Pushing Past Your Job Interview Fears

Earlier this year, we asked what worried tech professionals most about the job interview process. Solving problems on a whiteboard came in first, while “feeling dumb” ranked third (with 22 percent). Between the whiteboards and “feeling dumb,” it seems that 64 percent of tech pros are worried about looking foolish in some way during the interview process, especially any technical portions.

But letting fears of embarrassment hinder your performance
can actually make things worse. Here’s how to manage psych-outs and overcome self-doubt
before, during and after a job interview.

Escape
from Thinking Traps

Your thoughts or beliefs are the beginning of a
self-perpetuating cycle, noted leadership coach BJ Gray: “Your thoughts turn
into feelings, which turn into actions and determine the results you get.”

Poor interview performance often starts with thinking traps. For instance, if you think you can’t solve difficult algorithm questions, you’ll feel insecure. As a result, you may have a hard time thinking clearly during whiteboard evaluations, which reinforces your belief that you are really bad at algorithm problems.

“To overcome feelings of fear and insecurity, disrupt the
pattern.” Gray said. “When you change your thoughts, you generate positive
outcomes.”

To find out how you perceive things, try envisioning the
results you want, and then work backwards to determine which thought is driving
the feeling. Research shows that 70 percent of our self-talk is negative or
self-critical. Replacing negative messages with more affirming ones (examples
here
)
can have an enormous impact on your performance.

Maintain
Perspective

You’re likely to feel more confident if you view an
interview as a conversation between equals and not a contest or power game to
see who knows more, said Marie McIntyre, a workplace psychologist and coach
with years of experience in HR.

It’s easy to forget that job interviews are a two-way street.
An interview is also your chance to determine whether or not a company and
technical environment is a good fit for you. Remember that if this one doesn’t
work out, another one will.

Frankly, if you knew every answer, you’d be bored in that
role, Gray pointed out. You’ll feel more in control and relaxed if you give
yourself permission to explore, ask questions and learn.

Knowing that you don’t need to make an immediate decision
will reduce the pressure. Stay calm by giving yourself 24 hours to reflect
after an interview, noted Bill Cole, performance psychology coach and author of
“Interview Mistakes You Don’t Even Know You’re Making.”

Never admit that you are nervous. The more you master your
emotions, the more you’ll feel in control of the situation. “Don’t even try to
figure out the interviewer’s intent or mindset or you’ll lose focus,” Cole
said.

Suspending
judgment
will help you stay engaged in the conversation, show that
you’re listening, and find opportunities to inject the points or examples you
have prepared without sounding rehearsed.

(As Eleanor Roosevelt once said: “Nobody can make you feel
inferior without your consent.”)

Focus
on Your Strengths

Strengths
coaching
is a technique used by specially trained career coaches to
help clients identify their best tendencies, traits and successes. You can
achieve similar results by reviewing your résumé, work history, past projects
and performance evaluations to identify your greatest assets and achievements
before an interview.

Turn the information you uncover into a career
narrative
, as
well as a list of accomplishments and talking points. “Reviewing all of your
strengths before an interview will not only help you put stories together, it
will help you see yourself as a successful person, not a failure,” McIntyre
said.

When you believe in yourself, you’ll feel confident and
perform better. Of course, thorough preparation and practice under stressful
conditions (and quieting your inner critic) can help you hone your inner game,
as well.

Finally, there’s no point in dwelling on what went wrong
after an interview. Focus on the positive, because ultimately there’s no rhyme
or reason why candidates get rejected by employers.

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