I experienced it many times: A promising job candidate with an excellent resume stuttering in an interview. An experienced manager with a lot of success and great references struggling to express his thoughts. A woman with exceptional communication skills starts sweating, answering my simple  questions with silence

Job interview nerves impact many job seekers. We are nervous when we care, and job interview is an important meeting for almost everyone. However, we often need our best in important meetings, to show what we are capable of, to convince the employer to hire us. And that’s difficult to do when one is shaking, stuttering, or struggling to connect words in a meaningful sentence.

But can we do anything to control our nerves? Or to even get rid of our interview anxiety? We will try to find the answer in this article.

 

Accept your feelings and imperfections

It is important to realize that hiring managers expect that you’ll be nervous. They learned it by experience, while leading many interviews, and they do not put too much emphasis on the first impression. They will give you a chance to prove your abilities, regardless of the first impression you make.

Therefor, if you manage to get rid of your interview nerves once the thing starts, once you shake hands with your interviewers and answer their first question, you do not need to worry much about the stress you experience right now. Just accept it as a normal part of life (there isn’t a single living creature that never experiences stress).

Acceptance alone often helps to alleviate the symptoms of being nervous (increased heart rate, sweating, insomnia, etc). You are a human being, and you experience stress like everyone else. Accept your limitations. They will be much easier to bear afterwards.

 

Research about the employer and prepare for the interview

Stress is often associated with facing unknown situations. New company, new faces, foreign office setting, perhaps psychometric tests and tough questions you will face. All of that adds to our stress, becasue it isn’t familiar to us.

But you can make it more familiar, doing a quality research about your prospective employer. Browse the company website, check their social media profiles, try their products, look for reviews from former employees.

You can even visit the place (or at least the parking lot in front of it) before you go to the actual interview, and you can also do some research about the people who will interview you (checking their personal social profiles). Getting more familiar with the place and people you will meet will help you alleviate your stress.

stressed job seeker doing research on computer

Prepare for the questions you may face

Success in an interview doesn’t depend on luck or bad luck. Preparing for the questions will not only help you succeed on the big day, but also to get rid of your interview nerves.

We are nervous when we aren’t confident, when we do not know what we’d say if we got this or that question. Check our article about 15 most common interview questions, or browse questions for different job titles, find your one and prepare for the questions you may face.

It can be the most important thing you do before the start of your interview…

 

Get it out of your head

We can’t be nervous about something when we do not think about it. Simple to say, difficult to do. Or am I wrong?

You can try to occupy your mind with something else–daily chores, good book, a difficult crossword, a fascinating movie that won’t let your mind wander too much into the future. And while this is only a temporary solution, and the stress will likely return once you end your activity, it can still help.

More advanced strategy consists in emptying your mind of any thoughts. Meditation, staying in the present moment, breathing exercises–you’ve likely heard of them. Maybe you find these techniques difficult or even strange, but you should give them a shot without prejudice.

For me personally, a simple breathing exercise, or a short meditation, is enough to feel relaxed, and get rid of stress. Yep, interviewers are also nervous. We are humans too… :).

 

Physical exercise and a calm mind

Physical exercise (especially aerobic exercises, such as jogging, cycling, spinning, cross-country skiing) releases endorphins, the so called hormones of happiness.

Moving is healthy, and you should do some sort of aerobic exercise daily, if you want to improve your immunity against illnesses and look better. But moving also helps us to alleviate stress, since positive hormones flood our system instead of negative ones.

If you enjoy physical activity, there’s no better way to alleviate stress than exercising—ideally in the nature (or in a park), but a road or a gym will also do the trick (if there’s no other option available where you live).
The energy boost starts typically 15-20 minutes after the end of the exercise, and lasts for 2-4 hours, with a mild buzz for up to 24 hours. That’s definitely long enough to help for your interview (if you exercise a few hours before going there).

 

Do not put too much pressure on yourself

Perhaps the most important thing to realize is that interview stress is self induced. Your attitude and expectations lead to stress, and not the situation itself (the difficult interview you will face).

People who truly love you won’t love you less if you fail in your next interview. Their feelings towards you won’t change.

You should realize that dozens of people compete for almost each good job. Dozens compete, and just one will get it at the end. Failing isn’t anything special in this scenario. It is the outcome for the majority of people.

What’s more, your life is not at stake. There will be other interviews, in other companies, and you will get better with each one (you will learn from the experience).

Lower your expectations on yourself. Think about your next interview as a learning experience. You go there to learn, to improve your interviewing skills, to meet some interesting people.

And if you succeed while doing so, if you sign a new job contract, it will be just a nice bonus…

 

Conclusion

Stress belongs to life, but you can use a variety of strategies to soften your interview nerves. Getting familiar with your prospective employer, and with the questions you may face in your interview, will help you feel more relaxed.

You can try breathing exercises and mediation to clear your minds of all thoughts. And when we do not think about the problem, it ceases to exist. Physical exercise (ideally in the nature) is another way of alleviating stress.

Most importantly, remember that your attitude and expectations lead to stress, not the interview itself. Just few people succeed in their very first interview. Many fail repeatedly, and it is completely normal, and nothing to be ashamed of.

Changing your attitude and lowering your expectations can result in a dramatic improvement of your feelings before, and during the interview…

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Matthew Chulaw

Matthew has been working in international recruitment since 2008. He helps job seekers from all walks of life to pursue their career goals, and to prepare for their interviews. He is the founder of InterviewPenguin.com website.
Matthew Chulaw

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