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Overcoming Interview Nerves


The interview process can be a daunting experience. Read more here about overcoming nerves.

The nerves and anxiety that some people suffer during the interview process can be debilitating and cause even top candidates to perform poorly. Even though, for most people, it is quite natural to be nervous in a new situation, some peoples’ responses to these feelings can get out of control and significantly affect their chances of completing a successful interview.

We can all recognise the signs of anxiety, such as, hands shaking, mind going blank, sweaty palms or an increased heart rate, to mention but a few. Here are some physical and practical tools to help refocus your attention and overcome your nerves to prevent them affecting your performance. While you can do the things below yourself, more and more people are enlisting the services of a Career Coach to give them and edge in what is a highly competitive jobs market. Click on one of the links to see what a DavittCP Career Coach  can do for you.


  • To begin with, most people have a distorted sense of what an interview is. So, start by reminding yourself that this is a two way process. You have been invited to the interview after consideration of your C.V. You have not been plucked randomly from the street.  Your C.V. has made the organisation think that you may have the skills required for the position.  It’s a learning opportunity for both sides to see if this is a match. That’s really the main purpose of the interview. Holding this thought will increase your confidence.


  • Controlling your breathing is a key tool in overcoming some of the physical sensations associated with anxiety. Anxiety causes some people to breath quicker and therefore talk faster. This can affect the way you come across and will certainly be difficult to control once the interview has started.  Practice breathing at a slower rate for at least an hour before your interview.  There is an effective technique called 1-4-2 where you inhale for one second, hold for four and then exhale for two. You can lengthen this sequence with 3-12-6 and so on.  Not only does this increase blood flow to your brain, which can help those blank moments, but also it will calm you down if you use this technique before your interview.


  • Arriving 15 minutes early will give you time to sit and compose yourself. It can be relaxing too to smile and make some polite conversation with the person who greets you at the reception. Observing the people who work there, while you wait, will give you an insight into the culture, atmosphere and ethos of the company. But do not forget – from the moment you enter the building, you are being assessed. Many managers, even very senior ones, take the opinion of the receptionist as well as that of their PA/secretary very highly. This is because your behaviour towards them is considered to be indicative of how you behave in real life because “your guard is down”, so to speak as you have not yet entered the somewhat contrived setting of the interview. If you are in any way impolite or brusque with a receptionist or a PA/secretary, you can pretty much forget about being called back for another interview. Of course, this is not the case with all interviewers or prospective managers but it is better to be safe rather than sorry – be polite and friendly to everyone you meet on the way to the interview.


  • Remember the pressure that your interviewer is under. They are probably just as keen to impress you and to find a suitable candidate for the position.  Reminding yourself of their position in the process will refocus your attention away from your own feelings of anxiety.


  • Knowledge will give you power over your nerves and help you feel in control at the interview. You should know about the company from detailed research and in particular find out about the person interviewing you. Research will give you a feel for the company and you should prepare questions about the organisation that will make the conversation flow and be more relaxed. Some examples of general questions include:
    • How is success measured in this role?
    • What is a typical working week like?
    • What are the particularly stressful times in this position (e.g. annual reporting, presentations, management issues, appraisals.)?
    • What does your interviewer like about working there?
  • The main point here is that as I’ve said from the beginning, this is a two way street and you should not be afraid to ask questions. A good interviewer will expect to have questions to answer. In fact, they may think you are not as prepared as you could be if you don’t ask them questions!


  • Avoid the unexpected by anticipating questions that may arise from your C.V. Be able to answer key questions about your skills and how they fit with the requirements of the position. Your problem solving skills are always relevant as are how you might have performed better in a situation and your greatest weaknesses and achievements. All your answers should be linked it to the core competencies required by the position. This is absolutely critical.


  • In general they will want to know what you can do for the company so be able to answer this question to stay in control. The bottom line, once they have established you have the necessary skills, is to see if you will fit in.  Being a match for the company is crucial. Understanding this will enable you to treat the interview as a two way process and focus your attention away from any anxiety.


  • By staying in control of your nerves you will face each moment of the interview as it happens.  By doing this you will be able to have the conversation that is required to see if the company think you are the right person and more importantly, whether you think that you would want to work for them.  Remember, even if you are not offered the position it is all excellent practice in remaining calm and composed in an interview.


Our next blog will be about psychometric tests and how best to prepare for them, the ones you can prepare for that is. We will also look at the history of psychometrics and what each test is designed to find out about you.