How to overcome nerves for an interview

Anyone who has ever been on the a job search understands the roller coaster of feelings they feel on the day. Some remain calm on their commute and before they get there, but then freak out when they arrive. Others channel their inner Eminem and lose themselves ‘His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy… He’s nervous, but on the surface he looks calm… But he keeps on forgetting what he wrote down….He opens his mouth, but the words won’t come out.’

Sweaty palms, dry and raspy throat and butterflies in the stomach. If that’s how you usually feel before an interview, take heart in the fact that you’re not alone. I’ve felt it plenty of times even if it’s a phone interview and a lot of people do, they may not admit it but plenty of candidates I’ve spoken to in the past have said they’ve felt anxious, sick, nervous when they go to an interview. If you’re feeling nervous, anxious, have those sweaty palms, you’re more likely to forget what you’re supposed to say which dramatically reduces your chances to make it to the final list.

Here are some reasons why we get nervous before an interview: 

  • It’s scary and uncomfortable being judged.
  • It’s scary and uncomfortable being the focus and having to come up with good answers for whatever they ask you.
  • You don’t know what they’re going to ask.
  • You don’t know for sure if what you say is a good answer.
  • You don’t like talking about yourself.
  • You don’t feel comfortable “selling” yourself.
  • You don’t interview every day and so you aren’t sure you know how to do it well.
  • You really need a job.
  • You worry that if you don’t get this job there may not be another chance any time soon.
  • You worry that you’ll sound stupid.
  • You worry there’s something about you or your background they’ll hate.
  • You have no idea exactly what they’re looking for.
  • You hate the idea of being rejected based on just one short meeting.
  • You think you have to be more than you are.

Is there any I’ve missed out?

So take a deep breath with me… breathe in… 1,2,3. Now breathe out and follow these top ways to get over interview anxiety:

Research research research

Do your homework. You might not be taking an exam, but know your stuff will get you further than most. Research on the company, the role, their culture, the person who is interviewing you. Research everything. HR heads say an unprepared candidate starts to fumble and stutter, and appears more anxious when asked questions about the industry and how the company is performing. You can get the latest news from the company’s annual report, its website, press releases, and of course the internet.LinkedIn is a great tool for finding out everything you need to know about a company. Most companies have their profile up on LinkedIn too helping your search that all the more easier. If you’re going for a role in social media, don’t forget to research them up on social media channels including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc. Knowing your research impresses the interviewer and shows you’re interested in the role.

Rehearse your answers

Ask a family member, your partner or friend to help you with the kind of questions you will be answering. There are always some stock questions applicants face during interviews — Tell us something about yourself; Why do you want to change your job; how do you see yourself growing in this organisation; what are your strengths and weaknesses and such. It pays to rehearse the answers either in front of the mirror, or with someone else. Friends and family are great sources of help when preparing for an interview. They’ll tell you if you’re talking too fast, if you’re repeating yourself or talking too much. Practice makes perfect.

First impressions count 

The first 30 seconds of an interview is the most important. Remember dress for success, presentation of yourself is very important, the way you shake the interviewer’s hand and your posture all reflect your presentation. From there, the next 5-7 minutes are just as vital. Be extremely careful in what you say, how you conduct yourself and what impression you allow the interviewer to form of you.

Remember interview hygiene

I’m not saying you have B.O or that you dress inappropriately but along with first impressions count, keep this in mind. Follow some basic interview hygiene rules. Dress neatly and don’t look tired and sweaty. This will boost your confidence. Never look sleepy or stare at the interviewer. If you’re a smoker, try to avoid smoking 30 minutes before you go into an interview. Chewing gum and dousing yourself in perfume will only disguise the smell of lingering ashtray for 10-15 minutes. Keep the fags at bay till after your interview, then smoke to your heart’s content.*

Leave being desperate to desperate Dan

If you know your comic’s, you would know Desperate Dan is a wild west character in the British comic The Dandy. Please please please don’t appear desperate in a job. Be keen, by Jo be keen but don’t be desperate. When you want something too much, you get more nervous. Interviews should be seen as an opportunity to meet and interact with new people, and not as a do-or-die situation.

Remember to ask questions

When you’ve done your research, you may have come across some questions you want to ask the interviewer. Questions are also signs you’re keen on the role. If you can’t think of them off the top of your head, don’t panic, bring with you a notepad and pen and write down your questions. Keep that notepad as your security blanket..

Remember to keep calm. You’re be fabulous.

*I am in no way condoning or promoting smoking.


3 thoughts on “How to overcome nerves for an interview

  1. ‘Interviews should be seen as a way to meet new people’. Nice advice. I always tell people to remember that they are there because they have been invited to be there, which means on paper, you are already worthy of the job. If you can see the interview as a chance for you to interview them (and remember it may be the first time they’ve been an interviewee) you can make it your job to make them feel comfortable and find out if you would like to work for them.

  2. Excellent article, as a digital recruiter it is so frustrating often seeing the most talented candidate losing out because they are nervous and struggle with interviews. I’m a big believer in the rehearsal with family and friends. Pointless having all the ability in the world if you can not find a way to articulate it.

    • Thanks Simon for your comment. I think it’s very important to rehearse before going into an interview as friends and your family might ask a question that you haven’t revised and it at least puts you the right seat rather than an uncomfortable one. It makes such a difference to a candidates attitude, experience and confidence. Always be prepared.

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