Performance anxiety

Written by: Kate Walker Miles
Published on: 27 May 2020

Kate Walker MilesKate Walker Miles offers advice on staying calm during interviews. 

Interviews cause real-life stage fright whether they’re conducted in person or remotely, which is increasingly the case given the restrictions brought about by Covid-19. Pursuing a new role can be stressful even without a global pandemic and economic uncertainty.

Our study results

RADA Business conducted a study of 1,000 workers, published in Thinking on Your Feet. Here’s what were found:  

  • 27 per cent of professionals find it difficult to relax during an interview;  
  • 33 per cent find it hard to think clearly – crucial to respond in the moment;  
  • 19 per cent, when under pressure, struggle to pause for breath or to enable a message to land when speaking;  
  • 26 per cent find it hard to speak slowly while being interviewed;
  • 25 per cent struggle to maintain eye contact during face-to-face interviews;  
  • 23 per cent find it hard not to panic when they feel tense; and
  • 17 per cent struggle not to shake – a common physical side effect of nerves that may appear during interview.

As the number of phone and video interviews rises during the Covid-19 pandemic, being able to remain calm, breathe and speak slowly are hugely important to allow the interviewee to think and communicate effectively.

Interviews can be a stressful experience – especially if we struggle to manage our nerves. We need to impress the interviewer and show the best version of ourselves. However, we can become overwhelmed and struggle to communicate well under the pressure.

The added challenge of remote interviews

Many interviews and meetings now need to take place remotely to conform to self-isolation and social distancing guidelines. The pressure is on for business professionals to make the best impression on potential employers over videoconferencing platforms.

For some of us this is a new experience. I am a trained actor and know that everything reads on a screen, meaning that your interviewer will be more able to pick up on any nerves.

To connect with someone else remotely and gain his or her trust, it is important to do whatever you can to settle yourself and release tension. Then you can think and speak clearly. You will appear more confident about what you are saying. First, you should familiarise yourself with the tech before the meeting to avoid last-minute panics.

Prepare your physical state for a digital interview  

  • Second, prepare your physical state for a digital interview. Take time to centre yourself before the interview begins.  
  • Sit up straight in your chair with your legs uncrossed and feet firmly planted on the floor.  
  • Move your head from left to right and then up and down to relax your neck.  
  • Concentrate on breathing. Breathe out, completely. Take a slow deep breath in, keeping your shoulders down, and imagine sending the breath deep into your belly. Repeat this a few times, making sure that you breathe out for longer than you breathe in.

It is extremely effective to get into the habit of giving yourself the proper time to breathe and think before asking a question. If you can, practise answering questions in this way with someone before your interview, then ask for their feedback about the length of time you took to give a measured response.

The time it takes to breathe and think well might feel too long to us, but it almost certainly won’t to the interviewer. Pausing will give you time to find a clear thought and show that you’re confident enough to consider your answer. After all, what you have to say is important. 

Kate Walker Miles is a tutor and client manager at RADA Business