Career Advice, Interviews

Why Do Job Interviews Feel So Weird?

Scoring a job interview confirms that you’re a promising candidate who’s getting noticed. It’s exciting to imagine the possibilities: Maybe you’ll land your dream job! But along with the excitement comes a whole host of complex emotions. Examining what’s driving your discomfort, however, can help you make peace with it — regardless of the outcome. Here are a few of the most common reasons you might be feeling out of sorts. 

The language of formality

Job interviews feel formal in a way that daily office life does not; for example, you may feel a bit self-conscious arriving in your suit, especially if you find your interviewers dressed more casually. Fortunately, though, formality softens into casualness once trust is established. After you have demonstrated that you can play by the rules, then you can loosen them — you just have to show the team that they can count on you.

[Related: The 45 Questions You Should Ask In Every Job Interview]

So when coming in to interview, play it by the book: be on time and present the most professional version of yourself possible to demonstrate that they know they can trust you with their customers, students, clients or patients. If you are offered the position, you can loosen up; but in the earliest days of your acquaintanceship, it’s best to play it safe.

[Related: How to be Yourself on Social Media While Staying Professional]

A lopsided conversation

Dr. Richard Orbé-Austin, career coach, psychologist, and partner with Dynamic Transitions Psychological Consulting points out that interviews are rhetorically different than most interactions. “[I]t is an unnatural way of engaging with people, since it tends to be a one-way conversation, where you reveal a good deal about yourself, but the interviewer(s) does not generally reciprocate,” Dr. Orbé-Austin explains. “That is not how we typically have conversations, where usually there is a back and forth exchange.”

This one-sided sharing can make interviewees feel exposed and vulnerable, but remember that you always have the opportunity at the end to ask a few questions of your own around the company’s general work style, company culture, logistics and more.

[Related: How to Nail an Interview With a Values-Driven Company]

Avoiding brutal honesty

Your need to secure a new job may be pressing — you may be trying to bolt from a job that you’ve outgrown, flee from a toxic environment, or angle to find an easier commute or a better salary. All are legitimate reasons to search for a new job, but you don’t want to relay this desperation or speak ill of your current employer. So when talking about your current situation, be truthful, yet strategic in how much you share. 

Being delicate in your explanation may make you feel less than forthright, but it also gives you the chance to reflect on the limitations of your current position in a tidy, emotion-free way. For example, it may be true that your boss is a jerk, but withholding that and instead discussing how you’re ready for new challenges is more valuable to those interviewing you. Don’t worry — this is not dishonest, it’s simply more pertinent.  

[Related: 7 Things To Never Do In An Interview]

The awkward self-sell

It can feel boastful to convince other people of your professional value, but remember, they are a busy team trying to fill their open position. If you can do that for them, they can get back to business as usual. They are eager to hear how your past experiences have prepared you for this opportunity.

Most interview teams just want to get a sense of your skill set and what it’s like to work with you, so get excited to discuss your accomplishments, and make sure to share the ones that have made your colleagues’ lives easier.

[Related: 3 Ways to Sell Yourself and Get the Job You Want]

Taking it personally

Dr. Orbé-Austin explains that job interviews can drudge up anxiety “because they feel like a high stakes evaluation of our very selves.” Try not to emotionally inflate the situation — interviewees are simply being assessed for their fit on the team, not their value as people. And, Dr. Orbé-Austin notes, job seekers should do the same as they decide if the company culture feels right to them.

Even if they feel a bit uncomfortable at times, or end in an undesirable outcome, interviews are critical to your professional development. But the good news is, with a little practice, they’ll become second-nature. Dr. OrbéAustin writes: “The more you interview, the more you can recognize the types of organizations and roles you may want.”

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