Why Are Job Interviews So Scary?


As a college senior in the depths of my final semester, I can no longer just ponder on my future. It’s time to take action. Truthfully, I probably should have begun a while ago. Polishing resumes, penning cover letters, beefing up my “professional” wardrobe, and scouring job boards for openings have all become activities I take part in nearly everyday. 

The thing that sticks to my brain most often, though, are the thoughts and daydreams of how in the world I’m going to present myself when I embark on my first of many interviews. Should I answer questions the way all of the scripted self-help career books say I should? Should I throw it all to the wind and go in and be my eccentric self? How can I present the Serious-Worker-Kristin-Millard in the most professional way possible while still staying true to the quirky and creative person I know I am? 

I’m aware that I’m an overthinker, but I know that thousands of people who are at this same point in their careers are having similar anxieties. The daunting fact is that we’ll probably have to take part in 10… 20… or even 30 or more interviews before we find somewhere we fit in. It makes some people want to give up altogether and many have. 

I’ve been reading a book called What Color Is Your Parachute? A practical manual for job-hunters and career-changers by Richard N. Bolles for my Career and Life Planning class and it’s given me a lot of insight on what employers are looking for, and what we should keep in mind as we step out into the working world.

Something that Bolles mentions is that all employers are concerned about risk – which makes many interviewers fairly anxious! You may be asking, “But how could they be anxious? I’m the one coming in for the interview!” It’s true, though. The risk of a “bad hire” could personally cost them a raise or promotion, and it could cost the company time, money, and resources to hire someone that ultimately won’t work out.

It’s comforting to know that you’re not the only one nervous that an interview won’t work out! Your interviewer’s primary goal is to find someone to fit the role– they want to hire you! Remembering this might help calm your nerves a bit. 

It’s so easy to be terrified and afraid of the person conducting the interview. Something that I always tell myself is that we’re all humans – we all have our own lives, family, friends, hobbies, and interests. The person interviewing me is just doing their job. They’re not trying to be scary or intimidating, they’re just trying to find the best person they can. And if you really want to work there, think of them as someone you’ll be seeing everyday – saying hello to them when you come in to work, sharing stories over lunch break, and working alongside on projects.

This could also be a good way to determine if you really want to work there. If the person interviewing you has an absolutely terrible vibe, you might want to explore what the work culture there is and see if everyone at the company is like that. Work culture and how the company treats their employees is one of the most important things in the world. No matter what the job may be or how much it pays, if you’re in an unpleasant environment you won’t be able to reach your full potential.

When you go searching for jobs you shouldn’t go for any random thing you’re offered just because it’s a job. Get to know people and companies to make sure that they’re a good fit for you personally. You don’t want to waste your own time by beginning to work somewhere you’ll end up quitting anyway, and you don’t want to waste a company’s time when they think they’re hiring someone who’s committed. It’s important to remember that this is a game two people are playing. They’re trying to make the right choice of who to hire, and you’re trying to make the right choice of who to work for. 

Some of the more basic things to remember are the tips and tricks almost everyone tells you when you go in for an interview: research the company, dress professionally (and preferably stylishly!), don’t over-talk or under-talk, honor your agreements, ask questions, and send thank you notes when it’s all said and done. 

A tip that I was surprised to learn was that many people have had a lot of luck simply asking for the job at the end of an interview. Flat out asking, “Can you offer me this job?” The worst thing they can say is “No,” right? If you’ve found a place that you really feel good about, there is no shame in showing them how serious you are about working there by being brave enough to ask for the job. 

If I were an employer, a good interview would be having an honest conversation with someone who is passionate about my line of work and knows exactly what they want. Being professionally dressed, good hygiene, not late, and being excited about the interview would make me interested in you. But furthermore, if you bring examples of your work or provide a flash-drive or links to things you’ve done in the past, and tell me how you can help to make my company better in your own unique way – that would impress me immensely. 

A bad interview would be with someone who is noticeably terrified. I’d feel bad if someone was that scared of me as an interviewer! Mega-scripted cookie cutter answers and unoriginal questions and responses would generate an immediate “No” if I were an employer. Creativity and originality are important, and if you come in being just like the 12 other people interviewed that day, you’re probably going to be seen as boring and they won’t remember you enough to hire you. 

I’m not an employer, but I think that this is along the lines of a great employer’s mindset. 

The most important thing to remember is to be yourself. Cheesy, right? “Yourself” is possibly the most important thing you could ever choose to be! I know it’s nerve-wracking, but if you imagine you’re just having a conversation with a friend or coworker about your passions, and you let yourself be honest and true, you’ll have a successful interview. 

So go out there and show the world what you’ve got! There’s thousands of jobs waiting for you, and you have what it takes to impress employers and find a job that will let your soar. Let go of your inhibitions and confidently go about your passions in a way that makes you proud! 

Good luck everyone, and best wishes on your stellar job-hunt!