For some people snakes and spiders will have then darting across a room and climbing a wall while other people would prefer to avoid the dentists even if all of their teeth were falling out, but for some still, one of their worst fears of all is the job interview.
Why do we fear the job interview? The first thing to realize is that fear is a natural reaction, and fear is okay! In fact, in some cases fear can actually help you, but you have to take action instead of falling into the trap of complaining, giving in to your fear, and giving up.
There are many reasons we fear the job interview, but most come down to a few basic job interview fears: fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of the unknown and fear of embarrassment.
These are fears we face every day, but the job interview puts them front and center because often so much rides on the interview—where our next pay check will come from, what direction we are headed in our career, how we will support our families, what lifestyles choices we make to accommodate our jobs, etc.
If we think realistically, we know that the worst that can happen is that we don’t get the job. (Or maybe that some embarrassing story about your experience will end up in an article online one day.) But, the truth is, we can survive these hurdles.
There will be other jobs. And, if you’ve already landed a job interview, the hardest part in actually getting your resume seen is already over! Someone actually wants to speak to you and thinks you could be qualified! Too quickly we forget the positive sides of landing a job interview because our fear gets in the way.
But, when it boils down to it, fear is fear, and it is neutral. It is a chemical reaction in the brain that manifests itself physically, mentally, and emotionally. It’s a natural ‘fight or flight’ response to danger that almost everyone will experience at some point (if not many points) in their lifetime. And, because it is a natural response, one way you can look at it as your brain and body’s way of protecting you.
Whether fear takes a positive or negative toll is completely up to you. The key is not letting your fear spin out of control into severe anxiety, panic, or a phobia. You have a choice, you can own your fear and face it and use it to help you or you can turn your back on it and let the fear consume you. It may not be easy, but it can be done.
Think about when you may have done something publically and you may have gotten butterflies in your stomach before the event. Those butterflies were one signal of fear, but, they also helped your brain to focus its attention on the task at hand, because that’s all you could think about. So in this scenario, your fear was actually helping you whether you knew it or not.
Another way to look at the fear is to see if it’s misplaced. Is your real fear that you may not get the job or is your fear where your next pay check will come from and how you will pay your bills. Being able to separate out where your fear actually lies and understanding the fear can help you take some of the pressure off yourself.
One of the best ways to reduce the amount of stress and fear of the job interview is always preparation. This can help diminish the fear of not knowing what may happen by familiarizing yourself with the position, the company, your own background, practicing answering questions or even holding mock interviews with friends. Do whatever it takes to get comfortable, even if it means driving by the building a few times the day before your interview so you’re sure you know where you’re going and how to get there.
Fear also tells us that we have stepped outside our comfort zone. And, guess what, the best things in life usually happen when we step outside our comfort zones and take a risk. Fear is telling us we’re experiencing something new and as long as we are the ones in control of our own situation that fear will help inform you of what’s worth doing.
If you have severe anxiety and fear about the job interview to the point you can’t leave the house or completely shut down, it may be worth seeking outside help. But, for the majority of us our fear is manageable and we can learn to make it work for us, instead of against us.
It boils down to this: fear protects us, it can be a motivator, and it can be our friend, if we’re willing to introduce ourselves to it and make nice. Take time to understand your fear and let it inform you of what you need to do to make the situation better. It requires taking action and being accountable for ourselves, but great things never come without a little hard work. And who knows?—Your fear may just surprise you at what it can help you achieve the next time you interview.