How to handle interview nerves
For many of us, that initial excitement of getting a job interview is short-lived. The nerves kick in, you start to panic. Here are some tips for reducing the potential of nerves getting the better of you – and how to handle them if they do.
Before the interview…
Do your research and practice
Nerves stem from fear, and in an interview fear is related to being asked something you weren’t prepared for, says Capita Resourcing director Jonathan Bennet: “Research the company and practise talking through your experience over and over again; with your partner, dog or reflection. If you understand the company and can comfortably talk through your career, skills and experience, you’ll feel a lot more relaxed.”
While you may still encounter some curveball questions, anticipating the sorts of questions you may face will be a big help – and working with an experienced recruiter to do this could be useful, adds Bennet. Feeling prepared should help stave off the majority of nerves, and make the whole experience a lot less stressful.
Ask yourself tough questions
A key part of your confidence-enhancing preparation should be to focus in
advance on the worst things you could be asked during the interview, says Michael Dodd, author of Great Answers to Tough Questions at Work. He explains: “To get yourself properly equipped and in the best frame of mind to deal with such questions, prepare by asking yourself what is the best thing you can say on that. This ensures you have your own self-empowering positive agenda that can help you capitalise on the situation and feel good about tough questions they may well throw at you.”
Confidence coach Jo Emerson adds that it’s useful to imagine you at your very best before the interview: “Imagine how you feel when you’re at your best … what do you say? How do you stand? What do you believe about yourself? What tone of voice do you use? Now, practice being this person in the mirror and take him/her into the interview with you.”
Exercise, sleep, hydrate
Ben Barker, a therapist from Total Health Clinics, advises taking regular exercise in the lead up to the interview to burn that excess nervous energy. “While turning up to an interview hot and sweaty is not ideal – taking regular exercise in the lead up before nerve inducing situations can be really helpful. It promotes oxygenation of the blood, boosts endorphins and promotes a good night’s sleep,” he explains.
It might sound obvious, but sleep is important too. “Staying up late and ‘preparing’ for the following day is not a good use of your time. Get a good, restful sleep and you’ll be far more alert the following day,” says Barker. And finally, drink plenty of water to promote tip-top performance.
On the day…
Don’t be rushed
Plan your travel well ahead of time. Tearing through the train station and trying to navigate your way through an unfamiliar place with minutes to spare is sure to make you anxious and heighten those nerves; it could also impact your performance. Naomi Watkins, emotional wellbeing consultant at NW Consultancy, recommends finding where the company is beforehand and time how long it takes to get there and where to park. Building in some time for a 10-minute walk around the block before the interview can help calm the nerves too, as well as mindfulness exercises.
Bennet adds: “If you are already working, book a day or half-day holiday from your current role just in case, rather than hoping you’ll be able to slip away for an hour or two.” Building in some time for a 10-minute walk around the block before the interview can help calm the nerves too.
During the interview…
Have an icebreaker handy
Remember that the interviewer is a person too and could also feel nervous about running the interview. Bennet recommends preparing your own icebreaker to put both of you at ease. “Research the interviewer’s background using tools like LinkedIn and try to find something you have in common or something you can ask them about,” he says. “Something as simple as ‘I see we both studied English at university – how did we end up in accounts?’ or ‘I saw on your company website that you managed the charity cycle ride, how did it go?’ can set a nice tone for the meeting.”
If nerves get the better of you beforehand, try and slow your breathing down, says Barker. Take slow, deep breathes in through your nose and use your diaphragm. Breathing in through your chest can aid the tension you feel, particularly in the neck and shoulders, he explains.
However, any breathing exercises will go to waste if you rush your answers once you’re in the room, adds Benett. “Most people don’t realise that good pauses when speaking aren’t even noticed by the person or people you are talking to,” he explains. He recommends watching some famous speeches by great speakers and looking out for their pauses. “You’ll see that they are completely natural and help the speaker remain in control of their breathing and their general flow. Giving yourself time to think will help avoid a rushed answer and a shaky voice.”
Job applicants should sit in a way which makes them look and feel good and which projects confidence, says Dodd. The key expression to remember is BBC – Bottom at the Back of the Chair. “This, together with having your feet flat on the floor and keeping your arms apart and hands open – showing that you have nothing to hide – helps you look and feel open and confident,” he says. “When you get your body in the right position, and lean ever-so-slightly forward to convey enthusiasm, you project confidence to the selection panel and it also sends a message to your brain that you are feeling confident too.”
Emerson adds: “My number one top tip is to ‘hold the outcome lightly’, by which I mean do your very best and be your very best self in the interview but understand that you can’t affect the outcome. There are other factors involved in an interview process so try to just focus on your bit.”