6 Tips for managing interview nerves

Woman waiting for a job interviewGot a job interview coming up? 

Fantastic! That’s great feedback on your skills, strengths… and a resume that’s clearly working for you.

You can also expect to be feeling anxious; Most people feel stressed ahead of an interview – and having some degree of nerves definitely helps you perform at your best.

Too many, however, and you can tip over into panic; Your mind goes blank, you freeze, or when you speak, you find your mouth’s disconnected from your brain…

The trick’s in managing your nerves, so they help and not hinder.

Here’s 6 tips to keep you calm on interview day – and help you get the job! 

1. Prepare, prepare, prepare

Often people are anxious about walking into an interview ‘blind’, but truth is, if you do your homework, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what to expect on the day…

Start by reviewing the ad. Write down the key selection criteria, and then find examples of how you’ve demonstrated these competencies before – at work, through your hobbies or volunteering. Research the company so you understand who they are, what they do and what challenges they face – and how your skills can help them. Review typical interview questions you’re likely to be asked, prepare responses and practice them out loud.

Doing your homework is one of the simplest – and best – ways to ease the inevitable stress of interviews.

2.  Use your breath

We tend to overlook the power of our breath, yet it directly impacts our emotional state. When you’re relaxed, your breathing’s deep and slow; when you’re anxious, it becomes shallow and fast. Importantly, this feedback loop works both ways – if you start to breathe deeply and slowly, you send powerful physiological messages that calm you down. If you practice breathing consciously now, you can tap into this when you start feeling nervous…

Before interview day, practice breathing deeply – through your nose and right into your belly – then slowly and deeply exhaling, for 3 – 5 breaths. With one hand on your chest and one on your stomach, only the latter should move. If your chest lifts, your breath’s shallow… and that’s the breathing pattern that reinforces stress. When you start to speed up, consciously slow down.

Remember to check your breathing on interview day; where it goes, your mind follows. You might also want to check out how to use your body language to succeed at interview…

3. Monitor your self-talk

What you tell yourself has an enormous effect on how you feel… and consequently on how you perform. When you think about your interview, what are you telling yourself? When you think about selling your skills, what thoughts run through your head?

Are you building yourself up… or putting yourself down? Being upbeat and positive… or focusing on the negative? Most importantly, is it helping you – or holding you back?

Focus on your strengths, your abilities, your successes – give yourself positive pep talks. Talk to yourself the way you would to a good friend; Be kind, be encouraging – above all, be compassionate. Be on your own side. 

4. Imagine surviving the worst

It might seem counter-intuitive, but remember it’s just an interview – don’t ‘awfulize’ it. Ask yourself, what’s the worst that can happen? So you mess up and miss out? If that happens, can you survive it? Realising that life will go on – that you can and will cope, whatever happens – often helps to bring down the pressure.

Now visualize how you want it to go – from the moment you walk in, right up to the final handshake. Picture yourself confidently walking through the questions, taking your time and making a great impression.

Aim for the best, knowing that whatever happens, the sun will still come up in the morning.

5. Focus on your interviewers

Often, we forget that those people across the table are… just people. Just like us. Interviewing is tiring work, and often recruiting managers get nervous too. If you can focus on them, and on making their job easier, it can help you to feel less self-conscious – and help to take the pressure off you.

Remember, an interview’s just a structured conversation – so make eye contact, smile and try to connect with your panel. See them as real people, and let them see you.

6. Remember the interview’s about you

You’re being interviewed because the panel want to know more about you – specifically, what you’re like and whether you’ll fit well into the post at their company.

If you’ve done your research on the company, and you know what they’re looking for, the rest is talking about you. Who you are. How you fit. What you bring. Even if they throw you a curve ball, even if your answer’s not perfect… you can always stop. think. breathe… and then tell them about you.

Remember, you’re the expert on you – your skills, your experiences, your suitability.

So yes, interviews are daunting, but the way you approach things – how you prepare and what you focus on – can make a huge difference, in the run-up and on the day. Prepare, be positive and do your best.

Good luck! 

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