Figure Out What's Next

Job Interview Got You Unnerved? A Little Emotional Clarity Can Help

career change dan newby interview mindfulness purposeful living soft skills Aug 29, 2019
emotions fear anxiety doubt

by Dan Newby

image by emoli 

To cross the threshold from unemployed to working, you need to travel through Interviewland. It can be a wild, disorienting place without direction markers. Some people go there and are never heard from again - at least that's what it can feel like that when you are there.

How do you describe your feelings about the interview you have tomorrow?

Scared, worried, overwhelmed, unnerved, rattled, shaky? Those can all apply but getting the root of them can be enormously helpful in making your journey through Interviewland less difficult.

The first building block is that all human action stems from emotions. We think, plan, strategize, reason, and figure things out mentally, but all of that gets turned into actions through our emotions. So, if we can understand our emotions in a simple, practical way, they can help turn all those brilliant thoughts into effective action.

There are more than 200 emotions, although most of us only verbally express 15 or 20 day-to-day. Each has a specific purpose and is trying to relay an important message. When we are facing a job interview, we may experience excitement, ambition, and enthusiasm, but we may also face anxiety, fear, and doubt. The first three generally don't present a problem and are the ones that help the interview go in our favor. The last three, however, can be a challenge – to say the least.

Let's take a closer look at fear, anxiety, and doubt to see how we could shift them from challenges to supports:

  1. Fear - Fear is telling us we're aware that something may harm us and that "something" is specific. "I fear I'll get hit by a bus," is a good example. Fear of getting hit by a bus doesn't mean it will happen, but we are aware it could happen. Knowing precisely what we believe may harm us allows us to take steps to avoid it.
  2. Anxiety - Anxiety is also telling us something may hurt us, but it's not clear what that "something" is. "I'm anxious about my health," for instance. We are aware of possible harm but don't know specifically what it would be. In anxiety, we become vigilant, sometimes hypervigilant, trying to figure out what could hurt us. Sometimes we call that worrying.
  3. Doubt - Doubt is an altogether different emotion. It warns us that "I've never done this thing before, so be sure to prepare. Don't assume I already know". The purpose of doubt is to remind us to prepare for something we are doing for the first time.

Back to your job interview.

Stop to reflect on the feelings you recognized at the beginning of the article. Ask yourself what percentage is fear, what percentage is anxiety, what percentage is doubt. If what unnerves you is to be found in these three, they’ll add up to one hundred percent, but you also may notice other emotions in the mix.

If fear ranked highest – Identify what it is you are afraid of and consider how you can avoid or mitigate that thing. What can you do now, so it doesn't play a part in the interview?

If anxiety scored the biggest percentage – Spend time reflecting on what the possible sources of danger might be. You might ask a friend to listen to you talk about the interview and help you identify them. In short, you're turning anxiety into a fear so you can do something about the danger you perceive.

After many years of coaching people in transition, my experience is that most people rank doubt highest. That is entirely logical because, while they may have been interviewed before, they haven't been in this interview, with this person, in this company. It is new in that sense, and doubt is prompting them to keep looking for ways to prepare. Once they are confident, they've prepared from every angle, they can thank doubt for being such a supportive friend.

Decoding or deconstructing emotions in this way is a tremendous help to clarifying and understanding them in a practical way. That allows us to see their value and use them as tools to support us in life.

More broadly, building our emotional literacy gives us access to our emotions in amazing and wonderful new ways.

Question: Which emotion has “got you”? How could you navigate from that emotion to one that will support you through your interview process?


About Dan Newby

Dan writes and speaks about: Emotions, Emotional Literacy, Communication, Trust, Coaching, Emotions-Centered Coaching™, Resilience, Presence, Relationships

Dan is a global champion for emotional literacy and founder of School of Emotions, which offers emotional learning through e-learning, books, flash cards, live zoom conversations, and in-person workshops.

He has coached and trained coaches worldwide, developed and led extended leadership development programs, and worked with educators to bring emotional literacy into their core curricula.

Dan’s WHY: To make the wonder of emotions common sense in the world. Every human has emotions, why not develop them as the support they were meant to be?

Dan is the co-author of:

The easiest way to get in touch with Dan is via [email protected]


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