It’s completely normal to feel nervous in the lead up to a job interview. But rather than turning up as a jittery mess – whether in person or for a virtual interview – there are lots of techniques you can use to combat your nerves.
For quick wins: On the day of the interview, stick to your usual morning routine, like having breakfast or going for a walk. When the interview time is nearing, get some fresh air and take deep breaths, taking your time to clear your mind and get your heart rate down. If meditating helps you, find a spot to do this to collect your thoughts. Perhaps your interview is in the afternoon and you’re able to go for a run at lunchtime? For some people, they need to give themselves a good pep talk to build their confidence up. For others, that pep talk may need to come from a trusted friend, parent or mentor.
No matter the technique you use, the aim is to tackle the stressfulness of the situation and get you to a point where you are relaxed and able to handle the nerves when they come.
Here are some helpful tips to tackle nerves before a job interview.
1. Visualise success
Top performers are known to use visualisation techniques to overcome nervousness. It involves running through the interview in your mind ahead of the event. Picture yourself entering the room feeling calm and in control. Visualise yourself standing tall, smiling and shaking hands with your interviewer. Imagine answering questions with confidence and poise, building a great rapport, and leaving the room feeling happy with your performance.
Focusing on the best-case scenario will also help you keep your composure in the lead-up to the interview. Your positivity and confidence will show during the interview, and the employer will probably mirror your positive energy. If you’re confident you deserve the job, they may just feel the same.
2. Practise your responses
Interview nerves are often caused by a fear of the unknown, or concern that you are going to freeze or say the wrong thing. To avoid this, you should spend plenty of time rehearsing answers to common interview questions. Do it somewhere private at home, perhaps your room, where you can say your responses out loud and make adjustments where necessary – this interview preparation tip is key: don’t practise your responses in your head, make sure they’re spoken. This will help you to feel more comfortable with your voice, how you sound and build up confidence in your ability to provide coherent, succinct responses on the day.
You might also be thrown an unexpected question. See if you can’t anticipate some curveballs and come up with a response – are you happy with what you’ve come up with on the spot?
3. Prepare your pre-interview plan
If you don’t truly prepare yourself for the interview, your nerves will most likely take over. Taking the time to prepare the details of your interview will help you stay relaxed, and the interviewer will be able to tell that you’ve put ample time and effort in before turning up.
Confirm the name and contact number of your interviewer, the time you should arrive and what you plan to wear. Ensure you have all relevant documents on hand, including your CV and examples of past work. Give yourself plenty of travel time in case you get delayed – being late could lose you the job before you've even begun. Being early gives you plenty of time to compose yourself prior to the interview. Alternatively, if you’re being interviewed via video call, ensure all your technology is working and that you’ve downloaded the platform or software that you’ll be dialling into. Also have the contact details of your interviewer or recruiter on hand, in case you experience technical difficulties.
4. Take your time
Give yourself ample time to answer the questions as they come. There’s nothing wrong with pausing for a few seconds rather than jumping straight in – it shows your interviewer you’re considering what they’ve said. When feeling nervous during a job interview, you’ll end up rushing your responses. This will often cause you to miss the point of the question and leave the interviewer struggling to keep up as you hurry through your answer.
Focus on articulating your answer slowly and clearly. If you forgot what the question was, avoid giving an answer that you hope might be correct. Instead, keep calm and ask the interviewer if you have covered their key points. Don’t forget you can ask questions, too.
5. Silence your critical voice and think positively
Mindset is a powerful thing. Changing the way you think about an interview can have a huge impact on the amount of pressure you feel. A positive mindset will be evident to your potential employer. Be sure to smile and reflect your positivity through your body language too. Rather than thinking you’re being judged, or you don’t deserve to be there, try to think of the interview as an exciting challenge that you can definitely overcome.
Also remind yourself of past successes and concentrate on the strengths you will bring to the role. Avoid putting expectations on yourself to give perfect answers or thinking about things that you can’t control, such as the competition. Instead, focus your energy on giving the best interview you know you can.
Remember, your interview is a conversation and not an interrogation or a one-way barrage of questions on you. Make sure you come prepared with questions you’d like to ask the interviewer. That way, you have another part of the interview to look forward to as you find out more about the role.
On the other side of the table? Here’s how to make interviewees feel at ease
Consider your setting
For a candidate, the room they’re interviewed in can give them an insight into the organisation. For instance, if you’d like to convey your informal culture you might consider holding the interview in a quiet corner of a canteen or sofa area. Bear in mind that interviews should be private, so pick a quiet spot away from distractions.
Make clear introductions
You may have already informed the candidate over the phone or by email who they’ll be meeting at the interview, but now is the time to explain in a bit more detail your role in the organisation, and any other interviewers should do the same. The candidate then knows exactly who they’re talking to and why you’re the one interviewing them. Doing this has two advantages: you’ll share more about the company to set the scene, and also give the candidate more information will make the interview seem less of an interrogation and more of a two-way conversation.
Be open and welcoming
Sometimes interviewers can come across as cold in their efforts to show their corporate side. Staying professional doesn’t mean being unfriendly or unwelcoming. In fact, you’re likely to get more out of the candidate if you’re open with them and make an effort to put them at ease – they’re already nervous as it is. Be welcoming by offering the interviewee something to drink before you get started, smile when you greet them and make casual small talk on your way into the interview room.
Don’t use your power as an interviewer to try and ‘catch out’ the candidate with a curveball question or a difficult topic. Instead, be encouraging: they will feel they can speak more freely and you’ll likely get more out of them, as you’re taking an active interest in what they’re saying. Do your preparation too, so that you have an understanding of their past experience and have relevant questions at the ready.
Phrase your questions clearly and ask them one at a time in either a logical order or one that flows well for the interview format. If you ask a question and a response isn’t forthcoming, re-phrase it or explain what you mean. Also think about whether the terms and expressions you use internally on a regular basis would be understood by someone outside of the company.
Already started applying for new jobs? Get ready with more tips on acing the interview process.
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