How to Handle Job Interview Stress

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Stressed, young businessman waiting for interview

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Are you looking for a job and stressed over interviewing? You're not alone. Job interviews can be tough, even if you have gone on a lot of them. The high level of anxiety around interviewing can make life difficult, and even sabotage your chances of landing a job.


Some anxiety around interviews is normal and can sharpen your focus as a candidate. On the other hand, if you're stressed, you're not going to interview well.

The key to interview success is to keep anxiety under control, so the level of stress is manageable. Here are some tips for managing pre-interview and during the job interview jitters, so you can more easily handle and avoid stress, and ace your interviews.

Prepare in Advance

Thorough preparation can go a long way toward easing interview stress. Identify your most relevant skills, and be ready to share examples or anecdotes showing how you applied those strengths to work, volunteer, academic or co-curricular roles, and how you have generated some positive results. Here are tips on how to prepare for a job interview. If you are interviewing out of town or in another state, there are some more steps you can take to prepare for a successful interview.

If you're an introvert, interviews can be really stressful. Review these interview tips for introverts to help you get ready.

Research the Company

Research your target company thoroughly, and be prepared to share why the employer and job in focus match your interests. Here's how to research a company.

Practice Your Interview Skills

The adage "practice makes perfect" applies to interviews. The more familiar interviewing feels to you, the less anxiety you will feel about the process. Meet with advisers, mentors, and friends for mock or practice interviews. Conduct as many informational interviews as possible with alumni or personal contacts to gain confidence in sharing information about your background.

Don't Count on This Job

Conduct a vigorous job search to generate as many interviews as possible. The stress associated with any single interview will likely be lower if you have many other irons in the fire. Here's more on how to job search effectively.

Try to Avoid Negative Thinking

Stress around interviews is often influenced by our assumptions or the statements we make to ourselves about the process. Identifying and countering anxiety-provoking thoughts can help to lower levels of anxiety. Some of the negative thoughts that can up your anxiety level include:

"I have to land this job, or I will be hopelessly unemployed."

  • Counter this thinking with statements emphasizing that no one interview will determine your work future. There will be other options and other chances to land a good job.

"I just messed up that answer, I'm toast, and I'll never be hired here."

  • One poor answer normally does not knock a candidate out of consideration. An interview is like a test, getting an 85 or 90 might be good enough to land the job.

"I'm afraid that they will ask me a question which stumps me and I'll look foolish."

  • If you are well prepared, you will normally be able to share some answer which reflects positively on your strengths. If you are truly stumped, then say something like "That's a great question, can I give that some additional consideration and get back to you?" You might even supply the answer in question as part of your follow up communication.

"There's no way I'm qualified for this job."

  • Mentally review your qualifications repeatedly prior to the interview to convince yourself that you have the right stuff.

Focus on Success

Many athletic and job coaches believe that visualizing images of success can improve performance and alleviate anxiety. Try frequently imagining positive interactions with your interviewer, particularly in the hours immediately before your interview.


Counselors recommend relaxation techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation or breathing exercises as a way to manage anxiety.

There are other strategies you can use to handle job search stress, as well. If your anxiety around interviewing is excessive, then you might consider engaging a psychologist in identifying the underlying issues and helping you to develop effective coping strategies.

One other point to remember is that if you don't get this job, there will be another one. It just wasn't meant to me. Consider it a learning experience and move forward to the next opportunity.

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