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43. Job Interview Obstacles: Turning Nerves, Anxiety and Mistakes into Success 

network interview & negotiate personal development podcast episodes Jul 13, 2023
Blog/podcast cover with title: 43. Job Interview Obstacles: Turning Nerves, Anxiety and Mistakes into Success 


Patricia Ortega dives into the common barriers that can hinder candidates from acing their interviews and leaving a positive impression on hiring managers. She discusses the fears of failure and the pressure to perform that often lead to overwhelm and blanking out during interviews.

Patricia emphasizes the importance of mindset and perspective, reminding listeners that interviews are conversations, not pass or fail situations. She also shares strategies for handling moments of blanking out or making mistakes, encouraging candidates to own their mistakes and use humor to make the situation more relatable. So, if you want to conquer your interview fears and stand out in a crowded job market, give this episode a listen!


We'll talk about:

  • Overcoming fear of failure and pressure
  • Mindset shift: interview as a conversation
  • Blank out? What do do next
  • How to come back from mistakes
  • Shared positive experiences 
  • Your response and emotional intelligence


  • Introduction
  • Overcoming interview fears
  • Mindset shift
  • Not knowing or blanking out
  • Leveraging Mistakes


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43. Job Interview Obstacles: Turning Nerves, Anxiety and Mistakes into Success 

0:00 Hey friend, it's Patricia here. We are about to get started with today's episode. But first,

00:04 if you want to land a position that is a perfect fit at a great company making good money,

00:10 even if you don't have a fancy title or a big network or a ton of experience, then head over

00:14 into the description and grab the career transition checklist. This is basically a checklist that

00:20 includes all seven phases of a successful career search, many of which people miss all together,

00:26 all the time. So grab that in the description, know that I'm cheering you on all the way through,

00:31 and now let's get into today's episode. Hey friend, let's talk about your amazing

00:39 God-given brand and the minds that you need to stand out in a crowded job market. Whether you

00:44 want to launch, pivot, or move up in your career, we're going to tackle this together. Meet up with

00:49 me each week to help you get confident, get noticed, and get hired. I'm Patricia Ortega,

00:55 and this is the Uncommon Career Podcast. Hey friend, welcome back. In this episode,

01:02 I'm going to share with you the common barriers that hinder candidates from acing their interviews

01:07 and leaving a positive and professional impression on the hiring manager. We're going to discuss

01:13 each challenge in depth, and then I'm going to provide you with some mindset considerations

01:17 and also some practical strategies and remedies that are going to help you to confidently navigate

01:22 through the interview process. So I'm going to divide it into a couple different areas. We're

01:27 going to talk about that nervousness, that fear of failure, that pressure to perform, and how it

01:31 impacts us. But I'm also going to share a little bit about what happens when we blank out and what

01:37 you can do to leverage that moment to your advantage. We're also going to talk at the end

01:43 about what if the worst happens. You literally answer a question incorrectly, and you realize

01:50 that at the end of the interview or after you've answered the question. Maybe you step on someone's

01:55 toes, or maybe you just share something you really didn't intend to. We'll talk about that

02:00 in today's episode. So let's get started first with talking about the interview experience and

02:06 what happens with our emotions. One of the most, the biggest fears is speaking in public,

02:13 and right next to that is speaking when you're being evaluated like in an interview. So this

02:20 fear of failure or this pressure to perform really gives us a lot of anxiety, a lot of

02:26 insecurity, stress, tension, all of this leads to overwhelm and our brain gets overloaded. And that

02:33 is when we blank out. So imagine this, you are going into the interview, you know what you're

02:40 going to do for the first five or 10 seconds, right? The usual, you're going to make eye contact,

02:45 you're going to smile, show your teeth. If you're in the US, that's like the thing, right? You want

02:50 to have a bright smile, you want to shake hands that in a way that is, you know, professional,

02:57 you don't want to have that limp handshake that everyone talks about, you want to make a good

03:01 impression. But then what? Well, the nerves start rushing in, you know, you're on high alert,

03:08 maybe it's adrenaline, maybe it's anxiety, who knows, but the nerves are definitely kicking in.

03:14 Maybe you get a question or a term that you're unfamiliar with. And before you were even asked

03:19 that question, you had that worry in the back of your mind, you had that fear in the back of your

03:23 mind. Well, that is the self fulfilling prophecy. Because you felt like there might be an answer

03:29 you're not going to know. Or maybe you didn't feel that way specifically, but maybe you thought,

03:34 what if? What if I don't know an answer? What if I'm asked something that I don't know how to explain?

03:43 What if I'm asked about an experience that I don't have a skill set in, or that I haven't had an

03:48 accomplishment in? What am I going to do then? So this is what your brain does. Your brain,

03:53 since you're thinking about what if, what if, your brain is literally looking for that moment,

03:59 it's almost looking for confirmation. And this isn't necessarily that your brain is intentionally

04:05 trying to mess you over, it's just a natural process we go through. And that's why it's a

04:09 self fulfilling prophecy, because your brain is literally looking for that moment to confirm

04:14 the thought or the fear that you had. So once it finds it, your brain's like, this is it,

04:20 this is that moment. And it just shuts down. Because now all you're thinking of is, I knew it,

04:28 this was going to be an interview that I wasn't going to do well in. Again, overwhelm, overload,

04:33 and we blank out. But here's the thing, you are an experienced leader. And if you're an experienced

04:38 leader, you know the drill. You have the experience and you know that you can handle any situation

04:44 that's thrown at you in real time. How do you know that? Because you've had those years of

04:49 experience where all kinds of situations have happened, and you've managed to get them,

04:54 you know, under control. And not only that, you probably have had successes along the way.

04:59 So again, you have experience and you can handle any situation in real time. But doing your job in

05:06 real time is an entirely different skill than communicating your process, defining the strategic

05:12 advantage within that process or within your skill set, and then emphasizing the most impactful

05:18 aspects in a language that resonates with the manager. That's a mouthful. So I'm going to go

05:23 over that again, doing your job in real time is an entirely different skill than communicating

05:29 your process, which includes first defining the strategic advantage within that skill.

05:34 So defining in your skill set in a past experience, a past accomplishment, you want to define

05:41 what is the piece that is most important in order to relay that to the manager because you don't

05:47 want to share every detail of every past experience, you want to focus in on what's most important

05:52 for that job you're being interviewed for. So that's the first thing is defining the strategic

05:56 advantage. The second part is emphasizing the most impactful aspects. So once you've figured out what

06:03 the strategic advantage is, what that core skill you need to pull out of your experience or your

06:09 accomplishment or the example that you're sharing, then you want to emphasize the most impactful

06:16 aspects. A key measure in one role is going to be different than a key measure in the role you're

06:23 interviewing for. So you might want to shift how you talk about your accomplishment to focus on

06:28 the part of the project or experience that means the most to the hiring manager. And then finally,

06:35 you want to use language that will resonate with the manager. So not only the measures and the

06:42 accomplishments that you want to focus on, not only do you want to align those with what you need

06:48 for your future position, you also need to start speaking in their language. So if there is a

06:54 terminology at your prior position that is slightly different from the terminology at your new or the

07:00 position you're interviewing for, then you want to shift that language. That's a lot. That's a

07:06 lot you have to do in order to become the most competitive candidate. And so yes, for seasoned

07:13 professionals, it is not out of the norm. It's not a typical that you might get caught off guard in

07:19 a high stakes situation. And that can bring you that overwhelm and that overload and that blank

07:26 out moment. And so this is where your preparation comes in. But this episode is a little bit less

07:33 about the preparation. We're actually going to cover that in a different episode. But here's

07:36 the good news I can share with you right now is that mindset makes a big difference in the anxiety,

07:45 you know, fear, failure, pressure to perform, which is what we're focusing on today. Your mindset

07:51 makes a huge difference in that. So here's the good news. Your interview is not intended to be

07:57 a pass or fail situation. I'm gonna say that again, your interview is not intended to be a

08:03 pass or fail situation. It's not a performance where you have to, you know, you have a script

08:09 that's been pre written for you, and you have to go on stage and perform like you're, you know,

08:17 the talent for a new movie coming out where you have to say your lines exactly as they've written

08:24 as they have written them for you. This is not a performance. It's not a pass or fail,

08:30 not a performance. This is a conversation. This is literally one conversation between two people.

08:40 And the questions that you're being asked are actually created to give you opportunity.

08:45 When hiring managers sit down to think of questions to ask you, they're not questions to see whether

08:51 or not you are perfect at your job, whether or not you have the right answer. They're actually

08:57 typically open-ended questions created to give you an opportunity to share your experience in

09:02 different ways and to share different aspects of your experience. Think of it this way. Every

09:09 company when they interview you, they want you to succeed. I know that sounds maybe a little bit

09:16 out of what you have experienced or maybe what you have in mind, but the company who's interviewing

09:23 you wants you to succeed. Why? Because they need a person in the role. They want to find the person

09:30 who's the best fit. So this is why they want you to succeed. So consider the interview as a two-way

09:36 conversation more so than a one-way evaluation of your worthiness as a candidate. Remember,

09:43 it's not just about impressing the company. It is you assessing and deciding if that company aligns

09:51 with your vision, with what you want out of a position, and where you want to take your life.

09:57 This change in your perspective is going to help you to turn the conversation around from a,

10:02 please hire me, I hope that I'm worthy for your position, into a conversation of, listen,

10:09 you're looking for talent, I have the skills that you need, so let's sit together at the table and

10:14 see if this can be a win-win. Just that change in perspective is going to, and you want to have this

10:20 change happen internally, not just externally, but when this change in perspective happens internally,

10:26 everything that you say and how you say it changes in the interview. And now you speak more

10:33 confidently and you retain some of that control and authority because of the skill set that you

10:39 bring. And the goal isn't to control the conversation or be authoritative over the,

10:45 you know, the company or the people there. It's just that you hold control over who you are and

10:49 what you bring to the table, and you have authority over what decision you make. And that keeps some

10:55 of the negotiation chips on your side, and it helps you to communicate as, you know,

11:02 sort of as an entrepreneur, think of this as a business transaction. It is a partnership,

11:07 and the goal is to come together to the table and have that win-win. So this perspective really

11:13 helps the people around you to see your value, but if you don't see it, and if you don't show it,

11:19 others won't see it. And so it can only be assumed that that value is not there. So

11:27 at the end of the day, conquering fear of failure, the pressure to perform has to do with us

11:35 not anticipating that we are being evaluated, not anticipating that something's going to go wrong,

11:43 but instead saying, hey, this is an open conversation where I bring my skill set,

11:48 they bring the position that they need to fill. And let's see if we can come to a conclusion that

11:52 is going to be beneficial for both. Okay, but what happens if you literally blank out, like it happens,

12:01 the thing happens, they ask you a question and you blank out. Maybe you can't remember a situation,

12:07 or you're not familiar with a term. You might think, my fear is not just a fear. This is real.

12:16 And now it becomes this cycle, not just a self-fulfilling prophecy in one situation,

12:21 but now every interview after that, it's like the cycle of, see, I told you I was right, right?

12:27 This is going to happen. I am going to blank out at interviews. And it just becomes this,

12:31 you know, like I said, this cycle that sort of beats you up, you know, and slowly takes your

12:37 confidence. And we don't want that to happen. Here's what I want you to do. If you're in an

12:42 interview, and you are asked a question, and whether it's that you don't have a situation for the

12:49 behavioral question they asked you, or that they mentioned a term, and you realize you don't know

12:55 it, take a step, take a second, breathe, literally like bring some oxygen into your brain,

13:04 breathe, let your body calm for just a moment. And remember and tell yourself every question

13:12 is intended to help you share part of your experience, right? Also remember that any term

13:17 or skill can be learned in the first two weeks of position. I don't want to say any skill,

13:22 but a large majority of skills can be learned in the first few weeks of position in the first six

13:28 months in a position, right? And so use this opportunity to slow down and start learning

13:36 about this term or this skill or whatever it is that the question that you know stumped you,

13:42 whatever that question is, ask for more context, say something like, you know, I'm not quite

13:50 familiar with that term, but I might have done similar work under a different name. Can you

13:54 explain that to me? They explain the term, you realize, hey, I know what they're talking about,

13:59 I have an experience, I just don't know it under that terminology. Now you can answer the question.

14:05 And so what you're going to do is ask for more context, because from that context, you can

14:10 pull information that can help you to answer that question. Now if you really have no idea,

14:15 it's maybe a skill set or term that you truly do not know about, you can say, you know,

14:20 I'm not familiar with that. However, here's related experience that I have, and then pull

14:26 from your toolbox, which I'll show you how to prepare for and organize in a different episode,

14:31 but you're going to pull a story from your toolbox that is related to that, and sort of explain your

14:36 process. And now the committee has an opportunity to see what it would be like if you just took a

14:42 day or two to learn about this term or this skill, and then put your knowledge and your

14:48 experience to work on it. Okay, so not knowing a term or blanking out is actually not as bad

14:57 as you think it is. Things could be much worse. But what if they are worse? So what if you literally

15:07 say the wrong thing? What if you step on someone's toes with your response and you realize it when

15:14 you look at their face? Or what if you realize that you sounded kind of aggressive, or that you

15:19 answered a question straight up incorrectly, and you caught yourself after the fact? Well,

15:25 everybody makes mistakes. From the person that is boots on the ground to the director, the vice

15:34 president, the CEO, title does not matter. We are all human and everyone makes mistakes.

15:40 Here's what sets you apart. When you make a mistake, own your mistake. How you handle and

15:48 how you respond to situations. That is what sets apart a leader. And so any of these situations,

15:56 yes, they can leave the wrong impression if you choose to just move on. But did you know that you

16:01 can actually leverage most mistakes to make you even more memorable? And in fact, your reaction

16:09 or your response, or the way that you handle it might possibly be the reason why you get hired.

16:17 As a professional, and especially if you're managing people and departments, your poise

16:22 and your professionalism are truly what set you apart your ability to communicate your emotional

16:28 intelligence. And that's really difficult to ascertain in a 30 minute interview. So you having

16:35 that moment where you step back and realize, well, that didn't go the way I planned, adding a little

16:40 bit of humor, or something like, well, well, that wasn't right. Let me answer that again.

16:47 Maybe you can say something like, oh, I sense I didn't quite hit the target on that. Let's try

16:53 that again. Just something simple like that can make the process more relatable and more enjoyable,

17:00 and it can make you more relatable for the committee. And they can get an idea of, you know,

17:06 this person is not so serious that they can't recognize when they've made a mistake. That's a

17:12 huge quality. And when you talk about emotional intelligence, your ability to see when you have

17:17 made a mistake, own up to that mistake, and, you know, sort of have grace for yourself allows

17:24 others to see that they can be imperfect too. And that's a great leadership quality. So being

17:30 comfortable with who you are, with your humanity, and with making mistakes, which we all make,

17:36 is going to make the situation feel much lighter and maybe even funny. And when you have a shared

17:42 experience with someone that involves a positive emotion, like, I don't know, a funny moment in an

17:49 interview, that's going to make you memorable. It will help them to feel what it might be like to

17:54 work with you in real life. And trust me, everyone wants to work with a person who can have a chuckle

18:00 at their own expense every once in a while. So today we've covered quite a bit of ground.

18:06 We've really talked about conquering your fear of failure and the pressure to perform that always

18:10 comes with the interviews. It's quite a normal thing, but it can lead to overwhelm and overload

18:15 and makes us blank out. So we talked about how to overcome that perspective before the interview

18:22 actually happens. And then we also talked about, you know, what do we do when we blank out? How do

18:28 we address that? And how do we come back from that? But even worse, you might say something

18:34 incorrectly, or you might step on the interviewer's toes or have an awkward moment. And we talked a

18:41 little bit about your response in that moment helps the interviewer to see how you might actually be

18:48 an even better fit than you were when you were giving these amazing and perfect answers. Your

18:55 response changes everything. I hope this has been helpful for you. And in fact, I would love to hear

19:00 from you if you went to your interview and this episode made a difference for you. I have a link

19:07 to my LinkedIn in the description. So go ahead and connect with me there. I'd love to hear from you.

19:13 And other than that, know that I'm praying for you and I'll see you on the next one.

19:23 It's me again. Thank you for listening. You're now done with the very first step in becoming a part

19:28 of the Uncommon Career community. And that was to listen to this podcast. So congratulations,

19:34 you are done. Your next step is to head over to the or to click on the link in

19:39 the description to get your career resources that are going to help you make career progress

19:43 right now. So again, before you forget, head over to the or just click

19:48 the link in the description, grab your resources, and I'll see you there.







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