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How to overcome interview nerves

Interviews can be stressful occasions; they represent a possible opportunity for failure and the loss of a desired outcome i.e. a job that you really want.  Often interviews are a gateway to more money, a shorter commute, more suitable working hours or challenging and interesting work – people tend not to go for jobs which will make their situations worse!  With so much at stake it’s no wonder that people can find their hearts racing, their palms sweaty and their minds shutting down just when they most need to be on the top of their game.

But don’t despair if that sounds like you; there are things that you can do to get control of those nerves.  In this article we’ll be looking at some top tips for overcoming interview nerves.

  • Practice mindfulness or relaxation.  Mindfulness is an interesting technique which is attracting a lot of attention in the media at the moment, and rightly so – scientists have found that it is an extremely effective way of managing stress and anxiety. People who regularly practice mindfulness feel less stressed and are better able to manage themselves, particularly in stressful situations.  Interestingly, this is not just a subjective feeling, scientists have found that practicing mindfulness can actually reduce the amount of Cortisol (the stress hormone) that people release.  Furthermore, mindfulness is beneficial for improving creativity, memory, reaction speeds and emotional intelligence.

So what is mindfulness and how can you use it?  Mindfulness is a technique which aims to achieve a state of alert, focused relaxation.  You can get started by sitting quietly somewhere and focusing on your breathing.  Try to keep your mind empty and just think about your breath going in and out of your body.  After a few calm breaths start to feel the sensations in your body; start with your feet and work up your body becoming aware of how your body is feeling: any sensations, pains or niggles, temperature or pressure.  Gradually expand your awareness to take in what is going on around you.  What can you hear?  What can you smell?  Allow them to enter your consciousness without judgement.  If you find your mind wondering then just return your attention to your breathing.  You may find it helpful to use a guided mindfulness meditation or relaxation technique to help you with this.

  • Make sure you’re prepared – this will not only help you perform better in the interview, it will help improve your self-belief and reduce your nerves.  If you feel equipped to deal with anything that the interviewer might throw at you, you become more confident and are actually better able to think creatively.  Great preparation activities for interviews include:

o   Finding out as much as you can about the company: what they do, who their competitors are, what products/services they sell, what their big challenges are, and what their strategic objectives are.  You can usually find all of this out from the company’s website or a quick google search.

o   Review your application and CV.  Make sure you can remember and talk about anything you have mentioned on your CV or application. Never be tempted to lie or exaggerate as this will actually increase your anxiety.  Be honest and authentic – if they don’t like you based on this then the company would not have been a good fit with you anyway and you probably would not have been happy in the role.

o   Try to think about examples from your career history you would like to talk about in the interview.  If you have the opportunity to take a practice interview and receive feedback then that can be useful – not only will you receive useful feedback to improve your performance, but you are also priming your brain to be able to respond effectively in an interview situation.


  • Remove as much stress from the day of your interview as you can.  The last thing you need are any last minute problems – you’ve got enough to think about!  You can help ensure the run up to the interview is smooth and stress free by:

o   Checking in advance you know where the interview is, and if possible do a practice run of your route.  The last thing you need is to be late and lost when you are trying to compose yourself.

o   Prepare any materials you need well in advance.  Double check the requirements from the interview invitation beforehand.

o   Check your clothes the night before.  Make sure they are clean, ironed and in good repair, make sure you’ve got enough time to make a change if you need to – you want to feel comfortable and confident in what you are wearing.


  • Set yourself up for success.  Everyone performs better when they get a good night’s sleep.  Scientists have found that even a single night of poor sleep can reduce creative problem solving and emotional intelligence.  However, nothing is less conducive to a great night’s sleep than worrying about getting one, so don’t worry if you are struggling to fall asleep.  Just do what you can: have a warm drink, maybe read for a while, listen to a relaxation CD and eventually you will drift off.  Don’t drink before an interview – you won’t do yourself any favours by being drunk or hungover!


  • Visualise success.  Mental visualisation can be an extremely powerful tool for getting yourself into a success mindset and overcoming nerves.  It’s such a powerful technique that professional athletes use it as part of their preparation for important events; it works because your brain responds similarly to things that actually happen and those that mentally happen.  So, to practice visualising success find a quiet place, close your eyes and imagine you are in the interview.  Imagine yourself smiling and talking confidently.  Imagine that you have the answers to all the questions they ask you and that the interviewers are responding really well to everything you say: they are smiling and nodding and writing notes.  Picture yourself walking out of the interview with a huge smile on your face feeling that you’ve done really well.  Imagine that you are receiving the telephone call offering you the job, what would you feel? What would you say?  The more vivid and realistic you can make it the more effective it will be.


  • Get some perspective.  Even if things don’t go according to plan it is not the end of the world.  This might have been a brilliant opportunity but there will always be others.  Congratulate yourself on having got to the interview stage and try to get some feedback from the hiring company.  Try to turn this into a learning experience (in fact you should try to do this even if you get the job!) and this will help your prepare better for your next opportunity.
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