Interview Anxiety? Here's What I Learned from Mine

This semester, I’m in a class for my publishing major called Business and Professional Communications. Sounds exhilarating, right? I dodged having to take a speech class, and I dreaded having to take this class because communication isn’t exactly my strong suit. I’m a writer mostly because when I talk things seem to come out wrong or be misunderstood, and it’s easier to talk to a piece of paper than a person. My fears were amplified when my professor told us that we would be doing a series of interviews: an elevator pitch, a faux job interview, and conducting an in-person interview with a professional in Nashville about their business practices.

Oh no, I thought. I’m horrible at talking to people. I don’t know what happens—I just freeze and my words get tangled on my tongue and I don’t know what to do with my face. I did all three interviews and they weren’t actually as bad as I thought they would be. And do you know what? I learned some valuable takeaways from each experience, and now that the class is close to wrapping up I’m glad I was required to take it, otherwise I would be missing skills essential for the workplace and life beyond college in general. Here’s what I learned.

Elevator Pitch

Not gonna lie, the elevator pitch was pretty nerve-racking. We found a job to apply for, and then we had to research that position and use our resume to figure out why we should be hired and then be able to explain why. Sound easy? Not exactly. Here’s the gist of the elevator pitch: We got on the elevator on the ground floor with our professor. My professor pushed the button for the fourth floor, turned to us, and then asked, “So, why should I hire you for this job?” We only had the twenty seconds or so it took to get to the fourth floor to convince him to hire us, then our time was up.

It was definitely hard to figure out how to squeeze everything I needed to say into twenty seconds, and even harder to figure out which angle to take. What I learned from this pitch is that identifying specific personal traits and reasons is essential in communicating and supporting why you should be hired for a position. It’s also important to be able to condense what you really want and justify why you should get what you want, and I think this mindset can be applied to other areas of life besides job applications. If you’re making a major decision and a pro-con list isn’t cutting it, write yourself an elevator pitch for each choice and see if that gives any clarity to the situation.

 

 

Job Interview 

The faux job interview, which was set up with a professor on campus whom I didn’t know, was a lot scarier than I thought it would be because answering questions about myself is hard. Whenever someone asks me to think of a particular moment when I did this or that, of course I immediately forget all of those moments and my mind goes blank. Even though I was nervous, my interviewer said I didn’t come across as nervous, which surprised me and showed me that practicing being in interviews was actually helping me. Beyond being good practice talking to a stranger, this interview really made me look at myself and see how I present myself to others and to the world. It also taught me the importance of defining my strengths and how I show those in action, and pinpointing my weaknesses and how I am trying to overcome them. Listening and asking the right questions is also essential when you’re being interviewed. You can rehearse answers, but the reality is that you’re going to be asked something you weren’t prepared for, and the ability to be genuine and authentic even if you stumble a little bit is more important than listing off facts about yourself. Only you can best attest to your qualities, so trust that you are enough.

 

Business Professional Interview

For this interview, I was assigned a specific business sector and industry that I had to find an employee in to interview about their job. Mine were finances and human resources, and it’s a lot harder to find someone in both of these areas than you’d think. First, talking to people on the phone sucks, especially when your request is unusual and you’re trying to say enough to explain but not too much to the point of wasting their time. After multiple calls that didn’t work out, I finally locked down an interview with a bank manager. In the actual interview, I noticed I was much more relaxed and coherent than I was in my previous interviews, which was a nice surprise. This time, I was the interviewer, which is just as difficult, if not more difficult, as being interviewed because you have to ask the right questions, phrase them in the best way, and keep the conversation going. We talked a lot about how important emotional intelligence is in any profession, emotional intelligence being the ability to be aware how your interactions with people affect you and them and be able to pick up on what’s happening in interactions of others. Then, you can best know how to approach certain conflicts and situations. This interview made me realize that I have work to do in paying more attention to the details of my interactions with others. The little details matter and what makes for strong communication.

 

Overall, these interviews helped me tune my in-person communication skills, and they also taught me that I have a lot of personal improvement to do. Another thing I learned? Send a thank you. My mom drilled sending thank you cards into me as a child, but for some reason it just feels different when you’re talking to someone as opposed to receiving a gift, but when you think about it, they’re gifting you their time and effort, which is more valuable than a physical gift.

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