At the end of a job interview, you can usually breathe a sigh of relief. The hardest part is over!
But as soon as the office door closes behind you, the interview starts replaying in your head. Over and over and over.
And each time, it gets a little worse. Did you really giggle nervously when you shook your interviewer’s hand—or was it a more of a hysterical screech? Did you stumble over a few words when explaining your biggest weakness, or did you babble incoherently? Did you come across as confident or ridiculously conceited?
As you probably realize, overanalyzing your interview isn’t going to change how it went. But what can you do to get away from that habit of dissecting every little word, gesture, and facial expression from your interview? Here are a few suggestions.
1. Quit Practicing (at Least for Now)
It always happens: You think of the perfect answer to a question that stumped you just minutes after you finish the interview, and you’re able to verbalize it flawlessly in the car on the way home. It’s so frustrating that you weren’t able to think of this answer just an hour ago.
First, take a breath and realize that this is normal. It only makes sense that you’re going to have a more developed, succinct answer in mind when the question has been marinating in your head for an hour or two.
It may seem like a great idea to continue rehearsing the answers to these tough questions over and over again until you get them perfect, but for the moment, take a break. By focusing all your energy on what you could or should have said, you’re only bringing more stress on yourself. When you have another interview lined up, you can use this as a learning experience—but for now:
2. Focus on the Big Picture
When you overanalyze, you often get stuck on the details: Did she smile at my story because she thought it was funny or because she thought it was stupid? Did he ask about my management experience because he doesn’t think I seem like a leader? Why didn’t I say delegation when she asked about my strengths?
While interviewers certainly pay attention to the small things, it can help you get past that tendency to overanalyze if you simply take a step back and try to look at the big picture, rather than get lost in the details: Did you feel a good connection between you and the interviewer? Overall, did you demonstrate your enthusiasm for the role and company? What’s your gut feeling about the meeting as a whole?
Often, you’ll find that when you look at the big picture, it looks a lot better than if you pry into the interviewer’s every last word and expression.
3. Think Through (and Write) Your Thank You Note
If you’re still truly concerned about something you said or did during the interview, take just a few minutes to ask yourself: Is this something I can fix in a couple sentences in my thank you note? And, perhaps more importantly, is it significant enough to merit that kind of explanation?
In many cases, you’ll find that what you’re thinking of as huge, decision-impacting mistakes aren’t things you really need to address. For example, if your worry is that you came across as nervous or jittery, you’d find that it’d probably be better to simply let it pass than awkwardly explain it (“I know my palms were sweaty when we shook hands—sorry about that!”) in a thank you note (more on that here).
Then, either way, write and send that thank you note. Putting your effort into writing a thoughtful note will do much more good than thinking through your interview for the hundredth time.
4. Find the One Thing You Want to Do Differently Next Time
Of course, everyone will tell you that you should learn from your mistakes—and you absolutely should. But if you tend to overanalyze, you’re going to find yourself spending the next three full days coming up with list after list of ways you want to improve your interviewing skills.
Instead, allow yourself to select one takeaway from the interview. Maybe, for example, you want to be able to think better on your feet, so you don’t stumble over your words when you’re asked an unexpected question. Or, maybe you want to prepare a wider arsenal of anecdotes to share, so that you’re prepared for any and every behavioral-based question they could throw at you.
Pinpoint that one thing, and make that the target point of improvement for your next interview. Until then—and aside from that—give yourself a break.
5. Keep Pursuing Other Possibilities
If you’re overanalyzing, it may be because the interview was for either your dream job—or the only career possibility you have on your radar right now. And that puts a whole lot of pressure on you to nail the interview.
Instead of dwelling on that interview as a make-or-break opportunity, get right back into job hunting and start looking for more open positions that interest you. If you have several viable options going at any given time, you’ll feel much more confident about your prospects—and less likely to keep analyzing every word in that one interview.
It’s perfectly normal to review and learn from an interview—but taking that too far can distract you from your goal of getting a job and, instead, cause a whole lot of stress and anxiety. Take the necessary steps to move past this interview, and you’ll be even stronger for the next one.
Photo of relaxed man courtesy of Shutterstock.