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How to Conquer Self-Doubt During Interviews

Written By Leandra Lehmann

  • career,
  • confidence,
  • interviews,
  • professional,
  • self doubt,
  • women in business
Fredi model smiling at a desk in front of a computer

Credit: Jason Weiss for Fredi

I recently transitioned jobs and went on a ton of interviews.

I see myself as a pretty confident person who doesn’t get frazzled or anxious that easily. Interviewing is one of the exceptions. They cripple me. Often we interview for better, more advanced jobs that what we have done before, meaning we’re being assessed for responsibilities we have yet to even do. 

I used to respond to this uncertainty by trying to learn everything there is to know about respective field or responsibility. I mean HOURS and even DAYS.

I unhealthily aimed for total mastery (which is not only impossible, but a little insane). Recently a job I felt was well matched to my level, told me I was too experienced. HAH! My prep technique came back to not only bite me, but I also lost 2 days and 10 hours of my life! 

"I used to respond to this uncertainty by trying to learn everything there is to know about respective field or responsibility... I unhealthily aimed for total mastery."

Since then, I’ve fine tuned how to handle interview stress in a more grounded and authentic way. I also landed an amazing job with a boss who believed in my ability to learn what I currently don’t. 

How can you avoid my pitfall, manage interview stress and doubt, and land the job you love?

  1. Be confident in your worth.

    You have never been more brilliant and capable than at this point in your life. You have literally just been accumulating knowledge and bad-ass skills up until now. Just look at all you have done! 

  2. Use mantras.

    Tell yourself “you’re amazing woman.” They are lucky to have you. Remind yourself of the positive feedback you’ve received in former jobs, your accomplishments, and the times you felt impactful.  I tell myself a version of “I’m smart. I’m powerful. I got this.”

  3. Believe in the unknown.

    Believe in what hasn’t happened yet. Conjure it up with positive energetic vibes. Believe in your ability to master the unknown, and learn and be great at things you aren’t currently. You overcame and mastered many an unknown in the past. Look at how far you have come!

  4. Visualize the conversation as it’s happening.

    The jokes exchanged, your successful breakdown of their strategic plan, the hand shakes. According to a book I HIGHLY recommend, “How to Be a Bad Ass” by Jenn Sincero, studies have shown visualizations work better when you visualize the process of success (the conversation playing out), not the outcome (the job offer in hand)

  5. Trust that you'll find the right fit.

    Tell yourself you want this but you don’t need this. Trust if it’s right for you it will work out, but if it doesn’t, you have other options out there just waiting to manifest themselves. Remember, there doesn’t need to be 1 right life path for you. There are many possible paths which could all lead to happiness and success! For me, this took the pressure off and helped reduce some anxiety.

  6. Go on a run, eat protein, do yoga.

    Get your physical body feeling calm and strong so you feel calm and strong mentally.  My pre-interview prep almost always involves a walk or run which I find grounded and reminds me that I am a person before an employee. 

  7. Find a balance between over and under preparation.

    THIS IS KEY. Learn from my mistakes. The example above completely burnt me out and ruined my job search momentum and confidence. Don’t do too much and leave yourself at risk of depletion for better, more perfect jobs! Shoot for moderation. 2-4 hours may be enough to learn about the company, reflect on your strengths, successes, and work history, and anticipate their questions. 

  8. Be yourself!

    Be friendly, pleasant, try to find enjoyment in the process and treat it as a valuable experience. If you come away without a job but learned better interview skills, learned more about an industry, or added people to your network, it was a success! 

  9. Be honest about what you don't want.

    Learning about what you don’t want is as important as learning about what you do. Negative experiences are valuable. They help us clarify and narrow our scope of preferences.

  10. Make a list of really good questions to ask.

    Having been in the interviewer seat, these can often tell what you care about more than the interview itself. 

  11. Surround yourself with positive, encouraging people.

    In the days leading up, it’s important for you to be around people who help you feel calm, strong and like yourself, not who increase your anxiety.

  12. Reward yourself.

    Interviews can be nerve wracking, draining and a little traumatic! You’ve just done something hard. Decompress over a mocha, see a movie, bake something, take a break from job searching to recover and regain strength for the next one.

  13. Sleep.

    I honestly haven’t mastered this before interviews, but things that may help you are the calming scent of lavender oil, and running through a list of the things you’re grateful for. 

These are just some of the things that helped me manage the self-doubt and anxiety that arises before interviews and land my perfect job.

What do you do? What strategies work for you? Have you ever prepared too much or too little?

Leandra Lehmann

Leandra Lehmann is a licensed Marriage and Family therapist and Art Therapist who believes creativity, mindfulness, physical health, community connection and self compassion are critical to promoting holistic healing. Her extensive community-based work with families and caregivers, and time as Head of People Ops in a start-up, informs her diverse interests which include trauma, social justice, women’s rights, stress management, self-care, and relationship building. She also draws from her experiences as a Third-Culture Kid from the Philippines and her passion for travel.