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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Nervous and Upset During Job Interview

Dear A. B.

I had an interview the other day and I was nervous about it.  Somehow, after I met the woman who was interviewing me, I became even more nervous, and did a poor job of presenting myself.  I have thought of nothing else and am so embarrassed as a friend of ours recommended me. 

What will she tell him about me? She asked me a few questions and at one point I became flushed and began sweating.  I am so embarrassed.  I am normally outgoing and confident. I am qualified for the position, but found the atmosphere and professionalism of woman my age intimidating.

How can I stop this and WHY does it happen?

Thanks, L__________

Dear L________

Probably the first problem is that you were not expecting to get nervous so you didn't prepare yourself and have some self-support set up in case it happened. And, second, it is human nature to get flustered now and then. You can see how even politicians and commentators, who interview all the time, get flustered too. Public speakers sometimes screw up in front of an audience.

How can you stop it?

You can't stop being human.

If I were you I would chalk this up to "every dog has his day and this was not my day" and move on.

You can "do damage control" and "get closure"  if you want by admitting to your friend that it was an off day for you, and you royally screwed up the interview and are terribly embarrassed about it.

Forgive yourself for being human and move on. It's not the end of the world. We all need to be humbled now and then so we realize that, as smart as we think we are, we're just ordinary humans after all. And there's always the possibility that it wasn't as bad as you thought. But I have always found it more helpful to just figure it was as bad I as thought and go from there.

Since there will always be people who are ahead of us or behind us in some way, all of us are subject to being intimidated now and then. I can' t believe I used to find psychiatrists intimidating. Well, to be truthful, I used to find almost everybody intimidating because I was such a sucker for wanting everyone's good opinion. I got over most of this by getting in touch with my repressed fear (Chapter Ten, Depression is a Choice).

I still can occasionally find extremely wealthy women intimidating in some ways because they are a part of the world I know nothing about, and therefore I don't know how to maneuver myself around in a conversation and kind of "hold my end up" when the conversation turns to cruises "that only cost $50,000," African safaris with their “favorite guide," and golf club dues that are a "bargain at 10,000 a month." etc.

I have to really struggle for some common ground where I feel some sense of solidity. I remember talking to one very wealthy woman about my daughter's upcoming wedding and how I was so busy with the different aspects, etc. She responded that she would give me some advice as she had just finished with a “very successful wedding.”  Her solution was to hire a wedding planner and just turn everything over. "Then all you have to do is show up." So I was a little nonplussed since my daughter and I were trying to hold down expenses and obviously my idea of the kind of conversation we were having was not going to go anywhere. Why didn't I just "fess up" that money was an object. Hey, I have some pride, too.

As for your interview, if you want something from somebody, usually there will be a tension set up that could escalate. Remember, we are a herd animal, and it is hardwired into us that for our survival we must be "part of the herd." So this can trigger.

No matter what, what always saves us, is if it is possible to "just be ourselves." But when it comes to job interviews, the world is not set up that way, and sometimes we have to "put our best foot forward and impress people."  And sometimes we fail. Failing is honorable. What is not honorable is never putting our neck out and not risking ourselves. You tried and failed. It is a time to both take your lumps and give yourself credit for "putting yourself out there. Next time will be better because of this experience. Who knows, maybe you'll be a better person for having to go through it.

And another way to think of it, it could have been worse. You could have congratulated yourself on a great interview, and later found she wasn't at all impressed. Remember, there's no accounting for taste.

A. B. Curtiss

Dear A. B
Thank you for the thoughtful response and so many options to consider.  I have taken comfort in that, at least, I did not do anything bad or immoral. 

What is with my turning red and heating up? I hate that most of all because it is visible that I am uncomfortable.  Can I learn to stop this? Any herb/supplement to de-anxiety myself before something?  

I can and should send the woman a "thank you for meeting with me" email.  Should I say anything about the bad interview?

Thanks again,  L____

You can tell her that you had an "off day" and don't think you were very impressive. The turning red and heating up are the body's natural reactions to stress chemicals. The only thing to do about it is not produce the stress chemicals in the first place. Learn some positive affirmations and anti-stress and relaxation exercises to calm yourself down when you first begin to feel under stress. A. B.

Dear A. B.

What would be your suggestion for a positive affirmation?  If I know it's from you maybe it'll work better.
Thanks, L.

Dear L______

"I can do this. My forces are with me."


Ginger said...

L, it is also possible that a human resources professional anticipates a certain amount of sweaty, flustered behavior during an interview! I wonder in fact, if experience has shown them that the real "smooth operators" who come across perfectly at the interview don't always end up being the best performers in the workplace.

I think the thank you note is a marvelous idea. Courtesy is always appropriate (& in short suppy these days.)

I love all of A.B.'s advice, suggestions, and philosophy that she shares with you about this. This blog post will be of great help to many.

I agree with her that you did the admirable thing to put on your suit and GO to the interview. The more you're "in the game" the more chances there are that you could strike out, but if you don't get in the game, there is NO chance you'll ever hit a home run! You got in the game and played! Good for you!

I think there is a chance that the interviewer saw your nervousness as evidence that you really want the job. If I were an interviewer, I'd be suspicious of applicants who were "too smooth." I'd wonder, do they really want this job? Are they just good actors? Are they all about image, but lacking in substance?

In the movie Funny Girl, Fanny Brice's mom is leary of her daughter's new love interest. He is too suave. "A stranger should be a little strange" she concludes. Well, an interviewee should be a little nervous in my view! As A.B. said, it's human and natural to have the jitters when you're pursuing something you care about.

Best wishes to you! I know you'll end up at the workplace that is right for you.

Anonymous said...

Thanks again Ginger for your encouraging and insightful comments. A. B.