving for.
Natalie Fisher is best known for helping professionals land their dream jobs and achieve explosive salary growth (even with little experience). If you enjoyed this article and want to go deeper, she has a free workshop called “Everything You Need To CRUSH Your Interview (Even If You’re Currently Freaking Out A Little).” You can get more info on that and sign up for that here.