Don’t Fear the Interviewer


Many of us have a serious reservations about job interviews. I assure you, that I do as well.

My reasons for concern may be a little different than yours. (For example, they can serve as an excruciatingly poor selection tool if used unwisely). However, your reasons for disliking interviews are every bit as valid. I’ll venture to say that on some level you probably dislike interviews because of how the interview — or the interview process — makes you feel.

There are so many unknowns: Did I present myself well? Did I ask the right questions? Will I make it to the next round? How long until I hear? All these questions can contribute to what I like to call “interview panic.”

Indeed, interviewing can be a nerve-wracking experience. But let’s go out on that limb and face your concerns–and your emotions. I’d like to take one step back to challenge your current mindset, and suggest that you begin to look at the interview experience differently. You see the funny thing is, as much as I have always questioned the merit of employment interviews — I’ve never hated being interviewed. That lack of hatred has everything to do with how I view the process. More specifically, accepting the things that probably will never change about interviews, and re-categorizing the experience as one tremendous opportunity to listen and learn.

In most cases, we cannot personally impact the mechanics of the interview process itself — or control how an organization behaves. Although we can every make every effort to be well prepared,  we must still operate within the confines of that system.

However, we can affect our own attitudes concerning the process. Here is what I mean:

Embrace being judged. Being evaluated can be difficult to handle.While being interviewed, others will certainly form opinions concerning your skills, abilities — even your personal demeanor. Tell yourself this is just fine; remembering that when people cross your path, you will do exactly the same thing. During the course of your career, managers and co-workers alike will make judgments about you on a daily basis. So what? Convince yourself to view each of these judgments as a challenge to effectively tell your career story and build your own brand.

Be astute and ‘try on’ the organization. Remember, this may be the company with which you forge a long-term relationship. Consider that point very carefully, and be thankful that you have the chance to gather as much information as possible. Take the opportunity to size up their direction and where the organization is really headed. What is your impression? Do you see yourself working there long-term? Do you understand their vision? Getting a bad vibe? Explore these thoughts, as they may be the only forewarning you’ll receive.

Say thank you to organizations behaving badly. Has the organization not acted as you would have expected? Unprofessional? No follow-up? Don’t let these behaviors derail you. Welcome this type of behavior as a clear and present warning. If an organization doesn’t seem to show concern for you from the start, this likely serves as a glimpse into your future. I am reminded of a discussion Maya Angelou had with Oprah Winfrey, where she explained, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” The same premise extends to an organization. Unless there is some remarkable explanation as to why they have not bothered to contact you (for months afterward), be grateful for the realistic preview and run in the opposite direction.

Accept ambiguity. Even though there is an ever-present possibility that an outcome will not go in our favor, attempt to embrace the opportunity. Unfortunately, “not knowing” is simply part of the process. But to be completely honest, the world of work is full of ambiguity. It is best to try adjust to it and attempt to remain positive while you are waiting. Nothing is set in stone after you complete an interview, but at the same time, this makes the possibilities endless.

The interview process will likely never be perfect. However, if you change your own view of interviews — you may have an easier time processing the accompanying negative emotions. I’d like the experience to be easier for you to handle in the future. But, that will be at least partially up to you.

What strategies do you use to prepare yourself for an interview? How do you process the uncertainty? Share your secrets here.

About the Author

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist who specializes in workplace success strategies and organizational change. She helps individuals, teams and organizations develop intelligently—to meet work life challenges with a sense of confidence and empowerment.