Banishing interview nerves

Interviews are daunting. I have rarely met an individual who positively welcomes them! It’s no wonder really. You’ve worked so hard to get there, impressed with the CV or application, done your research, maybe passed the preliminary psychometric tests and now you’ve got to have a conversation with a complete stranger or, worse than that, a panel of strangers, to convince them you’re the one! Plus, just to add salt to the wounds, probably do it online praying that your wobbly wifi doesn’t let you down!!


It can be so frustrating when your nerves let you down

I had a coaching conversation with a client recently, who had an online panel interview the following week. She wanted to better manage her nerves and anxiety, to give herself a fighting chance of succeeding. She was a super strong candidate having been asked for interview after every job application submitted, but found her nerves completely took over during the interview and had yet to be offered a position. She didn’t want the nerves to take centre stage this time.


What should you focus on?


  1. What does ‘good’ look like? – Getting clear on your expectations of the interview are key and help you to manage expectations as well as have a positive experience. For my client a ‘good’ outcome was about the ability to enjoy the conversation and to keep calm. Any thoughts of being offered the job were put to one side.


  1. Who’s in control? – This is about recognising your performance inhibiting thoughts and accepting them for what they are…just thoughts! These are stories you tell yourself about why you might not be good enough or that you won’t know what to say, for example. You can decide to change the story!


  1. How can I use my strengths in the moment to remain calm? – Understanding your strengths are key to any successful interview but using them in the moment to help manage your nerves can be confidence boosting. My client had a strength in problem solving, so we looked at ways in which she could use this strength during the interview to answer unexpected tricky questions. Reframing the question as another problem to solve helped her to work out a way.


  1. What’s going on in my body? – This is about noticing what happens when the nerves and anxiety hit and finding strategies to manage them in the moment. A few examples:
    1. Shaky hands – sit on them!
    2. Racing heartbeat – slow down your breathing by taking long deep breaths!
    3. Hunched over in the chair – unconfident body posture is such a giveaway and the lack of space you give yourself makes it harder to breathe, be open and approachable. Plant your feet firmly on the floor, push your bottom back into the chair and imagine there is a piece of string pulling your head up away from your shoulders! Power pose before you go in 😊


  1. How can I build rapport quickly? – Let your personality shine through, tell stories rather than reel off facts, share experiences, allow the interviewer to get to know you a bit better. It’s just a conversation. Use all your senses to guide you. Don’t forget to SMILE!

You must prepare in a very practical way for interviews, do your research on the job and the organisation, and prepare your examples, but you must also prepare your mind and body to enable the best to shine through and to see yourself confidently.

Nerves and anxiety don’t just appear the moment you walk into the interview room, they build up over time as you approach the day. Pay attention to this and give yourself what you need to relax and find a little bit of your own zen mastery (topic of a previous blog)! Whilst a little bit of adrenalin is good for you, too much can be detrimental to your likelihood of success.


Consciously paying attention to proactively managing your nerves really helps

The day of the interview I received an email from my client:

“Just to let you know that the interview went really well this morning! Although I was feeling a little nervous to start with, I relaxed into it and had a really good conversation with the panel. The hiring manager actually said a couple of times that he really enjoyed getting to know me more 😊”

No matter what the outcome, a positive and engaging conversation was just what the doctor ordered! Successful outcome achieved, or so I thought.


The following day, this arrived:

“I was offered the job this morning! I got some great feedback – they said there was very strong competition, but I was the best candidate for the role. They said that not only do I meet the requirements, but my personality and values are an excellent fit for the team

Yes!! She nailed it, surpassing her own expectations of what ‘good’ looked like!


Remember people buy people

Employers are looking for people who have the skills and competencies for the job but, ultimately, these things can be learnt. It’s very hard to fake authenticity, personality, and likeability. We are all human, even those on the interview panel, and humans seek out connection, consciously or unconsciously. Employers are looking for good people they can work with, and that’s it!

Sometimes the stars don’t align and the job outcome isn’t as you would have hoped, but if a simple reframe of allowing yourself to enjoy a conversation rather than be grilled and tested for 45mins helps to calm those nerves, I’m sure you will eventually find your match.

If you’d like some help in preparing for your next interview, please get in touch!

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A little bit of zen
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Run up to Interview

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