How to Manage Interview Nerves

ON April 18, 2018

Whether you’re looking for your first job, a career change, that big break or another hop along the way, interview nerves are the last thing (and sometimes the most likely) you want preventing you from getting your foot in the door. Once you’ve crafted an impressive looking CV, know your industry and have tracked down the perfect next move, the next step is to impress at interview. As much as you prepare, it’s easy for the confidence you had on paper to be replaced with nerves you never knew you had.

So how do you deal with the fear of sweaty palms, blushing cheeks and forgetting those killer lines? Here is your 5-step guide to managing pre-interview nerves so you instead walk out of your interview knowing you have given it your all.

Change the Label

Just the word ‘interview’ can conjure up thoughts of uncomfortable one-way questioning, intimidating settings and being put on the spot by someone you have just met. Take that label and replace it with ‘meeting’, ‘conversation’ or something that is going to give the event a more positive spin for you in the lead-up.

It’s important to think of interviews as two-way meetings, where both parties are assessing the suitability of the other for a potential partnership. The interviewer wants to find out if you are the right match employee for their team; likewise, you are there to find out if the organisation will potentially be the right-fit workplace for you. Use the opportunity to ask questions, understand the culture and find out from your interviewer what it is like to work at the company. It takes a conversation – rather than a formal question & answer showdown – for this to be effective.

Shake it Off

Feel tense and you’ll come across as tense in the interview (meeting!). Think about what makes you relax and integrate it into your pre-interview routine. I have a running playlist that has become my go-to resource whenever I need a mood lift or motivator. Music is a great way to release endorphins and relax. You may prefer to have a chat with a friend, try some mindfulness activities or quite simply shake it off.

Whatever it is, find a way to distract your mind from the nerves and remember the positivity in why you are there. It will help put that adrenalin to good use.

Dress Your Best

It’s probably advice you have heard before and I’m here to tell you it again because it works. It’s not just about dressing ‘the part’ though. You need to be comfortable… you need to be you. If dressing up isn’t your thing, don’t be embarrassed to try a few different looks or ask someone you can rely upon for advice.
Being smart, presentable and clean is important for any interview. Second to this is making sure you feel yourself and lastly, try and make the effort to fit the work environment or type of interview you are attending. If you are ever in doubt, overdressing is generally better than underdressing (tip: invest in a well-fitted suit. It’s a versatile wardrobe staple).

Fake a Smile

It’s another old one and a favourite of mine. Smiles are quite underrated. Even when we are unhappy, when we force a smile, it sparks a positive feedback loop that goes back to the brain and reinforces feelings of joy (by releasing dopamine) and reducing stress (that’s the serotonin). Before we know it, the smiles are genuine.
So what does this mean for interviews? It’s a double winner. Smiling will help you feel relaxed in the interview and it will improve the perception you give to your interviewer. You’ll come across as more relaxed, happy and approachable. Worth smiling about!



Visualise Success

This is a technique used by top athletes and is imitated by non-athletes for success in all walks of life. By visualising, or rehearsing, competition wins and gold medals, athletes enhance their likelihood of achieving success in real-life.

It is believed to help the body perform under pressure and enable preparation for the various sensory experiences of multiple scenarios. It is one method of preparing for an interview and rather than just memorising possible interview answers, is a method that will help you walk into the room more confident and prepared to adapt to any situation.

There you have it: 5-steps to tackle pre-interview nerves. With a few tweaks, you can start to change how you think about the meeting and how you feel when you walk in the room; in doing so, you will be able to positively alter the outcome. Remember, it’s OK to be nervous and you have the ability to control what you do with all of that energy. If you don’t achieve the outcome you want the first time, reflect, learn and try again. The best successes come with a story to tell.


Stevie Barnes is Global Senior Manager of People Strategy at Taylor & Francis Group and an advocate of progress. She is a regular contributor to LinkedIn and also contributes to the JobsTrackr Career Blog and Medium. To stay networked, connect with Stevie on LinkedIn and follow her tweets on Twitter.

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