There was this one interview I had that I remember so clearly. Not because I aced it but because I was an anxious wreck! It was for a role within my field at the time, a one-on-one counselor with the Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Hamilton. I wanted the job so much as I would be working within a camp that focused on creating a safe and fun space for children to enjoy their summer.
The funny thing was, I knew I was qualified – I had worked in camps before and I had worked with individuals needing mental health and life skills support. But that didn’t matter, I was straight up nervous.
I got into the interview and while I was able to answer the questions, I just could not calm my nerves down. In fact, my hands were shaking so badly that one of the interviewers even paused the interview to say I was doing great and that the role was pretty much mine and that I didn’t need to be so nervous. Talk about embarrassing!
I was lucky that they saw past my nerves and gave me the job but I know many Hiring Managers who wouldn’t be so kind. They would be concerned that you wouldn’t be able to handle the stress of the job, that they would need to hold your hand anytime something challenging came up or that they could never depend on you to be the face of a role (with internal or external clients, management/senior leadership, etc).
So while nerves are a completely normal part of the interview process, it is vital that you are able to calm or redirect those interview jitters! Here are 9 tips to do just that.
1. Practice makes Perfect
I am a big believer of foundational preparation for interviews. Before you begin your job search you probably have a sense of the types of roles you will be interviewing for. So at that point think of all of your stories, such as your Tell Me About Yourself answer.
If most of the work is done before an interview request comes in then that initial flood of panic and anxiety won’t happen (or be as strong at least) and you can just do a quick review and tweak of your stories and spend some time preparing for why you want to work there.
2. Prepare for the Worst
I constantly prepare myself, my clients, even my loved ones for the roller coaster of life. That includes the interview. No interview is ever perfect and that is OKAY.
Spend some time reflecting on what normally happens during an interview when your nerves get the better of you.
Do you go on a rambling spree? If yes, prepare for how you will handle it (apologize for going off topic, blame your excitement or passion and then come back to answering the question and please don’t forget to state the result!).
Do you clam up and freeze? If yes, how will you handle that? (take a sip of water, ask them to repeat the question, say you need a few seconds to think it through, even ask to come back to the question).
Now think about the interviewers’ behaviours – what if they seem distracted? Or displaying negative body language, or asking very direct and unnerving questions? How will you handle that without it impacting your performance? You don’t know what is happening in their life – maybe they can’t stand interviewing, or got some bad news right before, aren’t feeling good or simply just having a bad day. Their behavior could have NOTHING to do with you! So if you prepare for how you will handle it, then you are more likely to still shine in the interview.
3. Get your ZZZ’s
Sleep is so incredibly underrated, and I can go on and on about it but I’ll save that for another day! All I’ll say is to have a good night of sleep the night before – go to bed at a reasonable hour, aim to get 7-9 hours of sleep (which means go to bed 7.5-9.5 hours before you want to get up). This will ensure you are feeling your best which means you are less likely to feel nervous.
4. Move Your Body
Plan to get to the interview with some time to spare and then go for a quick walk. Fresh air and movement are proven to help you calm down as it releases those wonderful endorphins!
The morning of or evening before do some exercise that will bring you value – run, strength workout, yoga. Do the one that you know will leave you feeling strong, confident and ready to take on the world!
I think I’ve already talked about how meditation can help you get ahead in your career. It will help you slow down the nervous mind, recognize the spiral of thoughts that accompany it and help you notice when you are slipping into bad, nervous habits during the interview faster allowing you to self-correct.
6. Put on your cape
A few years ago a TED talk by Amy Cuddy introduced the world to the concept of the power pose before important meetings. Amy has since backed up her original findings with a new study that continues to show that effecting a power pose can impact brain chemistry which is amazing!
Find a place where you won’t be disturbed (bathroom stall?!), put your hands on your hips and stand there like Wonder Woman or Superman for 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Imagine yourself, no one can stop you, you got this. Take a deep breath and go show those interviewers what you can do!
7. Power Up with Power Songs
Do you have power songs? You know those songs that pump you up and lift you up? I have tons, in fact I have a whole playlist of them that I play whenever I feel like a need a boost. Like Sia and David Guetta’s Titanium or Forever by Drake, Eminem – which are two of my go tos.
On your way to the interview, play a couple of them and let them excite you and fill you with power and confidence.
8. Food for Thought
I remember in first year Biology, our professor telling us to eat a mini chocolate bar right before all exams. She said the combination of caffeine and sugar was a sure way to activate our brain allowing our sense of recall to be quicker. I’m not sure about the science behind it but who is going to say no to that!
For the longest time I did that, but in the last few years I’ve begun having bananas before important meetings or presentations. It started because that was what I would take before a race (running, triathlon, obstacle course) and I really felt a positive impact. For me, it provides me the energy needed and it also calms me down.
So while you are on your quick walk or on the way to the interview grab a mini chocolate bar, banana or other small snack.
9. Fake it til you Make it
After that disastrous interview I decided to really focus on channeling those nerves into excitement. I re-framed those feelings. You know what I’m talking about: your hands are slightly shaking, your heart is racing, you are sweating. The same feelings happen when you are amped up and excited to go, so I tell myself I’m just super excited instead of super nervous.
Before going in, I would do is bounce on my toes a bit, give myself a pep talk and use that adrenaline in a positive way. I know others who make funny faces in the mirror, who do a full body shake or just repeat “yes, yes, yes” in their heads.
There is something to this idea, as one thing I’ve learned over my 15 years is that Hiring Managers love to hire people who are excited and enthusiastic to work for them.
At the end of all my preps, I always say “Good Luck. Have Fun. Be Yourself.” After all, I want the interview to be an enjoyable experience!
I do understand that nerves can be debilitating, and if none of these tips help then maybe customized interview training and prep will – reach out to me and we can work on this together.
Sara Curto, Career Management Specialist. Working with you towards Career and Job Search Success.
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