10 ways to deal with interview nerves

Photo: Chris Ryan / Getty.

When it comes to the dreaded job interview, there’s really no substitute for thorough preparation to put you in a confident frame of mind. But even the best prepared and qualified candidates can get into a right old tizzy on interview day.

Preparation isn’t just about practising answers to tough questions. It’s also about minimising anything else you might end up worrying about. Here are a few ways to avoid and overcome an unwelcome attack of the jitters.

1. Try to get a morning interview

 If you can, try to arrange for an interview in the morning. This will leave you less time to turn the interview over and over in your mind. It will also mean that your recruiter is more likely to be switched on than they could be after a hard day at their desk or interviewing other candidates.

2. Gather everything you need the night before

Don’t leave everything until the last minute. Check your letter or email of invitation to make sure you have everything you’ve been asked to bring. Make sure your clothes and shoes are clean, ironed and polished.

3. Get a good night’s sleep

Take a bath, drink camomile tea, have a night cap if it helps (though just the one!), listen to some relaxing music, meditate, do some gentle yoga, go for a walk – whatever it takes to help you dose off. And don’t prepare for the interview just before you go to bed – leave at least a couple of hours for your mind to quieten down.

4. Leave plenty of time to get there

It goes without saying, being late for interview doesn’t make a good first impression. Make sure you know how much time you need to travel to the interview location, and then allow at least an extra half hour. Make sure you have the number of the interviewer to call if you are going to be late through no fault of your own.  

5. Breathe

One of the best ways to stop your mind racing while you are waiting to go in is to focus on your breathing. Try taking 10 slow deep breathes in and out. This will tend to focus your attention in your body and away from the anxiety in your head. Another good technique for the waiting room which works in a similar way is muscle relaxation. Start from your toes and tense up and relax each part of your body in turn until you reach your head.  

6. Make small talk

While you’re waiting, you could also think about some small talk. In other circumstances, it might be considered trivial or shallow, but in this situation commenting on the weather or the décor in the office is a good way to help break the ice and put yourself and your interviewer at ease.

7. Be aware of your body language

It’s important not to get too hung up on your behaviour, but remembering a few simple rules of body language will help you come across as more confident and relax you: (1) try not to fidget or slouch, (2) make eye contact with the person talking to you, and (3) practise a firm but comfortable handshake.

8. Watch what you eat and drink

Coffee is probably best avoided before an interview. It might perk you up in the morning, but it’s a strong stimulant and is likely to exacerbate any nerves rather than calm them. Take a bottle of water along just in case your interviewer has forgotten to provide any – your mouth can end up very dry when you’re nervous. And don’t eat too much before you go in – otherwise lots of energy you need for mental concentration will be busy digesting the contents of your stomach!

9. Smile!

 See if you can crack a nice relaxed smile – it will make you instantly more appealing to your interviewer, put them at ease and subconsciously tell your own body to relax. 

10. Remember it’s okay to be nervous

It’s okay to acknowledge your nervousness to the recruiter if it is causing you to trip up over your words. Interviewers are human beings too and no doubt have their own uncomfortable memories of being in your shoes. A candid admission could actually endear you to them. It can also help to remember that a job interview is a two-way thing – it’s as much for you to see if you like the company as it is for them to see if they like you. So just relax and be yourself!