Picture this: you’re getting ready for an important interview and you start to feel anxious. You start to think of everything that could go wrong. Your heart starts to race, your breathing speeds up, and you might even start to feel hot and sweaty.
It’s an unpleasant feeling, but one most of us have experienced. Let’s face it, going for an interview can be really nerve-wracking.
It’s important to note that getting nervous before an interview or any type of ‘performance’ is normal. In fact, one survey showed that 93% of job candidates experience anxiety before an interview: so you aren’t alone! Nerves are the brain's way of processing the situation and preparing us for a challenge.
Psychologist Dr. Sherry Benton explains that some nerves can be useful, keeping us alert and ready to tackle what’s ahead, but it’s important to control them so you don’t become overly stressed.
So, how can you control your nerves and stop them from becoming excessive? Let’s take a look at some useful tips.
1. Be Prepared
Being well prepared can help to put your mind at ease, as well as set you up for success.
Do some research on the company or organization you’re interviewing with and learn some basics about them. Go over the guidance and specifications for the role so you have a clear understanding of what they’re looking for.
You can think about what questions they might ask and what you want to say. You could even practice your answers with a loved one or in the mirror to help you to feel more prepared.
Making some basic notes to take with you can be useful, but keep them short and easy to read so you can quickly glance at them for guidance.
This ensures you aren’t distracted from engaging with the interviewer. You can think about what questions you might want to ask the interviewer in advance.
It’s worth thinking about how you are going to get to the interview location so you can make sure you get there in plenty of time and aren’t too stressed.
Look up the location and figure out public transport or where to park. I like to do a trial run in advance to reassure myself.
If you are doing a remote interview, get familiar with the platform or program that will be used so you know what you’re doing. It’s a good idea to do a practice run with a loved one to make sure you have it all figured out.
You should check your internet speed and make sure it’s working properly beforehand. In a survey of remote interviews, 88% of interviewers said that a slow internet connection or lag puts them off and breaks the flow of the conversation.
Plan where you’re going to do the remote interview in your home: you need somewhere quiet, where you won’t be disturbed.
Ideally, your background should be plain and professional. Research shows that a clean, uncluttered background helps to keep the interviewer's attention on you.
2. Dress Professionally But Comfortably
First impressions are crucial with any interview so it’s important to present yourself well. Plan an outfit that looks professional. Make sure you’re well-groomed and look smart.
It’s important that you also feel as comfortable as possible so that you can relax and focus. The last thing you want is to be adjusting and fiddling with your clothes during the interview. Ideally, you want to wear something you feel quite confident in so you project that confidence to the interviewer.
If your interview is remote, dressing well is just as important, although you may only have to worry about what is visible on the camera.
3. Give Yourself Time to Get Ready
Rushing around to get ready and get to your interview on time is only going to increase your stress levels and make you appear flustered. Instead, give yourself plenty of time before the interview. Take your time to get ready at a comfortable pace, stopping for breaks when you need to if you feel your nerves rising.
4. Be There Early
Getting to your interview early not only makes a good impression, but it also helps to keep your stress levels low. Just like getting ready, give yourself plenty of time to get there so you have time to calm down and gather yourself before the interview starts.
If your interview is remote, get yourself all set up and ready to click the link early so you can breathe and relax beforehand.
5. Eat a Balanced Meal
Eating something balanced before your interview ensures you’ve got the energy you need to perform at your best. It gives your body the fuel to succeed!
You don’t want to feel hungry, but you also don’t want to eat something too heavy as this may leave you feeling uncomfortable and full. Stick with something light and ideally containing protein for slow-release energy.
Cleveland Clinic recommends eating around 90 minutes before your interview, as this gives you energy but prevents you from feeling bloated or too full.
Staying hydrated isn’t just important for physical health, it’s also essential for cognitive function. Being well hydrated improves your memory, reaction times, focus, and even your mood. Ensure you’re well-hydrated before your interview so you’re on top of your game.
7. Do Some Exercise
Exercise reduces stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. It also increases levels of endorphins, a hormone that promotes a sense of wellbeing and calm.
Doing some exercise before you get ready for your interview can be beneficial, helping you to release excess energy and calm your nerves. It doesn’t have to be anything vigorous: a walk or some light stretching can be just as useful.
8. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness helps you to be present in the moment, achieving a deep sense of peace. It’s a great way to reduce anxiety, helping you to feel calmer and focused.
Practicing mindfulness has so many benefits, which you can read more about here. You could practice some meditation, do some guided visualization, or even just listen to calming music before your interview.
This is a great 10 minute guided meditation to help you tackle anxiety.
9. Success Doesn’t Mean Perfection
Try to be kind to yourself and remember that all you can do is be yourself and do your best. Although it’s difficult, try not to focus too much on the outcome and instead, work on being present in the moment.
You don’t have to be ‘perfect’. We’re all human, including the interviewer, so mistakes might happen and everything may not go exactly to plan. That doesn’t mean you won’t be successful!
Be honest and open, use what you’ve practiced to guide you, and try your best. I find it can be helpful to remind yourself that it’s just a conversation with another human being at the end of the day. You’re both there to get to know each other and to see if you both feel that you could be a good fit for the job.
10. Positive Affirmations
Using positive self-talk can help build your confidence and calm your nerves. It’s kind of like giving yourself a pep talk! You can repeat positive affirmations in your head or even in the mirror: whatever works for you is all that’s important.
Your affirmations can be anything that feels reassuring to you. They should be short, positive, and easy to repeat. I’ve included some examples below:
I can do this, I believe in myself.
My best is good enough.
I am calm and present.
I am focused and relaxed.
11. Keep Breathing
When you’re relaxed, your breathing is slower and deeper. Practicing breathing exercises can mimic this slow breathing and signal to your brain that it’s time to relax, helping you to calm down and think clearly.
If you’ve never done breathing exercises before, it’s worth practicing some in the days before your interview to get the hang of them. You can use them at any point before your interview when you need to regulate your emotions and calm your nerves.
There are lots of different breathing exercises you can try. Check out our detailed guide for more information.
Here’s a quick, fun video to help you get started:
12. Plan Something Fun for Afterwards
Planning something fun after your interview can give you something to look forward to, and something to focus on if you feel those nerves rising! You could go and treat yourself to some retail therapy, go for a walk in nature, or pamper yourself: anything that makes you feel good.
13. Set Yourself Up for Success
Keeping yourself calm and relaxed before an interview allows you to be at your best, thinking clearly and feeling in control. It’s all about setting yourself up for success! Give some of these tips a try next time you have an interview and see if they improve your outcome.
Berkley Group, (2022), “How to Calm Your Nerves Before A Job Interview”.
Judith Humphrey, (2019), “How to calm pre-interview jitters, according to a psychologist”. Fast Company.
Ben Laker, Will Godley, Selin Kudret, and Rita Trehan, (2021), “4 Tips to Nail a Virtual Job Interview”. Harvard Business Review.
Cleveland Clinic, (2019), “What to Eat When You Have a Job Interview”.
Harvard Health Publishing, (2020), “Exercising to relax”. Harvard Medical School.
Healthwise, (2020), “Stress Management: Breathing Exercises for Relaxation”. University of Michigan Health.