7 Ways to Stop Being Nervous at Interviews

Cows talking

It’s normal to feel nervous before an interview. Most of us do.  I’ve chaired many an interview panel and I can honestly tell you that sometimes the interviewers get nervous, too. This is especially true if you have a senior person on a panel with someone junior to them. It can feel very intimidating for the junior person. I remember feeling very anxious in case I messed up the first time I interviewed anyone.

Unfortunately feelings of any sort can be contagious. When we’re around happy people we can feel happy. When we’re around anxious people we can feel our own anxiety levels rise. You may not feel that its part of your responsibility to make your interviewers feel comfortable, but we certainly don’t want them to feel uncomfortable, or to catch a bout of your nervousness.

So what can you do to counteract interview nerves?

Well, nervousness is usually based on fear. We become fearful that we’ll mess up, or make a fool of ourselves, suddenly start spouting gibberish (or worse), or that we’ll never get the promotion we’re looking for and be stuck for ever in our current role.

1 Recognise and Name Your Fear

My first tip is to try to name your fear. And I don’t mean call if Bertie or Lavinia, although if that helps cut it down to size, do so by all means! Having a bout of ‘the Lavinias’ might just make you smile a little. Remember, even fake smiling produces the endorphins that cheer us up. Don’t dwell too long on this, but do try to think what it is exactly you are afraid of. Naming it will help you control it. Recognising it can help minimise it. I even used to imagine ‘the worse’ happening, seeing myself coping with it. That should give you a  better perspective on it. OK, I might feel foolish, or embarrassed, but in the scheme of events that’s not such a big deal and ultimately may only make me stronger.

2 Research the Company

Fear/nerves can overtake us when we feel we have no control over the outcome.  One way of minimising this is take ownership of what you can control. Find out as much about the company in advance as you can. Find out who their competitors are and check them out, too. Make links with employees on LinkedIn and Facebook and follow the company Twitter stream. It’s never been easier to do your research so do it.

If it’s an internal role, try to find out what the current aspirations of the department are. How does the role you are applying for fit with the ‘mission statement’, or equivalent,for example? Look at your company with a more objective eye and see it from an outsiders perspective. It may give you some new insights.

3. Prepare all your documents

I used to love seeing a candidate enter the interview room with a folder in their hand. It reassured me that they were serious about the job and organised. Take copies of the application form if you can (or a screenshot if you have to do it all online, and familiarise yourself with the job and person specification. Questions should be based around these so you should be able to get a good idea of what you will be asked. Have ready some examples of how you fit what they are asking for, which leads onto point 4.

4. Interview yourself

Imagine that you were interviewing someone for this role. What type of questions would you ask to make sure you found out their suitability for the role? Ask yourself those questions. You may feel a bit daft but speak out loud and hear yourself talking about how good you are. (There’s a longer exercise on this in my Speak Up online course)

5. Stop Talking Harshly to Yourself

Monitor that inner voice that is telling you things like:

‘I won’t get this job’

‘I’m not good enough’,

‘I’m hopeless at interviews’.

If you keep telling yourself negative things they could end up becoming a self fulfilling prophecy. We can easily put ourselves down and sap our own confidence. However, thankfully the reverse is true. Give yourself an immediate boost by switching that little negative voice to one that says I am good enough, I will get this job, I am good at interviews etc. Be your own best friend and support yourself as I’m sure you support your friends.

6. Visualise Your Success

While we’re on the topic of being positive, you can give yourself a mental rehearsal which will really boost your confidence. Take a tip from top sports people; they know seeing yourself as a winner can really help make you a winner. Take the inner voice further still and actually imagine yourself being really successful at interview. If you can, check out where it’s being held, parking, the route, etc so you’re as well prepared as you can be. Now close your eyes, and see your self arriving on the day, looking good, feeling great. See yourself entering the interview room, see them smiling at you and yourself smiling back as you extend your hand. Imagine in your mind’s eye that you are having a wonderful interview. You stand to leave and everyone smiles at you. You are relaxed and happy. You know you’ve done as well as you can. You leave with your head held high.

7. Be Mindful

On the day itself, being mindful can help you calm your nerves. In this case, being mindful is trying not to let your mind race ahead meaning you lose focus. Take time to notice your surroundings and calm your brain. Bring your attention to what is in front of you and really live in that moment. Notice the road, the pavements, what people are wearing, the weather. Remember to breath. Sometimes when we’re nervous we shorten our breaths without realising we’re doing it,which isn’t helpful to feeling calm. Take a moment to notice how you are breathing and focus on keeping it steady. Just before you go into the interview notice your shoulders and let them relax. In your mind, see the tension leaving you. Straighten up, walk tall, enter the room, offer your hand, smile and away you go!

Speak Up is my audio course for professional women. Throughout August it’s available at a special launch price! Details are here.



Posted on August 11th, 2015 by

2 Responses to “7 Ways to Stop Being Nervous at Interviews”

  1. Rachel Hubbard says:

    Jane, thank you so much for sharing these edited highlights of your wise advice for interviews. Having had the benefit of your excellent coaching in the past (even though I didn’t get the job then) this reprise was a timely reminder for me. It might cheer you to learn that this time I did get the job!

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