Most people get nervous before an interview. It’s natural to feel a little anxious when you’re about to meet with someone who has the power to decide your future. But if you want to make a good impression, take a few minutes to calm your nerves and have a clear focus. The good news is you can follow a number of steps to ease your anxiety.
Don’t wait until you’re sitting in the interview chair to prepare. You can do many things in advance to plan, prepare, and ease your interview anxiety. From participating in a mock interview to preparing for common interview questions, we explore ways to curb interview anxiety to land your dream job.
- Make an interview checklist
- Prepare and do research
- Prepare answers to typical interview questions
- Plan for worst-case scenarios
- Call a friend or family member for encouragement
- Practice with a friend or family member
- Don’t take it as an interrogation—it’s just a conversation
- Use positive body language
- Practice breathing techniques to stay calm
- Don’t speak too fast
- Focus on your strengths
1. Make an interview checklist
To help you stay calm and organized, make a list of everything you need to do before your interview. Include items like “research the company” and “prepare answers to common interview questions.” Your checklist should include steps to help you prepare for the process before entering the interview room.
It doesn’t have to be complicated. Even something simple like “eat a good breakfast” can be a helpful reminder. Use this article to start your checklist or look up other examples online.
Make it simple but be sure to address any specific concerns you may have about the interview process. For example, are you worried about what kinds of questions will be asked or how to answer them? Increase your confidence and reduce negative thoughts and anxieties by tackling these concerns in advance.
2. Prepare and do research
One of the best ways to reduce stress and calm your nerves before an interview is to prepare as well as possible. That means doing your research, knowing the company inside and out, and rehearsing your answers to common interview questions.
Research the company online and check the brand’s website and LinkedIn page to learn more about the company’s values and culture. You want to know as much as you can about your potential employer.
Study the job description and consider looking up the recruiter, hiring manager, or individual doing your interview. Look for commonalities. Did you go to the same school? Do you share a professional network?
Even if you don’t identify too many things in common, you’ll have information that will help you carry on a conversation comfortably.
3. Prepare answers to typical interview questions
Another way to ease your anxiety is to have a go-to list of solid answers to common interview questions. Rehearse your answers a few times before the interview, but you don’t need to memorize them.
You want to sound natural and at ease—not like you’re reciting from a script. This will help you feel more confident and less likely to freeze up if you’re asked a question you didn’t expect.
Some of the most common interview questions include:
- “Tell me about yourself.”
- “What are your strengths?”
- “What are your weaknesses?”
- “Why do you want this job?”
- “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
This Forbes article goes over one question many interviewees underestimate the importance of: “Do you have any questions for me?” This question is usually saved for the end of the job interview.
It’s tempting to say, “No, thanks. You covered it all.” But thoughtfully prepared questions show that you’ve taken enough time to listen, reflect, and take an interest in the position.
These questions may seem difficult, especially if you’re being interviewed for a particular position for the first time, but if you take the time to think through your answers in advance, you'll be more confident when you have to answer them in a real interview situation.
4. Plan for worst-case scenarios
Another way to reduce your stress is to anticipate and plan for worst-case scenarios. What if you get lost in the building and can’t find your interview room? What if you’re asked a question you don’t know how to answer? By preparing for these types of events, you’ll be less likely to be caught off-guard if they happen.
If you get lost, for example, you can call the receptionist and ask for directions. If you’re asked a question you can’t answer, take a deep breath and admit that you don’t know the answer but you’re willing to learn.
Keep in mind that the worst-case scenario is rarely as bad as you might imagine it to be. By preparing for potential problems, you can often avoid them altogether.
5. Call a friend or family member for encouragement
If you’re feeling really nervous, try calling a supportive friend or family member for some encouragement before your interview and to possibly ask for tips and advice.
Sometimes, simply hearing another person’s positive interview story can help you feel better. Just remember that there are people in your corner rooting for you to land the job.
6. Practice with a friend or family member
Asking a friend or family member to help you do a mock interview can be beneficial. Not only can this help reduce stress by allowing you to practice your answers, tone, and body language, but you’ll also get valuable feedback on your responses.
You may also want to record yourself answering common interview questions. This way, you can hear how you sound and make any necessary adjustments. If you have a virtual interview, do a test run to see how your clothing, background, and lighting look on camera. Check the sound too. If your interview is in person, consider running your clothing choice by someone you trust to get their feedback.
7. Don’t take it as an interrogation—it’s just a conversation
When you’re feeling nervous, you might view the interview as an interrogation. However, remember that the interviewer is just trying to get to know you better. They may even be feeling nervous themselves.
Consider an ice breaker to ease the tension. If you’re visiting the office in person, start with a compliment on something you’ve observed, like a great view or nice layout. While humor can be appropriate at times, remember to stay professional and take your cues from the interviewer.
Try to think of the situation as a conversation between two people getting to know each other. After all, that is exactly what an interview is.
8. Use positive body language
Your body language conveys a lot of information, so it’s important to be aware of how you look and move during an interview.
When you’re feeling nervous, you may fold your arms or hunch over. However, this posture can make you appear closed off and uninterested.
Instead, try to use open body language. This means keeping your arms uncrossed, sitting up straight, and making eye contact.
Remember to eat a good breakfast for energy and consider some light exercise before the interview for an endorphin rush. Your body releases endorphins when you move, which can reduce stress and improve mood. Exercise can also help improve your posture. Your physical condition can greatly impact your body language and mood.
Even if you’re feeling a lot of nervous energy, try not to fidget. At-ease behaviors will help you appear calm and collected. Body language may not be a factor if you’re doing a phone interview. However, consider the tone of your voice and energy level. One tip used by call center reps can be helpful: Smile while you’re on the phone. Your positive energy helps you and the person you’re talking with feel more comfortable.
Remember that body language is a factor in video interviews; tone of voice and facial expressions are important. You want to appear engaged and interested in the conversation through your body language and reactions. You’ll also want to be aware of your background and lighting.
9. Practice breathing techniques to stay calm
Take a few slow, deep breaths if you’re feeling overwhelmed by nerves. This will help you relax and slow your heart rate. Try to breathe from your diaphragm, which is the muscle that separates your chest and stomach.
This type of breathing engages your abdominal muscles and can help you control your breath. When you’re feeling relaxed, you’ll be able to think more clearly and give better answers.
10. Don’t speak too fast
Many people speak quickly when nervous. However, rushed speech can make you appear uncertain. Remember that you have plenty of time to answer all the interviewer’s questions. Slow down so they can hear and internalize what you have to say.
Try to take your time and speak at a moderate pace. This will help you sound more confident, competent, and in control. If you need a break, it’s OK to take a moment to collect your thoughts. A short pause gives you time to breathe and relax before you continue.
11. Focus on your strengths
An interview is a great opportunity to sell yourself and highlight your best qualities, competency, and abilities. It’s easy to focus on your weaknesses when you’re feeling nervous; however, this will only make you feel more anxious. Instead, try focusing on your strengths. Show your smile, leverage your answers to share your best skills, and remember you’ve prepared for this moment.
Think of some positive skills and experiences that are relevant to the job description. For instance, have you recently accomplished a milestone, managed a team, or overseen a product launch? What do you bring to the table? This will help you feel more confident and give you something to fall back on if you start to feel nervous.
If you’re concerned about seeming boastful, focus on the process elements of what you’ve done. You may want to mention your participation within an effective working team, but don’t downplay your role.
Overcome your interview nerves
The best way to overcome interview nerves is by being prepared, and this guide to interviewing like a pro can help. If you know what to expect and practice answering common questions, you’ll be more confident going into the job interview. Whether you have a phone interview, a video interview, or an in-person interview, these tips can help you snag that dream job.
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