Free Yourself From Interview Anxiety: Genuine...Authentic...and in the Zone

By Catherine Cunningham - Career Specialist - Australia

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You’ve done the hard work preparing for the interview and the day has arrived.

Now picture this. You’re waiting in the Reception area - hunched over your chair, anxiously checking your cell phone and swamped by glum thoughts.

How likely is it that you will be able to flick the button and switch to a smooth, confident performance once you actually meet your interviewers?

Not at all likely.


Intelligence … Fail! Ambition … Fail! Trustworthiness … Fail!

Experiment after experiment highlights the importance of positive Body Language when it comes to making a good First Impression.  

Further confirmation of just how important this is to your job interview success came in a Harvard Business School study done in 2012 which showed that judgements made in the first ten seconds of an interview could predict the outcome of the interview.

This study looked at critical issues such as intelligence, ambition and trustworthiness. Imagine failing to make a good impression in these areas before you even say a word!

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can ignore your voice.  Nearly 40% of that oh-so-important First Impression comes from the pitch, speed, tone of your voice.  And in the end, once people have made it past your Body Language and your Voice, they will still assess the words that come out of your mouth before deciding whether to hire you or not.

However, the fundamental message is that there is no point focusing on your Voice and Words, if you haven’t mastered Body Language.


Body Language rules the World

The Harvard research identified that you can put yourself in the right frame of mind before you enter the interview room so that you positively influence how your interviewer evaluates and responds to you.

Professor Amy Cuddy brought this dry research to life in her famous TED talk. In it, she talks about the importance of adopting what she calls high power poses because they increase:

  • explicit and implicit feelings of power and dominance
  • risk-taking behaviour
  • action orientation
  • pain tolerance
  • testosterone (the dominance hormone)

What is so interesting and so important about the Harvard research, is that it shows that not only do these postures reflect power, they also produce it!

If you are typically adversely affected by interview nerves, this is a very useful tool for a stronger, more convincing performance.


Beating your Competition

Job interviews are one of the most competitive activities that we undertake in the working world.  Those childhood days of every participant winning a prize at birthday Pass the Parcel games are long gone.

The sad fact is that, all too often, the job goes to the slickest performer at interviews, rather than the best applicant. In reality, all you have to do is perform better than your competitors to win the job.  The trouble is, of course, that none of us know quite how slick our rivals are. 

In an interview, one party often has more power to impact the future of the other. For example, in a job interview, the interviewer has power over your future, so the importance of the interviewer‘s evaluations of you is paramount.

Why not take advantage of the fact that most of us aren’t very good at job interviews? Gain your head start out in the Reception area to put yourself on the front foot and in the right frame of mind before you enter the interview room.


3 Steps to a High Power Pose

In all primates, expansive, open postures reflect high power, whereas contractive, closed postures reflect low power. Yet, in the moments before walking into our interview, many of us adopt postures that can cause us to feel even more powerless.

Assuming a high-power pose represents a subtle way of making you feel more powerful. It reduces stress, anxiety and cortisol.


  1. Find a private space before you go into the Reception area.
    Close your eyes and picture a winner.
    Imagine you’ve just won a 100m race and you’re throwing your arms up in celebration. That’s how strong and outstretched your pose needs to be.
    Stand tall and straight, chin up, eyes wide open with your arms opened up high.
  2. Hold that position for a couple of minutes.
    Come on, no-one will see you, so go for it!
    It takes less than two minutes for the changes to kick in inside your brain and affect your confidence.
    So, a power pose not only reflects power, it also creates it inside you.
  3. Stretch out and occupy more space when you are waiting in Reception.
    Maintain your strong physical stance when you take a seat.
    Don’t slouch. Feel as though you own and belong in the chair.
    Don’t be distracted by your mobile phone.
    Visualise yourself walking into the Reception area as an employee in your new job there. Put yourself into a positive frame of mind.
    A word of warning. We’re talking about genuine power, not an over-the-top aggressively positive and powerful stance that would alarm anyone observing your behaviour.


1% inspiration, 99% perspiration

We all sit somewhere on the interview skills continuum between disastrous and superb.

Quite frankly, I used to be bad at interviews. I'd walk out of so many of them knowing that the job was within my capabilities and feeling that there was a good cultural fit, but never getting the offer. At the other end of the spectrum, I have two friends who are just naturals – they basically get every job they ever apply for.

Ticking all the boxes at an interview so that your prospective employer thinks that you are ideal is very complex. It is no wonder that most of us are so poor at it and that we avoid the whole idea of improving our interview skills.

Such inertia is perfectly natural but just a bit of strategic effort can make all the difference here.

Swinging the balance of power to you in the interview process is possible.  It requires intelligent preparation and effort.  Your aim is to make them think: ‘Gee, she’s so good.  I wonder what we’re going to have to do to get her to come on board with us.’

It is critical that you prepare, prepare and then prepare some more for the interview.  Film yourself, practise with an astute friend, find a skilled Career Consultant.  Focus on all elements of the interview, including preparing interesting persuasive answers that PROVE you have the qualities required.

But, there is also a simple strategy that you can put into practice, in the waiting room before you even go in for your interview that will put you on the front foot. Take advantage of your understanding of the Power Pose to win that job!



Catherine Cunningham is the author of My Career Rules! and is one of Australia's leading career experts. She appears regularly in The Weekend Australian Careers section, in The Advertiser's Careers, as well as in online publications such as, and




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