If you’ve been invited to a job interview, you might feel excited, hopeful, nervous – or all three. For most of us, making it through to the next stage of the application process is a real confidence boost. But it can also leave us feeling unsure about what to expect and eager to perform well.
When the time comes around, it’s common for anxiety and nerves to set in. And while this is perfectly natural (and can even be helpful), nerves can sometimes prevent us from showing our interviewer the best version of ourselves.
But the good news is that there are plenty of things you can do to help keep your nerves at bay and face job interviews with confidence.
With that said, here are six tips to help you stay calm during an interview.
1. Prepare as much as possible
The single best way to keep any nerves to a minimum is to make sure you’re properly prepared for your interview.
You could start by putting together a list of commonly-asked questions and practising your answers to them. While these might not be the exact questions you’re asked on the day, your answers can still act as a frame for you to work from.
A good place to start is preparing for competency-based questions, such as “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”, which often come up during interviews. Though, to avoid sounding stiff and robotic, it’s best to avoid memorising your answers word-for-word.
It’s also worth thoroughly researching the company that you’re interviewing for. Having a comprehensive knowledge of the company, its competitors, and the wider industry will not only help you to prepare your own answers, but may also provide questions for you to ask yourself. This can spark further conversation and make you seem more proactive and enthusiastic about the role.
Remember, if you haven’t prepared an answer for a question that comes up, don’t panic. Our article, What to do if you can’t answer a question in a job interview, offers plenty of useful guidance on this.
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2. Be organised
There’s no point studying for the test if you turn up too late to take it. So, one of the simplest and most effective ways to stay as relaxed as possible during a job interview is to be organised.
Improper planning may lead to you rushing around before an interview, which can increase cortisol (stress hormone) production and leave you feeling frazzled.
So, try to do everything you can to make sure your interview runs smoothly – for example, getting plenty of sleep and laying out your outfit the night before, having a healthy and nutritious breakfast, and planning your journey ahead of time if it’s an in-person interview.
If you arrive to your interview with plenty of time to spare, you could even go for a short walk to get some fresh air.
Running a mock or rehearsal interview can be effective for helping you become as comfortable with the interview process as possible.
You could do this with the help of a professional (such as a career coach or counsellor), with a trusted friend or family member, or you could even play both roles yourself.
If you rehearse with a friend or family member, choosing someone with job interview experience or, better yet, someone who’s conducted job interviews themselves can be most useful. This – along with dressing the part – will make your mock experience as close to the real thing as possible.
For your first rehearsal, you might like to use flashcards with the answers you’ve prepared to the most common interview questions. Just be sure to do another run-through without them too, so you’re not relying on them during the proper interview..
If your interview is via phone or video call, follow the same format in your rehearsal. This will help you to get familiar with the process, as well as check that your technology works and that your setting is suitable.
4. Slow down and focus on your breathing
Being nervous can cause us to talk too fast and rush through things – often in an effort to get it over with as quickly as possible. However, rushing isn’t helpful in how you come across to your interviewer, nor will it calm your nerves.
Focusing on your breathing, and taking a few seconds to think about questions before responding can help you to feel more relaxed and at ease. Plus, you’ll be giving yourself more time to think about what you’re saying, so you don’t blurt out the first thing that pops into your head, regret it, and feel even more stressed out as a result.
Taking control of your breathing can also help to reduce feelings of nervousness and anxiety. When we breathe in, air fills our lungs, oxygen enters our blood, and it’s distributed throughout our body. When we breathe out, carbon dioxide is removed from our blood and exhaled as waste gas. How effectively we oxygenate and remove carbon dioxide from our blood can affect how calm we feel.
So, if you’re feeling nervous either before or during your job interview, you might like to try one of these 3 breathing exercises for when you’re stressed or anxious. The 30-minute morning meditation sessions over on Rest Less Events is also an option.
Alternatively, if you struggle with talking too fast when you’re nervous, you might also find our article, How to become a more confident speaker, useful.
5. Use your body language to your advantage
In situations like job interviews, body language can be just as important as what you say.
In her TED talk on body language, social psychologist Amy Cuddy tells us: “We make sweeping judgments and inferences from body language. And those judgments can predict really meaningful life outcomes, like who we hire or promote.”
Aside from impacting how we come across to potential employers, body language can also affect how we perceive ourselves. Cuddy points out that forcing ourselves to smile often makes us feel happier – and the same goes for battling nerves. If you use confident and powerful body language, you’ll likely feel more confident and powerful too.
Some of the main areas of body language to focus on include…
Making eye contact – looking your interviewer in the eye can help you appear more confident, focused, and engaged.
Sitting up straight – Avoiding shrinking movements, such as crossing your arms, and instead opening yourself up by sitting up straight and looking forward can help you appear more confident and approachable.
Interestingly, this study also found that sitting up straight can help you become more confident in your own abilities.
Fighting the urge to fidget – you might be tempted to drum your fingers or tap your feet during a job interview, but fidgeting is another sign of nervousness. Try using your deep breathing exercises to help you stay still.
If you’d like to find out more about how your body language can affect how you feel, check out Amy Cuddy’s TED talk below.
6. Re-frame your perspective
When we feel nervous in a job interview, it’s easy to lose perspective and worry too much about what may or may not happen.
So, taking time to reframe your perspective can be really valuable. Remember, the person interviewing you is on your side; they aren’t looking to trip you up or catch you out. An interview is a conversation, not an interrogation – your interviewer simply wants to see you’re the right candidate for the job, so just be yourself.
If a lack of self-esteem is getting in your way, you might find it useful to combat self-limiting beliefs with some positive self-affirmations. For example, instead of thinking “I’m not good enough”, try telling yourself, “I can do this”.
For more ideas and advice, you might like to have a read of our article; 16 ways to improve your confidence and self-esteem.
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Feeling nervous for a job interview is completely normal, and it’s worth remembering that nerves aren’t all bad. In fact, the adrenaline surge you get when you’re nervous during a job interview can help you to stay more alert and engaged.
But if you’re feeling overwhelmed or overly anxious about an interview, as we hope this article has shown, there are plenty of things that can help you to stay calm.
For more career advice, head over to the job interview tips section of our website. Here you’ll find everything from common types of psychometric tests and how to prepare for them to questions to ask in your job interview.