Good or bad economies, interview stress is a given in the job-hunting process. Job candidates experience stress prior to the interview and during the interview. During both occasions, the stress can be equally intense, according to Ken Siegel, a management consultant in Beverly Hills, Calif., and Sharon Keys Seal, president of executive coaching company, Coaching Concepts Inc., in Baltimore.

Don’t be passive and hope the interview will run smoothly. “That’s unrealistic thinking,” says Siegel. “The worst thing you can do is make assumptions about outcomes. Expect some stress, minimal at best, and find ways to deal with it.”

Siegel and Seals list suggestions for managing stress. First, some before-interview stress reduction strategies from Siegel.

  • View the interview as a mutual exploration. The employer is learning about you, but conversely you are learning about him as well. Fear is triggered if you view the employer as controlling the interview. Without being aware of it, your defenses are down.
  • Learn about the company’s strengths and weaknesses.What concerns you the most?
  • Think of the interview as a conversation with another human being. The interviewer does not hold your career in his hands. Often, decisions are made after two or three interviews. If you make a good impression, you are passed on to the next manager in the corporate hierarchy.

Seals’ before-interview tips:

  • Use the process of visualization. Visualization involves imagining what it would be like working for the company. This is possible if you invest time in researching the company. Thanks to the Internet, all it takes is a few hours to get an accurate picture of what the company is all about.
  • List several reasons why you should get the job. This is a standard question that’s likely to be asked.
  • Think carefully about the clothes your wear. It ought to meet the company’s standard and fit the corporate culture. Conservative attire is always the best bet.

During the interview, Siegel suggests:

  • Asking a lot of questions.It helps manage anxiety and focus on the mission at hand, which is impressing the interviewer with your knowledge.

Seals’ tips for controlling stress during the interview are:

  • Avoid caffeine (coffee, tea, chocolate) prior to the interview because it exacerbates tension and stress.
  • Maintain eye contact. It focuses attention on the interviewer rather than yourself. It gives you a certain amount of control over the interview because your attention is riveted on the interviewer. You are also displaying confidence, which is impressive.

Positive first impressions score points
It’s been said before, but Seals stresses the importance of making a strong first impression. A poor first impression can ruin your chances of being considered. Even though it’s an irrational response, the interviewer is not likely to change his opinion.

“The interview begins the moment you arrive,” Seals says. “Everyone you meet, from the receptionist to the hiring manager, will form an impression of you.” To make sure the impression is positive, remember that your words and mannerism  affects the image your project.

Finally, don’t walk into an interview thinking your career hinges upon the outcome. “No matter how tough the job market, you must constantly remind yourself that there are many other jobs in the wings,” adds Seals. “It helps reduce stress so you can turn in a great performance if you are turned down.”