Anxiety and job interviews seem to go hand in hand. Whether you are preparing for your first interview, your first interview in a few years or your 50th interview, it’s completely normal to feel nervous. However, we don’t want interview nerves to be the reason you don’t go to interviews or don’t get the job. Having worked with people preparing for interviews in various different industries and across the whole spectrum of career progression, I’ve collated a list of effective and creative ways to manage interview nerves. 

Why Do I Get So Nervous for Interviews?

The vast majority of people get at least a little bit nervous for interviews. Why? Because you care. You’re worried about the interview going wrong and losing out on the job. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. You’ve found a job opportunity you really want. It’s exciting! It’s unlikely you’ll get to a point of not having any job interview nerves but you need to stay calm enough to give a good impression and effectively communicate why you’re a top candidate.

High levels of interview anxiety can create a vicious cycle. The more nervous you get, the more you struggle with interviews and the more nervous you get. A series of bad experiences can leave you feeling as if you’re doomed to fail. So, I’m sharing 11 tips for breaking out of a negative mindset about interviews, staying calm in the interview environment and improving your chances of success even if nerves have ruined your interviews before. 

11 Creative Tips for Overcoming Interview Nerves

There are plenty of practical things you can do to calm your nerves and feel more confident going into an interview. Look for ways to ease the sensation of nervousness in your body so you aren’t overwhelmed by your heart racing or other physical symptoms and strategies for dealing with worries and ‘what ifs’. Try some of these techniques. 

1. Schedule morning interviews

If given a choice for when you have your interview, choose a morning slot. That leaves you with less time to get worked up on the day. Plan a morning routine that helps you feel good such as making your favourite breakfast. Then go nail the interview. 

2. Preparation. Preparation. Preparation.

The most crucial part of interview performance is preparation. Research the kind of questions you’ll likely be asked for your specific role. Learn about the company so you can relate your answers to their brand, mission and company culture. Become familiar with the job description and weave it into your answers to make it clear that you tick all the boxes. Practice answering interview questions out loud to make sure they flow well and help commit them to memory. 

This level of preparation positions you as a top candidate and eases interview nerves because it helps you feel like you know what you’re doing. You have a strategy for demonstrating to the interviewer that you’re the kind of candidate they’re looking for. If you’re not sure how to properly prepare for interviews, check out my book Be Better Prepared For Interview Success. It’s a comprehensive guide on what exactly is involved in interview preparation so you can set yourself up for success. 

3. Find the right words

One of the biggest interview fears is stumbling over your words when trying to answer a question. Preparing answers that use the right words can help you avoid that. Sound like you during the interview. They want to know who you really are so you don’t need to put on a facade of using language you wouldn’t usually use. It’ll also come more naturally so you’re less likely to get your words twisted. 

Sometimes my clients find it hard to come up with the words to explain what makes them a strong candidate for the role and why they want the job. There are a couple of tools that are really useful for finding the right words. Strengths Profiling is an assessment that identifies the skills you’re good at and enjoy using. These are the strengths to highlight at the interview. Motivational Maps is an assessment that uncovers your workplace motivations. Again, this gives you language to explain why you want and would be good at the job. With a bank of words that sound like you and effectively describe the value you’d bring to the company, you’ll feel more than capable of handling the interview. 

4. Try journaling

Journaling is a great outlet for easing interview nerves. The night before or the morning of the interview, you can write whatever is on your mind in your journal so you don’t have as many thoughts whizzing around your head. 

As well as releasing your thoughts and feelings about the interview, you can use it to work on a more positive mindset. Leading up to the interview you could write affirmations in your journal to gradually replace your negative thoughts with positive ones. Consider affirmations that highlight your capabilities to handle the interview such as “I am calm, confident and capable.” 

There’s another journaling technique that works well for interview anxiety called the dialogue technique. Essentially, you write out a conversation to explore how you will navigate it, prepare answers and visualise a positive outcome. Take your journal and write down how the interview could go from the initial greeting to the final goodbye. What will they say and how will you respond to that? You might want to do this a few times to practice the interview going in different directions while still being able to have a positive experience. 

5. Find a relaxation technique that works for you

Our bodies have a physical reaction to high-pressure situations like interviews. Fight or flight kicks in and that triggers a lot of the physical symptoms of interview anxiety. By signalling to our nervous system that we’re safe, the body relaxes and we don’t have to worry about shortness of breath and other physical symptoms making the interview harder than it needs to be. There are various relaxation techniques that tell the body to relax. Two of the top ones I recommend you try out are breathing exercises and EFT. 

Breathing exercises relax your body by slowing down your breathing which in turn lowers your heart rate, blood pressure and other stress reactions. Box breathing is a simple one. You breathe in while slowly counting to 4, hold your breath while slowly counting to 4 and then exhale while slowly counting to 4. You could look into other breathing techniques for interview anxiety as well.

Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) or tapping relaxes the body by stimulating acupuncture points on the face and body and reducing the stress hormone cortisol. By gently tapping the acupoints and saying positive affirmations, anxiety dissipates and your mindset becomes more positive. This EFT tapping video is a good starting point.   

6. Come up with YOUR interview questions

In the midst of interview nerves don’t forget that you’re also interviewing the company to decide whether you want to work there. Put together a criteria of what you want (and don’t want) from your next job such as a certain company culture or flexible work provisions. Then turn those into questions you’ll ask at the interview. This shows the interviewers you’re genuinely interested in the job, allows you to gather key information about whether the company is right for you, and makes you feel a bit more in control which is good for interview anxiety. 

7. Leave time for things to go wrong

The last thing that’s going to help you stay calm during an interview is being late. Make sure to plan your journey to the interview. If you can, practice the drive or journey on public transport as this reduces the likelihood of getting lost on the day. Leave yourself more time than you need to get there in case there’s traffic or your train gets delayed. Is there a possible alternative route you can take? It’s better to arrive early and grab a coffee around the corner than to run through the door at the last minute. 

For online interviews, there are delays to prepare for as well. Do you have a backup plan if your Wi-Fi crashes or your laptop decides it needs to do a really long update then and there? Turn on your computer and load up the application for the video call an hour or two before your interview to make sure everything is working as it should. If you’ve never used the video call application before, test it out so you know how it works like how to turn your video and audio on. 

8. Set up subtle prompts

Another driver of interview anxiety is the fear “What if my mind goes blank?” You can counteract that by giving yourself prompts for peace of mind and steer you in the right direction if you need it. This works best for phone or online interviews because you don’t want interviewers to see you reading when answering questions. 

You could write down the questions or keywords during the interview to help you keep on track and remember the points you want to make. You could set up prompts in an easy-to-read place like around your laptop in case you get stuck. The rule of thumb is it shouldn’t be distracting. Answers from memory flow and sound better than reading off a piece of paper.  

9. Warm up before the interview

10-15 minutes before an interview go through your answers to ‘Tell me about yourself’, ‘What excites you about this role?’ and other common interview questions. It’s a really effective way to warm up your brain and get in the zone for talking about yourself positively rather than going in cold. Instead of thinking about how nervous you are, you think about what you’re going to say to present yourself as a capable candidate. This strategy tends to be easier when you have a virtual interview as you can move and talk in your own space without disruption and feeling ‘silly’.

10. Pause and listen

One of the best ways to speak confidently during an interview is to pause once you’ve been asked a question and listen to what you’ve actually been asked. You don’t get points for answering the question as quickly as possible. Speaking too fast is a major sign of nervousness and if you’re in a panic to answer the question, you might not hear it correctly and answer the wrong question. Take your time. This shows that you are considering your answer carefully and come across as more confident. 

11. Remember interviewers want you to succeed

Yes, the interviewers want you to succeed because they want to find good candidates for the job. They’re not trying to catch you out or trip you up. They genuinely want to find out about you and what it would be like to work with you, hoping you’ll be a good fit. They understand that being interviewed is nerve-wracking. It might not feel like it but interviewers are on your side!

Build Interview Confidence

Which strategies resonate with you? Add them to your interview preparation plan. If you’re looking for additional interview preparation support, book an interview coaching session with me. I’ll help you put together an interview preparation strategy that is personalised to you and sets you up for success. 

As well as sharing expert guidance and practical advice during the session, I’ll take you through a practice interview so I can give specific feedback on how to improve your interview skills. Strategic preparation and expert feedback builds confidence in your ability to do well in interviews. One of my clients said: 

“I was very tempted to drop out of my upcoming interview beforehand – my 1st interview in nearly 13 years! But I persevered through extreme resistance and am finally ready for more interviews (and further learning)! Thank you for your support and encouragement which enabled me to be pumped up to continue the rest of the preparation.” 

Book an interview coaching session today for comprehensive support in finding your next job.

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