Sitting on both sides of the table: Tips for combating job interview stress
Those are the answers I’m given this time of year when I ask students and colleagues, “How are you doing?” And those answers make sense. I’m sure you’re feeling one or more of these. The end of the school year is approaching. Revisions on dissertations are being made, final projects are being submitted and assignments are being graded. Sure, there’s the excitement of graduation or just a feeling of relief at the end of the semester but endings can also bring uncertainty and insecurity. This is especially true when it comes to another end-of-year stressor—the job application process.
Over the years, I’ve sat on both sides of the table with job interviews. I’ve been a job candidate and I’ve been on search committees. Certainly, being the job candidate is more stressful (because presumably you want the job) but there are stresses from being on the search committee too.
When I have feelings of stress and anxiety, I look at what I can control and what I can’t control. I know…easier said than done.
What you can control about being a job candidate is how you present yourself. At the point of applying or interviewing you can’t control what skill sets, past jobs or degrees you have. But what you can control is how you present those skills and how you put them into the context of the job you want.
Here are some tips from my experience: Talk to people about your skills— get ideas on how that volunteering thing you did last summer can be leveraged into your cover letter. Be mindful of the simple things—spelling errors, inconsistent font and other details that could make it appear that you’re not serious about the position. During the interview, be prepared and remind yourself of your record. Have three talking points that you can consistently reference and, if possible, know the mission, strategic plan and people interviewing you so you are informed and can answer questions with specificity. And another thing I’ve learned is to be positive about as much as possible—don’t trash past employers (even if it was awful).
You might not think that the search committee members sitting across the table from you are stressed. After all, they’re not the ones being asked the hard questions—and they have a job! However, they probably are stressed for several reasons, and keeping that in perspective when you’re a job candidate can be helpful too.
It’s an honor but a big commitment to be on a search committee. However, it requires that you set aside time to read all the applications and interview the top candidates. Search committee members might disagree with one another about who is the top candidate, which can create tension and stress.
So what you can do when you’re a job candidate is to show appreciation for the time the search committee is putting into the process. That will make you look good and help reduce their stress too.
Yes, this time of year and interviewing can be stressful. But it can also be exciting and a time for new beginnings.
Remember, you don’t need to feel hopeless or at a loss to take advantage of ASU’s free, same-day counseling services. Sometimes talking it out with a professional can help to reset your priorities. Visit https://eoss.asu.edu/counseling/services/where-to-start
Elizabeth A. Wentz
Vice Provost and Dean