Spot These 9 Anxiety Triggers Before They Wreck Your Job Interview

Nancy Anderson
Posted by in Career Advice

Going into an office full of strange people is stressful enough on job interview day, so you work hard to make sure everything is in order. You prepare your heart out by going over the company blog. You practice answering questions in front of the mirror and around your friends. You research common interview questions and you memorize your best answer. Everything falls into place nicely leading up to the interview.

Then something happens that brings job interview day crashing to a halt. You do not know why, but suddenly your heart races, your breathing changes and you get sweaty palms as you head out the door to the interview. What happened?

Several things that seem normal at first could trigger stress and anxiety in your life. Add a job interview to that stress and your situation may feel overwhelming. Knowing several common triggers of stress and anxiety can help alleviate problems on the day you have your interview. Learn how to spot these nine triggers for anxiety so you can have a relaxed and peaceful time in front of your prospective employer.

1. A Busy Life

Having a hectic schedule can trigger anxiety, especially if you feel overwhelmed with everything going on in your life. Trying to remember everything that fits into your day can make simple things even more stressful. Carefully plan the day of your job interview so you do not have to rush around to accomplish everything.

2. Negative Thinking

Negative thoughts that enter into your mind can have a detrimental effect on your well-being after a period of time. When these negative thoughts occur on job interview day, it may trigger panic mode. Learn to think positive thoughts so you can easily get through the day.

3. Food

The types of food you eat can trigger anxiety. Avoid caffeine, alcohol and food additives that can affect your mood. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, and make sure to eat healthy. The B-complex vitamins, along with vitamins C and E, bolster your nervous system. Eat a full meal a few hours before your interview. Definitely don't skip a meal, as a lack of food can cause anxiety as well.

4. Fear of Speaking in Public

Fear can lead to a lot of stress and anxiety. A job interview introduces a number of unknown elements, including a new venue, complete strangers sitting in front of you and the fact that you may badly want this job. Fear of speaking to strangers or a fear of public speaking in general is one of the top workplace stressors. Instead of fearing the interview, imagine it as a conversation with a colleague.

5. Perfectionism

You do not have to be perfect to ace the interview. However, many people feel as if perfection is the only way to go. A perfectionist could get bent out of shape if that person messes up just one minor detail. This one trigger point may throw everything else off and ruin what is otherwise a wonderful interview. Perfectionism could lead to irrational fear of someone noticing a minor flaw, when, in reality, it's truly not that big of a deal.

6. Too Much Responsibility

Taking on too much responsibility can cause a lot of stress and anxiety in your life. Have your spouse, kids or friends help around the house to ease your mind. Interview day should be as stress-free as possible.

7. Health Issues

Thinking about health issues can trigger anxiety. On the day of your interview, go through a routine that you know leaves you feeling as healthy and as refreshed as possible. Get a good night's sleep, eat a balanced breakfast, exercise a little bit and then knock them out at the interview.

8. Meeting People for the First Time

Meeting new people could make you feel uncomfortable, which leads to fear, worry and then anxiety. Remember that you are also new to the person interviewing you, so that person has to learn how to talk to you, too.

9. Financial Worries

If you worry about money and finances, those feelings could trigger anxiety. Of course, landing your job with this interview might help ease that stress and worry. Try not to let the vicious circle take hold and you should do just fine.

If you can just conquer your fears and stay calm for a day, your perfect job may be yours. Knowing what triggers your fears, stress and anxieties is one of the first steps to take to make job interview day go more smoothly.

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  • Kate G.
    Kate G.

    A nice peaceful walk in the morning with my little dog helps alleviate stress. A small meal with some protein and soothing herb tea such as tension tamer or chamomile helps put me in the right frame of ind.

  • Ron Bostic
    Ron Bostic

    Jacqueline, we all experience these feeling at some point or another. Whenever you feel this coming on, just remember why you are there. The fact that you were selected for the interview process means that the person or company interviewing you has already identified qualities, skills, and experience that differentiate you from the masses. Remember that, and then reflect on the accomplishments, education, experiences, etc. that have brought you to this point in your career. Then smile, take a deep breath, and be yourself. After all, that's the person that got you there....

  • Laura W.
    Laura W.

    My experience is that you can relieve stress and anxiety by changing your body posture. Conciously keeping your shoulders down and breathing slowly and evenly help a lot for me. And whenever everything else fails, think about your absolute worst-case scenario and how likely it is that that would actually happen. It will probably make you laugh if you imagine how bad it could be...

  • Jacqueline Parks
    Jacqueline Parks

    These are all great things to look out for, but I need some practical advise. I just don't have control over so many different areas of my life, even for one day. If anxiety does strike, how do the rest of you deal with it? I would love some real world tips on how others got through a pre-interview anxiety attack.

  • Sarah Andrews
    Sarah Andrews

    @Duncan, I think what you're touching on is the fundamental difference between people with anxiety issues and people who don't have them; sure it's not a cause for you, but it is absolutely a trigger for others. That being said I think it's good to prepare yourself as best you can, but at a certain point, if you're an anxious person you'll need to just accept that and hope for the best. Maybe you can take a deep breath and hide your anxiety the first day, but will you be able to keep it up every time one of these issues comes up? Likely not.

  • Mike Van de Water
    Mike Van de Water

    Jacob, I agree that a workout and a meal is a great way to get your body a little bit "distracted" so things aren't quite so jumpy when you get closer to the interview. I'd suggest a light meal about 2 to 3 hours before you have to be at the interview location. Another thing I didn't see mentioned was sleep. Too many job candidates come into an interview looking like they got NO sleep. It's a terrible look.

  • Duncan  Maranga
    Duncan Maranga

    I disagree with the point that meeting people for the first time can trigger anxiety during the interview. Before one even steps out of the door on that interview morning, they already know that they are meeting new faces in the interview room, so for me this can not be a cause for anxiety because there is prior mental preparedness.


    What are the best ways to alleviate anxiety before job interviews? Obviously being well prepared for the interview, doing research about the company and brainstorming questions that could be asked or that you could ask the interviewer would be very helpful at alleviating some anxiety. One thing that I do with I'm really anxious is practicing meditation and mindfulness. Another method could be visualization beforehand of what the interview will look like.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for the comments. @Lydia that would have been terrible! Would I go on an interview if I had the flu? Absolutely not. I would call and reschedule. If I couldn't reschedule, then I would just have to move on. We all have health issues at one time or another and why would I want to work for a company who could not be understanding enough to even try to reschedule my interview? So true @Jacob. A little bit of planning ahead of time can make the interview day so much easier. Light exercise, a nice light meal (you don't want to appear sleepy because your belly is full) and some deep breaths prior to going in for the interview can make all of the difference.

  • Jacob T.
    Jacob T.

    This article brings up a great point about diet and exercise. I have found with a little exercise in the morning and a good meal, sometimes even a snack on the way to the interview, I find it much easier to remain calm and focused, no matter how much pressure I'm feeling. At least then you mind and body can focus on the situation to hand and not your gnawing lack of vitamins.

  • Lydia K.
    Lydia K.

    I think a lot of people can relate to several of the triggers on this list. Health issues can definitely make interviewing hard. I was once in a group interview where another applicant had a serious episode and was carried out in an ambulance. What do you think about going on interviews when you know your health is not the best? Should you go anyway, or try to reschedule? Are you ruining your chances of getting an offer if you reschedule?

  • Abbey Boyd
    Abbey Boyd

    Pretty much every article I see about anxiety related to job interviews talks about negativity vs positivity. I can't stress the importance of positivity enough. If you go in with a good outlook, imagining yourself acing the interview and landing the job, you are bound to be less nervous and come across as more confident. Being negative just adds to the stress, and will be conveyed during your interview. Think good thoughts, and this will go a long way to helping you through your interview.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for the comments and suggestions. @Amelia it is probably true that breaking the caffeine routine prior to an interview is probably not the best timing. But just make sure that you aren't consuming several cups prior because it could some serious jitters. @William sometimes mock interviews help. If you went to college, probably the best place to have a mock interview is through your career services office at your local campus. They do mock interviews all of the time and could certainly help. This way the interview would be a bit more professional than having one done with a family member or friend.

  • William Browning
    William Browning

    Just about any new and unfamiliar situation is something that could make people scared. Fear turns to anxiety and then you start to become even more panicked. I would think one way to overcome the fear is to try a mock interview. After the mock interview, you can say you've experienced everything beforehand. Have friends bring in people you don't know to act as complete strangers.

  • Amelia Freeman
    Amelia Freeman

    Point three seems a little oversimplified, especially regarding coffee. Since caffeine is honestly addicting, veering too far away from your daily routine and trying to break that habit immediately before a job interview could also have negative physical consequences that affect your performance and cause stress. If it were me, I think I would say "one cup of coffee" in addition to your good advice about eating well and staying hydrated.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Shannon thanks for that. If you can see that they are visibly shaking, take a few minutes and do some general chitchat. Talk about the weather or anything general - no politics, religion or any other subject considered to be taboo in the workplace. You will see them start to relax and then you can ease into the interview. Of course, depending upon the position, maybe a perfectionist isn't the right person. You have to consider that, also, when making the hiring decision. For instance, if the position is such that this person is going to have to get up in front of people and make a presentation, you probably need to move on.

  • Shannon Philpott
    Shannon Philpott

    Perfectionists really do struggle with anxiety before, during and after job interviews. I've interviewed people who were trembling so much that they could barely answer the questions because they wanted to make sure their answers were absolutely perfect. What are some ways that interviewers can help ease the anxiety for the people we interview?

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