Feeling nervous before a job interview? Good news: You are an average person. Almost everyone is tense before a job interview, and even if it does not feel like it, it’s a good thing because it shows that you care about the outcome and want to do your best. If you don’t really care about an interview, the job itself doesn’t interest you, which isn’t great for you or the potential employer. So you can see your nervousness as both a motivator and a sign of motivation.
However, if you are overly nervous or tense, it can negatively affect your performance at the interview by distracting you, causing you to stutter, or affecting your memory. Take control of your nerves with these five steps.
1. Rethink your role in an interview
We tend to look at job interviews from a one-sided perspective: You are being evaluated by a potential employer who wants to find out if you are suitable for a job. As true as that is, you are there to assess whether or not the potential employer and the job are right for you. Therefore, you should scrutinise the employer just as closely as you feel they are scrutinising you.
This may seem like a small change, but altering your perspective in this way can help you reevaluate the power dynamics of the situation. In a typical interview, the interviewer sets and directs the agenda. But it doesn’t mean you are at their mercy. In addition to a researched and prepared list of questions about the company and job duties, pay close attention to what questions they ask you and consider what they reveal about the company.
Don’t be afraid to question things that seem strange or ambiguous. This will show you are attentive and engaged. Maintaining eye contact throughout the interview also shows you’re engaged and confident. And remember, they want to give you the job.
2. Lean into research about the company
Your potential employer will have spent some time researching you before the interview. So it’s only fair – and very much in your own best interest – if you return the courtesy. After all, the more you know, the better prepared you will be for any eventuality and the more confident you will feel.
Thorough research about the company (and its competitors), your role, and your responsibilities is a given. But also focus on the following:
- Company values and culture: Understanding a company’s culture and how it aligns with your own will allow you to ask more insightful questions and better tailor your own responses.
- Contemporary developments: Search the Internet or the company’s website for current news. Showing that you are familiar with recent events reveals that you are interested in the company or industry.
- Company clients: Who does your potential employer serve? What do they need? Knowing this will help you better understand what your interviewer wants, which will boost your confidence.
3. Practise answers to common interview questions
You never know exactly what an interviewer will ask, but there are some common questions for which you can and should practise your answers. Your research plays an important role here because if you know a lot about the company, you can anticipate these questions and know what answers you should give. Jot down key talking points about yourself you’d like to cover in your interview, and have a plan to include them when relevant questions come up.
Consider doing mock interviews with a friend or family member and create a checklist to ensure you include all relevant information in each answer. Nervousness can cause us to forget important details, and knowing this can make you even more nervous. Write the interview questions on index cards so your interviewer can change the order.
Take the mock interview as seriously as the actual interview – dress as you would for the occasion, try to conduct the discussion in a neutral, uncluttered room, and do at least a couple of full run-throughs, so you get a feel for the entire process. Ask for honest, constructive feedback that can help you understand what really needs improvement and what you may be worrying about unnecessarily.
4. Control what you can in the interview
This may seem obvious, but it’s easy to get flustered on interview day and let things get out of hand. Give yourself the best possible chance by getting enough sleep the night before, eating a nourishing meal, and not over-caffeinating. Print out all relevant documents, including your CV and portfolio.
Ensure you know exactly where the office is, what floor to go to, and who to meet. Find out the usual traffic situation at the time of the interview and, if possible, plan a buffer of 30 minutes to allow for any contingencies such as traffic jams, car problems, security issues, etc. Remember, there’s nothing wrong with arriving early for the interview. If you are particularly early and do not want to hang around the reception desk forever, take a walk around the block to get your circulation going – because even light exercise releases endorphins and relieves stress.
5. Keep breathing … slowly
The final step is something you have complete control over – your breath. There’s a reason meditation focuses so closely on breathing. Deep, slow breaths can trigger several psychological responses that make you feel more relaxed. Studies have shown that guided slow breathing exercises drop your blood pressure, so the chances are, they can help you with your pre-interview jitters. When you arrive before the interview, practise slow, mindful breathing and approach the interview with a calmer state of mind.
While you’re at it, try adopting the superhero or power pose. This involves standing with your feet apart, hands on your hips or behind your head, chest out, chin up. Stand proudly and expansively, and hold the pose for a minute or two. This has been shown to boost confidence even when you’re feeling nervous.
You can also use this technique to help with calming interview nerves during the interview. When you are asked a question, take a moment to breathe, pause, and then answer. It is better to give a thoughtful answer than rush into a response.
Still feeling nervous about the interview?
Interview Skills offers practical, tailored interview training to help you make a positive, confident impression when it matters the most. Our personalised interview training programmes include two sessions where we interview you based on your desired job description, providing detailed feedback so you can practise, address pain points and calm your nerves before an interview.
If you want to present yourself with confidence in an interview, contact us to find out how we can help.