Interviews Make My Nerves Emerge Like a Hydra

As I type this article on the Tube, I am pretty sure I just had the worst interview of my life.

A month or so ago, I applied to do a programme which would run throughout my third year; it seemed interesting and would enhance the old CV.

The initial stage involved comprehensively writing answers to questions about our views surrounding social policy, why we wanted to participate in the programme and what we had done in the past which would make us a good candidate. I was able to plan my answers and write confidently, explaining my points fully and coherently.

The final stage of the process involved a three-hour assessment session. It all seemed to be going pretty well; I was chatty and involved, but respectful in the discussion tasks. And I wasn’t too jittery during the group presentation portion. I thought that maybe, just maybe, I was going to get a spot. However, then came the one-to-one interview.

I have always hated interviews with a passion. I’m normally a relatively confident person, but even the idea of having to sit in a room and be grilled by a stranger makes me want to recoil into a black hole. And yet, for some reason, I had a feeling that this time my social awkwardness and anxiousness would stay hidden, and I would manage to come across as a ‘normal person.’

Right up until I walked through the door I kept trying to tell myself that it was more of a formal(ish) chat, and they’d only be asking questions about the programme. I tried to stay calm and collected. Surely everyone was just as nervous as me?

Sadly, my hopes were the opposite of what occurred.

Looking back, the interviewers were asking fairly straightforward and easy questions. Problem is, when I was initially asked them, I thought they’d essentially asked me the meaning of life.

I waffled, I stuttered, I made zero sense and, for some reason, I tried to be funny – NEVER DO THIS. As soon as I left the room I thought of a million clearer, and more appropriate answers, by contrast to the ones I had given in my interview. Even now I’m questioning what made me twist their questions and respond so convolutedly.

If you hadn’t already twigged, I didn’t make it onto the programme.

It’s frustrating really because I’m not necessarily any less apt, passionate or suited for the programme, than the other ten or so people who attended the session. However, my inability to ‘keep cool’ or even breath during the interview rendered me on the bottom of the list.

I’m not the only one who struggles with interviews or ‘performing under pressure’; so, upon reflection, what’s my advice to myself and anyone else that relates to these issues on some level?

  1. Don’t say the first thing that comes to your head and immediately start talking once the interviewer has finished speaking. Take a breath and think through your first sentence.
  2. If you don’t quite understand what they’re asking, don’t be too embarrassed to say so. One of the interviewers could see I was struggling and broke down the question for me.
  3. Don’t overcomplicate the situation. Realistically, they won’t be asking for the speed of light times the square root of a potato. It’ll be why you applied, why you’re a good contender and any questions you may have.

I’d like to say that for my next interview I’ll knock their proverbial socks off; however, realistically I might stumble on a couple of things, but that’s ok. Each interview is a learning curve; you can always have an appointment with Careers for further advice and feedback. And also, these people aren’t monsters. They have all been in this position and understand that nerves can come out.

Channel the nerves into a determination to boss the interview.

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