Being nervous about the unknown is entirely normal. As we have evolved, our natural instincts have developed to protect us from anything we fear to be dangerous.
Of course, a job interview cannot be compared to fleeing from a wild animal, but it does create some of the same physiological and neurological responses.
When we are anxious or nervous, Cortisol – the stress hormone – increases and produces a ‘fight or flight’ response designed to protect us. Manifestations of this may include shaking, a raised heart rate, rapid breathing, and excessive sweating.
None of these symptoms are ideal to take with you into your interview. Even in this age of Zoom interviews, it’s likely that even the most prolific interviewer will suffer from some form of nerves.
The science behind nervous responses may mean we cannot banish nerves altogether, but there are some proven strategies that can help to alleviate some of the symptoms.
Here are some tips to help you control your nerves in a job interview.
The more preparation you’ve done for your interview, the better you will feel about stepping into your interview. Thorough research, preparation, and practice will mean that you won’t be put on the back foot. You will be able to respond meaningfully to any questions that you are asked.
For more advice on how to prepare for your interview head over to the Employee Advice section of our blog. We have a wealth of articles that can steer you in your interview preparation.
To save you some time, here are some quick links.
Common nerve-related interview mistakes.
Being nervous can result in some common traits that may hinder your interview performance.
Here are some of the most common interview mistakes that candidates make when they are nervous, and how to control them.
Nobody likes to be interrupted, and social conventions tell us that to do so is rude and disrespectful. Although you may never do so in your everyday interactions, it’s common for nervous candidates to interrupt their interviewer in an unconscious bid to speed up the process.
Make a conscious effort to allow your interviewer to finish the question and take time to think about your response. If you interrupt the question, you may fail to answer correctly. It won’t be held against you if there is a slight pause before you respond. Listen to the whole question, think about your answer, and then speak.
Talking too quickly.
Speaking quickly is a common nervous behaviour. Just like the last point, we’d advise you to breathe and take your time. As you are waiting to go into the interview, take note of your breathing. If it’s fast and irregular, take 5 minutes to practice some deep breathing.
Try to be conscious of your breathing throughout the interview and listen to yourself. If you wouldn’t ordinarily be speaking this quickly, try to moderate it to mirror the tempo of your interviewer.
Being nervous during an interview can sometimes result in not fully understanding the question. If this is the case, it’s best to say you don’t understand rather than heading off on a tangent. If you try to stumble through it’s likely that you’ll answer incorrectly, which will be far more damaging to your prospects than being honest.
If, after further explanation, it’s still a concept you aren’t familiar with, then be honest. Use this as an opportunity to declare your interest in learning and professional development.
Failing to listen.
In an interview questions are often asked in 2 parts. A common mistake that nervous interviewees make is to start thinking about Part A, without listening to Part B. Try to listen all the way to the end of the question before you start to compose your answer. A failure to do so may mean you miss the vital part of the question. You aren’t against the clock and won’t be penalised if you don’t answer at breakneck speed.
Give yourself time to listen and slow down.
Being something you’re not. Be yourself.
You have been invited to the interview for being you. Having your skills and experience has got you this far. Be honest, sincere, and authentic.
Nervous candidates try to overcompensate by trying to be someone they think the interviewer wants them to be. This is your chance to sell yourself. The more you can be yourself, the more relaxed you will feel.
Breathing is one of the best techniques you can practice to combat nerves and anxiety. Deep, measured, and rhythmic breathing has a profound physiological effect on the body. It calms you down, lowers your cortisol levels, and lowers your heart rate.
Relaxation techniques such as Box Breathing engage the Parasympathetic Nervous System quickly, resulting in a more relaxed state. It’s so effective that US Navy SEALS employ this technique to help them in high-stress environments. If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for you!
The more you practice, the better you get.
You could also try to overcome your nerves through increased exposure. By attending as many interviews as possible (even for the jobs you don’t want), you’ll come to realise that every interview is a data collection experience. Evaluate yourself after each one and think about what you did well, where you could improve, and what went better than last time.
Interviews are stressful situations, especially if you have been out of work for some time or if you are new to interviewing. Practice and preparation are key factors in how relaxed you will feel in your interview. Make sure you prepare fully for every interview you are invited to.
Some nervousness characteristics can hinder your chances of success, so try to make sure you listen to each question, take your time to respond, and be yourself.
Simple breathing techniques such as box breathing can help you to control your responses by positively affecting your parasympathetic nervous system.