Pre Interview anxiety?- Do NOT calm down

For over 20 years we have been conducting interviews and have consistently found pre-interview anxiety to be a candidate’s worst enemy. We are all too familiar with the problems that anxiety can cause for candidates prior to an interview. Anxiety before any high stress task can harm our capacity for memory, confidence, as well as our over-all performance. When we encounter this problem with our candidates before the interview stages, we have found that the most effective tactic to employ is to coach candidates to NOT calm down! As counter-intuitive as this may sound, we believe that this is a much more effective approach.

We have all been there in the pre-interview stages as our friends and family attempt to reassure us by saying, “Relax”, “Stay calm” and “It’ll be grand”.  We’ve found that encouraging a slightly different approach to deal with the threat and problems associated with anxiety works best. This method that we employ has most recently been verified by Professor Alison Brooks of Harvard Business School (see link below). In coaching our candidates before interviews we have always found it to be more beneficial to teach them to not calm themselves, but instead to think of their anxiety as excitementfor the opportunity and challenge ahead.

By reappraising this anxious arousal as excitement, we can teach our candidates to adopt a more opportunity oriented mindset (as opposed to the initial threat based one!). This opportunity oriented mindset is what we have consistently found to lead to an improvement in interview performance (See Figure 1)

Figure 1.


(Anxious arousal)      →       (Threat based mindset)          →     (Poorer Performance)

(Excitement arousal) →   (Opportunity oriented mindset) →      (Better Performance)


How do we teach our clients to reappraise anxiety as excitement?

This can be simply yet effectively done through the use of simple techniques such as positive self-talk, and reading simple messages. With positive self-talk, we teach our candidates to read a variety of statements aloud such as “I am excited”. Reading simple messages is another method we employ which involves participants reading messages to themselves with statements such as “get excited” written on them.

RFC Executive continues to employ this method as the results and the feedback we have received are justification for this approach. In following up with our candidates who we have prepared for interview, we have consistently found that those who practice and apply this method, subjectively rate their over-all interview performance as better than those who do not. We believe that the application of this approach is a strong contributor to interview success rates which is why we here at RFC Executive have and will continue to advise our candidates to NOT CALM DOWN!

Leave a Comment

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