Top 15 Ways to Calm Interview Nerves
73% of job seekers describe finding a job as one of the most stressful experiences in life.
There are many layers to recruitment:
- Writing your resume and cover letter
- Completing personality tests
- Face-to-face interviews
- Group interviews
- Projects and scenarios
While each step can be nerve-wracking, interviews tend to cause the most nervousness as there is nothing in between you and your potential employer to protect you.
But that feeling of anxiety is your body’s natural way of dealing with a stressful situation.
Originating from the caveman days, nerves prepare you for a fight-or-flight situation. They flood the body with excess adrenaline, so your muscles react quicker.
Back in the caveman days, these episodes usually occurred when faced with a threat like a tiger. Today, we often feel nerves when faced with another human being who has power over you.
As it is a natural survival technique, interview nerves can be managed before and during an interview to avoid any slip-ups.
Interviews could be stressful for several reasons:
- This job is important, and you need to perform well
- You do not enjoy speaking in formal or public situations
- You do not like not knowing what you will be asked
- You do not perform well under pressure
- You have not had enough interview experience
Each person responds differently, but as your body floods with adrenaline, the extra hormones increase your blood pressure and breathing, ready for that fight-or-flight moment.
Additional symptoms of interview nerves are:
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling flustered
- Stomach aches
- Brain fog
- Needing the restroom at inconvenient times
- Some shakiness in your hands
- Cold or clammy palms
Knowing the basic science and principles behind your nerves allows you to control them and use them as energy rather than them controlling you.
Below are 15 ways to calm your nerves before an interview to help you appear enthusiastic and alert:
It does not need to be first thing in the morning but setting an interview time earlier in the day means there is less time for you to get worked up.
You cannot spend all day ruminating on it if you do not have all day to ruminate.
Arrange a time that allows you to have a decent night's sleep and gives you enough time to get ready and get to your interview without having to rush.
Research the company and interviewer ahead of time.
Find the most common interview questions and practice answering them either with yourself or a friend/family member.
Creating an interview cheat sheet will help take a lot of pressure off.
Use this document to:
- Write down any company research
- Make a note of facts about your interviewer
- Detail the route to your interview, including address and contact details
- Highlight key points for interview questions
- List any questions you may have
Finally, decide what you will wear and make sure it is cleaned and pressed before the day of the interview.
Choosing what to wear for an interview can be just as stressful as the interview itself, so prepare this as far in advance as you can.
A massage or lunch at your favorite restaurant are perennial favorites.
But even an exercise class can make you feel good – one factor behind stress is people do not complete their fight-or-flight cycle, so their body does not know it is safe even if their brain does.
Exercise is like a pretend fight (or flight) and so allows your body’s stress cycle to complete.
Whatever you enjoy doing, schedule that for after your interview.
Doing this gives you something to look forward to and takes the focus away from the interview.
Your mindset then becomes 'one little interview and then fun' rather than 'oh no, today is my interview'.
Be careful not to arrange your fun plans too close to the interview, however, in case it runs over. You do not want to be anxious about the interview and concerned you will be late for your next appointment as well.
Exercise as often as you can in the build-up to your interview.
Running, swimming, cycling, walking – exercise releases feel-good hormones called endorphins and removes adrenaline from the body (this is how it completes the stress cycle, mentioned above).
A HIIT or boxing class the night before and yoga or stretching the morning of the interview will help dispel some extra adrenaline.
If you have a week or two to prepare, take advantage and exercise as much as you can.
Your improved health will help you manage your breathing better and make you feel more comfortable in your body.
Write yourself a set of positive affirmations and say them several times a day, as well as whenever you feel anxious.
On the day of the interview, repeat them during your journey.
Positive affirmations can help attract positive thoughts and outcomes if you believe the words that you are telling yourself.
Examples of positive affirmations are:
- I am perfectly qualified for this job
- I am a great/the best candidate
- I know my value
- I am confident answering interview questions
- I will impress my interviewer
Some experts recommend eating a super healthy, nutritious breakfast like avocado and poached egg on toast. Others suggest eating something comforting to put you in a good mood, such as pancakes.
The best thing to eat is whatever makes you feel good.
The action of cooking can be an act of self-care that sets you up for a good day.
Just keep in mind you do not want anything that will make you slump too soon or leave your tummy rumbling in between questions.
While caffeine is excellent at increasing your energy, it also has the same effect on your nerves.
Drinking too much tea or coffee before your interview will make your heart beat faster, make you more jittery and increase your anxiety.
Try having hot water with lemon or a decaf coffee instead.
You should also make sure to drink enough water – you do not want a dehydration headache when you are answering a key interview question.
While you are getting ready, and on your journey, listen to some music.
Create a pre-interview playlist starting with upbeat and empowering songs and ending with more relaxed, calming songs.
The first thing to remember is that everyone gets nervous before an interview or speaking publicly. While the way you feel and level of your anxiety is unique to you, you are not the only one to experience nervousness as a concept.
Second, the interviewers know you will be nervous and take it into account.
You are sitting in front of them because you fit the job description, and they want you to succeed.
They do not ask questions designed to catch you out or make you look bad. They ask you common interview questions and some specific to the role to confirm you are the best candidate for the job.
If you prepared well beforehand, you should already have the answers.
This acronym stands for:
- A – Accept your nervousness and that it can be useful.
- W – Watch it as if from a distance and observe how your anxiety behaves. What thoughts or actions trigger it more?
- A – Take action to reduce it. Box-breathing (breathe in for four seconds, hold your breath for four, breathe out for four, hold for four) and 7 -11 breathing (breathe in for seven seconds and breathe out for 11) are great techniques to calm your breath.
- R – Repeat the first three steps five to 10 times or until you feel your anxiety leaving.
- E – Expect the best possible outcome and repeat your positive affirmations.
An interview is a way to get to know a person. It is not an interrogation.
Using empowering techniques will help reduce your anxiety as they send a signal to the brain that you are comfortable with the situation, you are in control and this is not a fight-or-flight situation.
Empowering techniques include:
- Keeping your shoulders back
- Standing or sitting with a straight back
- Keeping your hands on the table – this makes you seem more honest
Take slow breaths and focus on what the interviewer is saying. Before answering, take one more breath and talk slowly.
Do not rush your answer. Rushing will signal to your brain that this is a panic situation.
The 10 seconds you take to collect your breath and thoughts will not concern your recruiter. They will assume you are thinking your answer through.
If you are asked a question that you do not know the answer to, gently redirect so the focus is on a similar topic that you are comfortable with.
This is a difficult skill to master, so definitely try to practice before your interview.
Even if your words are shaky, positive body language is a nonverbal communication skill that tells the interviewer that you are a confident and capable person.
Positive body language includes:
- Open arm gestures – No folding your arms in front of your body.
- Sitting slightly forward in your chair – This indicates that you are confident and engaged in the conversation.
- Tensing your leg muscles to calm your hands so you can use them when talking – Showing and using your hands demonstrates honesty and confidence.
Interviewing is never easy, especially when you want to make a good impression. Nerves and anxiety only make the situation worse.
By planning ahead, doing thorough research, and taking care of your health, you can control your interview nerves to work in your favor and show potential employers that you are enthusiastic, confident and perfect for that role.