The pressure of interviews, be they face-to-face or remote, is causing workers to freeze, which could hinder their confidence and career progression – according to new research.
A study of 1,000 workers published in Thinking On Your Feet, a report by RADA Business, the commercial arm of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, has found that 27% of professionals find it difficult to relax during an interview.
RADA says interviews can be hugely stressful, regardless of whether they take place in person or remotely. When asked about the effects of interview stress, 1 in 3 business professionals say they find it hard to think clearly – a crucial ability for someone in an interview setting who needs to respond in the moment.
When under pressure, 19% of professionals say that they find it difficult to pause for breath, or to enable a message to land, when speaking. With the number of phone and video interviews set to rise during the Covid-19 pandemic, this skill is hugely important to allow the interviewee to think and communicate effectively.
The data also found that more than 1 in 4 (26%) find it hard to speak slowly while being interviewed and a similar number (25%) say they struggle to maintain eye contact during face-to-face interviews.
According to the data, a further 23% of workers find it hard not to panic when they feel tense and 17% say they struggle not to shake – a common physical side effect of nerves which may appear during interview.
Kate Walker Miles, tutor and Client Manager at RADA Business, as well as a RADA acting graduate, said: “Interviews can be an extremely stressful experience for all of us, 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.
“Many interviews and meetings now need to take place remotely to conform with self-isolation and social distancing guidelines. The pressure is on for business professionals to make the best impression on potential employers over video conferencing platforms. For some of us this is a new experience. We actors know that everything reads on a screen, meaning your interviewer will be more able to pick up on any nerves. To really connect with someone else remotely and gain their trust, it’s important to do whatever you can to settle yourself and release tension. Then you can think and speak clearly. You will appear more at ease and confident about what you are saying.
“Of course, it’s vital to find time to familiarise yourself with the tech before the meeting, so that there are no last-minute panics. But it is also important to prepare your physical state for a digital interview. Simple techniques can help you to manage your nerves and feel more grounded and confident. 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 release your neck. Next, concentrate on your breath. 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 our 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, practice 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 will show that you’re confident enough to consider your answer. After all, what you have to say is important.”