The Surprising Reasons You Shouldn’t Fight Your Pre-Interview Stress

job interview stress

Feeling stressed about your upcoming job interview? That fear can be used to your advantage, it is all about having a positive attitude toward stress.

We are all told stress isn’t good for us, that we should remove it from our lives because it is unhealthy. If only it were that easy? New evidence suggests that if we can learn to think about stress differently, then it can be useful and even good for us.

Job interviews are demanding situations, despite your best efforts you can be affected by stress – sweaty palms, racing heartbeat and accelerated breathing. Sound familiar? The stress response is a normal biological reaction to difficult situations. The trick is not to view this physiological response negatively, which can make you feel out of control, it is there for a reason and actually has benefits. This good short-term stress, known as eustress, will help you get things done.

A recent study from the Harvard Business School, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, found that in several stress-inducing social situations such as public speaking or karaoke singing, the people who felt excited by the stress performed better that those who remained calm.

The physiological reaction to difficult situations is innate and is part of the ‘fight or flight’ response that helped our ancestors deal with predators. In today’s world it can help us get through deadlines and interviews! The stress response is designed to help us, use it to your advantage. So, feel assured at that interview when you feel your nerves, know that your body is on your side and is helping you do the best you can. Take a positive view of that stress in the waiting room and you won’t start to feel out of control.

Before that interview instead of trying to stay calm, embrace the fear and use that lone elevator ride to shout out ‘I’m excited!’. Approach the interview as a challenge, as an opportunity, a positive attitude will improve your performance in the interview.

Here is how short-term stress benefits you:

  • Temporarily Boosts Our Memory – When you experience the ‘fight or flight‘ response before an interview extra oxygen is sent to the brain making you more alert and your senses sharper. It will also increase your immunity for the short term, a trait from our hunter-gatherer days when it prepared the body for possible injury or infection.
  • Motivates Us to Succeed – When your body experiences stress it releases growth hormones, which make you stronger and more physically able to cope with a demanding situation. Eustress can help you enter a state of ‘flow’ – an extremely productive state in which you will give your best performance – as coined by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

Let’s be clear, chronic stress is bad for our health, ongoing stress raises the level of the hormone cortisol in our bodies triggering headaches, gastrointestinal problems, musculoskeletal pain, depression and increases the risk of heart disease. However, a study by Wisconsin University of 30,000 people found that people with a lot of stress had a 43 percent increased risk of dying early if they had a negative view of stress.

It is short-term stress at your interview that you don’t need to worry about. The key is to take a positive view of stress and harness it’s power, your body is helping you not hindering you. Next time you feel your palms getting sweaty and your heart pounding, think about how your body is preparing you to do your best. Embrace the stress, feel energized by it. Your palms may be sweaty, but your senses are sharper than ever.

About the Author

Tatiana Compton is a freelance journalist who has covered accountancy and finance in both the UK and US.