Among the many stress-producing situations in everyday life, interviewing has always ranked near the top as more stressful. But in today’s world, where finding a job may be more urgently important than ever, online interviewing is the new normal. Having some effective coping strategies in place to ease one’s nerves in a virtual interview can enhance the prospects of successfully landing a job….
How the Interview Process has Changed
The days of combing through classified ads in the newspaper to find a job in one’s field are long gone, replaced by online listings, job boards and job websites, as well as networking opportunities and referrals. Once a prospective employer makes contact and wants to set up an interview, that also has changed from an in-person, face-to-face conversation to a process that’s mostly conducted online. Indeed, during the COVID-19 pandemic, so many employers are only doing virtual interviews for new employees, especially when it’s early in the screening process.
It’s one thing to make preparations for an in-person interview:
- Selecting the right attire.
- Paying attention to proper grooming.
- Putting oneself into a positive frame of mind.
- Using tried-and-true coping strategies for anxiety.
- Rehearsing strong points.
- Learning as much as you can about the company before sitting down with the human resources manager.
It’s another thing to attempt to figure out how all this works when the interview process is conducted solely online. No wonder anxiety management is a hot topic in the work world today.
This doesn’t mean that all the usual preparations are useless. On the contrary, they are perhaps even more important, since the interview is generally time-limited and there isn’t the luxury of last-minute comments as you leave the room, or sitting in the waiting room psyching yourself up and getting a firsthand sense of the company and what it’s like to work there.
In other words, doing the necessary homework beforehand is vital and doesn’t change just because the interview process is now virtual. It does mean, however, that learning better forms of anxiety management can benefit the interview experience before the one-on-one virtual session is on the calendar.
Interviewing Is a Common Anxiety-Producing Situation
Likely as not, the individual being interviewed does not know the interviewer. That alone is enough to qualify as an anxiety-producing situation. Since making a good first impression is vitally important during an interview, when there’s not an immediate possibility of casual conversation before and after the formal interview during a virtual interview, this time may be all there is to score favorable points with the interviewer. Knowing this reality can increase feelings of anxiety, although if you employ coping strategies for anxiety ahead of time, you’re less likely to fumble during the virtual interview.
There is a diagnosable disorder known as anxiety disorder, as well as what’s commonly termed the “jitters.” What most people go through before an uncomfortable, new experience such as a virtual job interview falls more in the category of the jitters than an anxiety disorder. Here’s a brief overview of each.
Everyone feels anxiety at some point in their life, whether it’s nervousness when meeting someone new, apprehension about doing well on a test at school, or navigating issues at work. Many other everyday activities may prompt uneasiness and worry of a temporary nature. Indeed, the major difference between normal anxiety and an anxiety disorder is that the disorder doesn’t go away and worsens over time. And, according to the National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH), someone with an anxiety disorder may begin to suffer deteriorating relationships as their ever-present anxiety wreaks havoc with a job, school, and/or other responsibilities.
Among the different anxiety disorders are generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and phobia-related disorders. Anxiety disorders typically do best with treatment in the form of medications and counseling.
Anxiety That’s the Jitters
Dictionary definitions of the jitters include mentions of extreme nervousness before a performance (as in performance anxiety), tenseness, anxiety, stage fright, the butterflies, cold feet, the shakes, the willies, and heebie-jeebies, among others. When you know you’re going to be judged on what you say and how you come across—and if you’re at all apprehensive as a result of that knowledge—that more likely classifies as the jitters. It won’t last long and will likely not have a lingering effect; nor will it require treatment. However, this type of anxiety can still benefit from tips for how to manage it.
Tips for Anxiety Management
While it’s normal to experience nervousness ahead of the virtual interview, preparation is the best way to improve your online performance and manage anxiety. Careful planning and attention to detail can help minimize any anxiety you might feel during the interview itself.
Here are five anxiety techniques that, when applied ahead of time, can prove beneficial in controlling anxiety during the online interview itself:
- Avoid caffeine. Caffeine raises levels of the stress hormone cortisol and can cause the kind of jolt that only magnifies existing nervousness. When maintaining a sense of calm and focus is important, it’s best to steer clear of too much coffee or espresso before the virtual interview.
- Breathe deeply before getting started. If the virtual job interview is set for a certain time, along with getting the connection up and running and ensuring the settings work well, take a few moments to engage in some deep breathing exercises. According to the American Institute of Stress, abdominal deep breathing for 20-30 minutes a day works to reduce anxiety and stress. This anxiety management technique brings more oxygen to the brain, signaling the body’s parasympathetic nervous system, and results in a sense of calmness. Deep breathing before talking with the job interviewer will quiet the mind and help you feel more connected to your body.
- Dress for success. Just as it’s important to wear the right attire for an in-person job interview, dressing for success in a virtual intervie now takes on even greater importance. This is your chance to portray yourself as someone capable and confident, in the know, self-assured, well-prepared, and enthusiastic. When you know you’re wearing the best attire for the job interview, you feel better about yourself. That will translate to how you speak, your ability to maintain focus with the interviewer, and how well you cover the points you want to make.
- Practice. Don’t forget one of the primary coping strategies for anxiety in the recommendation to practice the interview process before the actual interview takes place. Use a friend, family member, perhaps a career coach. Some software platforms will allow you to do a test run and record a video of you speaking into the camera. Study that to perfect eye contact, body position, posture, and other elements conducive to a successful interview. Networking site LinkedIn, for example, has a job tools AI platform that allows you to do practice videos so you can learn how to perfect your virtual interview techniques.
- Maintain eye contact with the camera. One anxiety management trick during a virtual interview to help you hold eye contact with the interviewer is to tape a picture or drawing of eyes over the camera on the computer. Keep looking at that focal point during the interview. Another plus of the virtual job interview is that you don’t need to wear a mask like you would in an in-person employment interview.
How to Get Through This
This upcoming opportunity to show yourself off to a prospective employer in the best possible light—(and proper lighting in the room where you do the virtual interview is another key tip)— may seem daunting, yet you can get through it. Not only that, but you’ll be able to add this interview experience to your list of accomplishments, which is another plus in an age of COVID-19 and social distancing. Like any other skills in an increasingly tech-dependent society, the more familiar and comfortable you are interacting with prospective employers and persons in a position to advance your career, the better your chances will be of eventually landing a job you’re after.
Besides, you may be one of the millions of Americans who will now be working virtually, at least some of the time. Highlighting additional coping strategies for anxiety, be optimistic, do your research, prepare well, and take your time answering each of the interviewer’s questions. Good luck.