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Interview Coping Skills for Anxiety

Research, common questions to prepare, and the best tips to feel in control

What is Anxiety?

Have you ever felt like your heart is pounding too fast for you to recollect your thoughts and feelings? In the USA anxiety has affected approximately 40 million adults with the physical symptoms of anxiety being chest pain, diarrhoea, low sex drive, muscle tension and sweating. Forms of anxiety are recognised through extreme feelings of fear or worry in situations that involve social interaction (e.g interviews, parties, public events). Anxiety and Depression Association of America cleverly summarize anxiety as “persistent”, “seemingly uncontrollable” as well as “overwhelming.” Dreading everyday situations can make you feel like you are being pulled back to square one and unconsciously learning to be helpless.

Five Types of Anxiety

  1. GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder): Gastrointestinal problems, difficulties in concentrating, hyperventilation, irritability are common symptoms in this condition which has affected 6.8 million Americans (ADAA).

  2. Panic attacks: Does your fear convince you to believe you are having a heart attack or that your life is under threat? People with this condition can experience chest pains, dizziness, and abdominal distress. A study in Annuals of Medicine in the year 2015 mentioned the likely cause of panic attack is sleep apnea (e.g. waking up feeling like you are suffocating).

  3. Agoraphobia: Anxiety UK establishes that one is to ask themselves if they can relate to experiencing these signs:

a) Avoiding situations as you worry about having a panic attack b) Standing in queues c) Fear being alone at home d) Fear for open or crowded places

  1. Social anxiety disorder: Have you ever been worried about appearing stupid, clumsy, or awkward in front of others? This is social anxiety which halts 15 million Americans in terms of self-esteem in interviews, friendships, and romantic relationships as documented by ADAA.

  2. Selective mutism: Ever been in an atmosphere where it feels like the cat has caught your tongue? Selective mutism is when you have the inability to talk in certain situations. An article in SMiRA (Selective Mutism Information and Research Association) articulates that in a school environment a child feel’s like they are “on stage” but are quite likely to be bossy, talkative, and loud at home.

Perceptions of Interview Anxiety

Have you ever gone into an interview with your thoughts being unsure?

“ What should I say?” “The quicker I give my answer the better”. But how do you tell the difference between a confident interviewee’s performance against a less confident interviewee’s performance?

A research article titled “Influence of Vocal and Verbal Cues on Ratings of Interview Anxiety and Performance” wanted to explore how quiet, shaky voices shaped the perception of anxiety. What you say and how you say things can greatly impact how we feel we are coming across. The findings in study 1 suggest that students found mock employment interviewees frequent use of filler words (“uh”, “like”) as a reflection of their anxiety.

But are there differences in how we perceive how we believe we present ourselves in interviews versus how observers interpret our verbal and non-verbal communication? In observational research, interviewees were asked to fill out a MASI survey consisting of 30 statement’s to rate their behavior’s and thoughts after doing a mock interview (e.g. “I worried about whether the interviewer would like me as a person”, “I felt sick to my stomach in the interview”, “I became very uptight about having to socially interact with my interviewer”) on a Likert scale from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree.” The MASI survey, therefore, sought to explore how the interviewees evaluated themselves based on Communication anxiety (preoccupation with one verbal and non-verbal communication skills and listening skills being poor), Appearance anxiety (preoccupation with one physical appearance), Social anxiety (nervousness related to forming a positive impression with the interviewer), Performance anxiety (worries about performance rating and interview outcome) and Behavioral Anxiety (physiological arousal such as sweaty palms, increased heart rate). Interviewees were then asked to rate how typical the mock interview was of their real interview performance, asked to rate their performance (very poor to excellent). Participants watching the interviewee performance were asked to compare each interviewee based on how qualified the person is for the job, the attractiveness of the employee to the hiring organization, how well the applicant did in the interview and how likely they would be to offer the interviewee the job. The finding suggested that there was an overall agreement between interviewer and interviewee rating that lack of warmth and enthusiasm reflect anxiety (Fieler, 2010).

Do Online Interviews Increase our Anxiety if we Think a Lot About COVID-19?

The COVID-19 situation. Is it on your mind constantly when you are trying to focus on other important things? Does it make you struggle to redirect your focus? It has reminded us of all of the hardships we are facing whether that be financially, socially and what this means for our job positions and opportunities.

Research in The Journal of Applied Psychology has indicated that COVID-19 rumination (recurring negative cognitions experienced by applicants such as worrying about a high-risk family member getting covid) and COVID-19 exhaustion (feelings of mental depletion such as feeling defeated by grief which can also be influenced by environmental factors such as poverty, poor housing, worrying about paying bills) increases job interview anxiety in virtual interviews. Findings showed that when COVID- 19 Rumination on interview anxiety was strong when COVID-19 Exhaustion was high.

Types of Interview Questions you may be Asked

1) Stress Management

Since managerial and leadership positions have that extra layer of responsibility to handle stressful situations, interviewers want to know examples of times you handled stress.

Example questions include:

  • What is your response to managers giving you negative feedback in front of colleagues?

  • How do you prepare for a presentation which will be shown to clients, stakeholders before the due date?

  • Can you think of a time your stress resulted in making errors at work?

  • What advice would you give a colleague who is stressed about a deadline?

  • When assigned multiple tasks how would you manage your workload to make sure you meet deadlines on time?

2) Critical thinking/ Decision making related

These interview questions are simply interested in how you “break things down” and your problem-solving skills in hypothetical situations. After all, your opinions are important!

Examples include:

  • Do you make more efficient decisions alone or within a group?

  • Describe a time when you had to be decisive in a critical situation.

  • What would you do to help your team meet a deadline if a co-worker is behind in their work?

  • Describe a time you made a decision that was unpopular. How would you handle the situation differently and what was the feedback you received?

Coping Skills Mechanism’s for Interview Anxiety

1) STAR Technique

  • S is for Situation: Set the scene! Share the details of who you were collaborating with, project details and the time the task was undertaken and the location.

  • T is for Task: What was your responsibility? Mention all the specific details. Make it about you and not what someone else did!

  • A is for Action: Explain how you managed the conflicting situation or the problem. Did you handle the situation alone or with a team? It’s important to avoid acronyms and company-specific jargon when speaking about this.

  • R is for result: Finish the story on a positive note. Show the effects of your actions (e.g. 20% increase in sales or saving team five hours of work).

2) Do Your Research and Ask Questions!

Learn about the company/organisation you want to work for! Companies and organisations may have social media (e.g. Twitter, LinkedIn). So it’s a great idea to check any accomplishments, progress or challenges they have faced. Statistics. What are the companies stat’s telling you and what’s being told about the work they do? Know this before giving an interview a go!

“This sound’s like a dumb question, I will not ask that!” “I don’t know what to ask”. “I should not ask questions, that’s their job!” What stops some interviewees from asking question’s can be a lack of diligence or not having enough value in themselves. But you have every right to ask a question and know as much as you can!

Connect, Culture, Changes and Close are four key ways of thinking about what to ask. These are the four ways of knowing what kinds of questions to ask to declare your interest and care for the position.

  • Connect with the interviewer: Ask them how they came to work here and what they love most about working in the organisation.

  • Culture: Know if the companies values, beliefs are right for you. Who is the most successful hire and why and what has made them successful? Who did not succeed and why?

  • Challenges: As an interviewee, you are to ask yourself if you feel you can overcome the companies challenges. You may ask what the companies biggest challenge was this year and how your role overcomes that challenge? How will I measure my performance so I know I’m having a positive impact on the challenge?

  • Close: You want to finish off leaving an impact! So you may want to ask the interviewer if there are any additional skills they wish you had to make you a better fit for the job.

3) Practice with Family or Friends!

Perhaps your family and friends can take a shot at analyzing your verbal communication (e.g. tone, word choice) and non-verbal communication (e.g. smiling, fidgeting, eye contact) through practice. They can tell you where you need work and what factors of your performance are strong!

4) Mindfulness/De-Stressing to Help you Relax Before your nterview

Your hardworking mind needs time to relax so take time out and sit in a quiet place to practice mindfulness. Here are some video links below to refer to:

For more support, join our empathetic community, chat with a free, trained listener, make progress through a community-driven growth path or start affordable online therapy today.


GoldenRuleJG is a psychology graduate with a strong passion for psychology, mental health and counselling. She enjoys multiple roles in the 7 Cups community as a volunteer listener, writer, editor, chatroom supporter and mentor amongst others. GoldenRuleJG is a Content Development and Marketing (CDM) Program graduate at the 7 Cups Academy. As a lifelong learner, she has been enthusiastic about learning diverse skills and has additionally completed the Group Leadership Dynamics and Development (GLDD) and internship programs at the 7 Cups Academy.

Posted: 28 February 2022
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