How to Tame Your Job Interview Anxiety Once And For All !


Do you have a social work interview scheduled soon? Do you tend to feel anxious and/or nervous as soon as you have a job interview planned?

If yes, please feel assured that you are not alone.

In fact, I am addressing this topic today because several of you have asked for help about how to cope with interview jitters…

What Is Anxiety?

We are all born with an automatic biological “fight or flight” response in order to be able to face or escape various dangerous situations (Mohsin & Wahab, 2013). In other words, anxiety is our body’s normal physical response to a perceived threat or danger.

While being evaluated for a prospective new job is not a life-threatening danger, many of us find the whole job search process anxiety-provoking, particularly the interview… (Macan,T., 2009; McCarthy & Goffin, 2004).

As per Mohsin & Wahab (2013), you are more likely to feel stressed about a situation if you feel that you lack the necessary resources to meet its demands. However, if you perceive your resources to be greater than the required demands, you know that you will be able to handle the situation and you will not experience anxiety.

  • In other words, the more prepared you are for your interview, the more confident you are going to feel about your interview (and therefore, the less anxious)!

Major Confidence Booster: Adequate Preparation

How Can You Be Fully Prepared?

As per Jacqui, the mere fact that you have a meeting scheduled should give you plenty of confidence for a successful interview!

What Are Some Additional Strategies You Can Employ?

  • Taking Control of Your Thoughts
  • Various Relaxation Strategies

Taking Control of Your Thoughts

Another method for controlling anxiety can be via cognitive behavioral therapy. The underlying theme in this school of thought [no pun intended] is that thoughts cause feelings (McKay, Davis & Fanning, 2007).

In other words, an event in of itself has no emotional content but rather it is your interpretation of an event that causes your emotions or feelings about that event.

Example A:
Event: I just missed the subway train.
Thought: You interpret the event by saying to yourself: Oh, no, this is awful. I’ll be late.
Feeling: You experience an emotion that correlates with your thoughts… i.e., in this example, you feel anxious and worried about being late.

However, by changing the thought, you can change the feeling

Example B:
Event: Same as above
Thought: You interpret the event this time by thinking: That’s ok. There will be another train in a few more minutes.
Feeling: You no longer feel anxious; now you feel relaxed and mild annoyance at most.

In the below table, I’ve applied this theory to the job interview scenario…  On the left column, are some examples of fears that you may have and in the right column are some examples of some alternative [positive] coping thoughts that you could choose to employ so as to feel more confident and less anxious (McKay, Davis & Fanning, 2007).

Take Control of Your Thoughts 
If you have other/additional fears, you may find it helpful to take a piece of paper and jot them down in one column as long as you are taking the time to think and write down a few helpful coping statements in the opposite column. In this way, you will have a “cheat sheet” with positive thoughts to keep in mind whenever the negative thought pops into your mind.

Various Relaxation Strategies

Try one or more of the following activities in the days/weeks before your interview (Mohsin & Wahab, 2013):

  1. Breathing Exercises/Meditation
  2. Getting a massage
  3. Exercising
  4. Engaging in visualization [i.e., visualize having a successful interview experience]
  5. Taking a hot bath
  6. Listening to music
  7. Spending time with loved ones
  8. Playing with a pet

One Example of a Breathing Exercise:

HeartMath‘s “Notice and Ease” breathing exercise [please repeat several times daily]:

  1. Notice and admit what you are feeling
  2. Try to name the most prominent, unwanted feeling you are experiencing
  3. Ease as you focus your breathe on your heart…relax as you breathe… and ease the stress [unwanted feeling] out of your body…

Personal Story:
Regularly employing a breathing exercise can truly help with anxiety. Several months ago, I had started feeling intense anxiety in my chest after receiving very bad news about the progression of my mother’s cancer. [For the epilogue, see The Circle of Life]

I couldn’t make the painful feeling go away despite the fact that I meditated regularly. Marianna Paulson [a HeartMath trained expert in transforming stress] kindly taught me a breathing exercise which I added to my daily routine. I’m not sure how long it took but it ultimately relieved the anxiety I had felt :)


Below are some posts and/or sources for meditations that you can listen to. I see meditation as a gift that keeps on giving… it has the potential to help you with anxiety, focus, emotional intelligence and more.

Meditation and Stress Management  – provides you with a nice introduction to meditation

The Power of Meditation – shows you how meditation is but one necessary component of the healthy mind platter we need to have for overall health and well-being

10 Take-Aways from Workshop on Neuroscience, Meditation & Health includes links to a few free meditations   links to free meditations and/or meditation-related articles

Summary:  To tame your job interview anxiety beast: prepare for your interview(s), take control of your thoughts and use at least one of the suggested relaxation strategies mentioned above. 


Which of these ideas have you found helpful in addressing your anxiety during interviews? Are there any suggestions that you would like to add to this list ?

*Anxiety is often triggered because of a misperception on our part; we may view demands as being greater than they actually are or we may view our resources as being more deficient than called for, or a combination of both misperceptions (Mohsin & Wahab, 2013).

Photo SourcePreparing for a Job Interview Mind Map by Alan Burton, in The Power of Social Intelligence, Tony Buzan, 2001
HeartMath Eliminating Anxiety ebook (2006).
Macan,T. (2009).The employment interview: A review of current studies and directions for future re- search. Human Resource Management Review, 19, 203–218.
McCarthy, J., & Goffin, R. (2004). Measuring job interview anxiety: Beyond weak knees and sweaty palms. Personnel Psychology, 57, 607-637.

McKay, M., Davis, M. & Fanning, P. (2007). Thoughts and feelings: Taking control of your moods and your life. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.
Mohsin, S.F. & Wahab, A. “Stress Management and Steps of Managing Stress.” Asia Pacific Journal of Management & Entrepreneurship Research 2.1 (2013): 164-72.


  1. says

    Good morning, Dorlee:
    What a robust, valuable post! You’ve served not only your social work careerist audience well, but also anyone who is bound for an interview.

    SO many people do have the ‘fight or flight’ response to interviewing – I couldn’t agree more. And, preparation IS key to lessening that anxiety.

    First of all, thank you for sharing my 10 tips to preparing, along with my esteemed colleagues’ great advice. Many people, even the most experienced professionals and executives, are inexperienced at job interviewing, so planning in advance is quite important.

    I also really appreciate your additional strategies: ‘taking control of thoughts’ and ‘various relaxation strategies.’ These are invaluable. You have effectively illustrated the connection between mind and body and given terrific, specific examples. Simply playing with a pet or taking a hot bath are nice reminders; and of course, exercise, one of my favorites – a true endorphin release. Your example table is a priceless tool for people preparing for an interview.

    Moreover, thank you your sharing your own personal story about your intense anxiety based on receiving very bad news about your mother – and Marianna’s kind help in teaching a breathing exercise.

    Again, this is a powerful, pragmatic and useful post for anyone preparing for an interview situation.

    Thank you!

  2. says

    Thanks so much for your kind feedback, Jacqui :)

    The suggestions that you offer in your post are an invaluable part of this post because you provide specific direction on the steps we need to engage in to be well-prepared for the interview, a key ingredient for feeling confident as we meet a prospective employer.

  3. says

    Kudos to you for taking the time to write this post, which would be considerable, considering the resources, the strategies and the links that you have compiled and presented in this post.

    This post is of value for anyone who is preparing for an interview.

    I particularly liked the way you so clearly presented the examples of how to take control of your thoughts. I’ve found that often when people are feeling negative emotions they think and feel that they are forever doomed to have those negative emotions. Learning that emotions are not static, and that you can influence them is powerful.

    Finally, thank you for including me in this post. It makes my heart sing to know that I was able to add to your tool box. You and I know that when the heart sings, we feel better, emotionally, mentally and physically.

    I would also like to remind your readers to get curious about what triggers their anxiety. Was it something they heard? Saw? Smelled? That awareness, plus the activation of tools and techniques becomes a powerful tool to circumvent those non-resourceful behaviours.

    I reiterate what Jacqui says about this post being powerful, pragmatic and useful; I have forwarded to it the job hunters I know.


  4. says

    Thanks so much for your kind support, Marianna :)

    Actually, I’m thinking that once you are feeling better, if you would have the time, it would be so nice to be able to interview you about your area of expertise and maybe you could walk us all through that wonderful breathing exercise you taught me in a brief video clip…


  5. says

    Hello Dorlee,

    I also shared your post with jobseekers — out on LinkedIn and Twitter — and I know they will find all your tips and resources helpful! I would love to see an interview with Marianna as part of your blog!! So, hope you and Marianna will get together to do it. And may I say “hello” to Jacqui, too?

    By the way, are you familiar with the “Soft Belly” Meditation by Stephen Levine? Since I feel anxiety in the gut, this meditation is particularly calming for me. Here are a few verses:

    Levels and levels of softening, levels and levels of letting go.
    Moment to moment allow each breath its full expression
    into soft belly.
    Let go of the hardness. Let it float
    into something softer and kinder.
    Let thoughts come and let them go,
    floating like bubbles in the spaciousness of soft-belly.

    Stephen also writes: “Softening melts the armoring over the heart, experienced as hardness in the belly. Each time we remember to be present, to be mindful, we soften into the moment” — and I would add that anxiety will lessen or even disappear!


  6. says

    Thanks so much, Jackie for your kind support :)

    And I am happy to share that Marianna has kindly agreed to an interview !

    Also, I love the the verses of the “Soft Belly” meditation that you shared with us. What a lovely way of releasing stress…

    And talking about anxiety and stress, may I make mention of your wonderful post?

    I especially like the guidance on making the environment work for you… I could see this applying to the job interview situation from the perspective of visualizing the place of the interview to being a warm welcoming place and/or to bringing along with you a picture or memento that comforts you (that you could perhaps look at right before you go and meet the interviewer).

  7. imagirl says

    ma’am your posts are extremely helpful! i instantly feel relieved after going through your article! especially that part where you shared the coping thought 😀

  8. says

    Thanks, Imagirl

    I’m so glad that you are finding these posts helpful. Feel free to apply the reframing/coping thought to any situation that gives you anxiety – all you need to do is change the phrasing to match the event that you are worried about.

    Wishing you the best of luck!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *