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How to Calm Your Job Interview Nerves

Updated on August 4, 2022
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David has over 15 years of supervisory experience and has extensive knowledge of how to handle personnel issues across many areas.

Calming job interview nerves can go a long way in having a successful job interview.
Calming job interview nerves can go a long way in having a successful job interview. | Source

Why Do I Get So Nervous During a Job Interview?

It's not uncommon to feel nervous before, throughout, and even after a job interview. There are various reasons why you may feel nervous:

  • Meeting new people.
  • Being judged based on your resume, a job application, and a short conversation.
  • Worried you will say something wrong, act incorrectly, or make a fool of yourself.
  • Don't like the idea of having to talk about yourself, summarize your life, etc.
  • Afraid you will be rejected for the job, desperately need the job, or excited to get the job.

There are many more reasons beyond this why you get nervous. You could be nervous just because it's an interview and people are supposed to be nervous! This article will teach you how to calm yourself before an interview, how to handle the jitters during an interview, as well as some of my own experiences.

Author's Experience with Interviews

I have been a supervisor for over fifteen years and have been on interview panels as well as done one-on-one interviews. I have also interviewed for jobs in front of panels as well as one-on-one.

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How to Prepare for the Job Interview

There are steps you need to take prior to going into the interview and prior to the interview itself. These steps will allow you to calm yourself before an interview. I have used these techniques myself, and they work.

  • Use the bathroom. When people get nervous, they tend to need the restroom. Or, they are so nervous they forget to use the restroom and all they can think about during the interview is that they need go. So before the interview ensure you use the bathroom.
  • Know that you are qualified for the job. You are only being interviewed because you fit the qualifications for the job. Don't be nervous thinking you aren't. Go in confident that you deserve the job. One brief moment of doubt can make you nervous all over again.
  • Review your resume or application. Review what you stated what your experience is in. Questions could come up during the interview about that. You should be prepared for them. You don't want to have to field an unexpected question. Reviewing the job specifications is a good idea as well.
  • Prepare everything ahead of time. Lay out the clothes you plan to wear, the route you plan to take, and ensure you have enough gas in your car. You don't want to head out only to find out there is construction or you have no gas. If you rush to the interview, that will fuel your nervousness.
  • Practice for your interview. Have friends or family interview you, read up on how answer questions during an interview, what to say during an interview, etc. Practice makes perfect.

Essentially, you want to prepare yourself for every contingency ahead of time. If you forget something, end up running late, or something else happens prior to the interview, it will just add to your nervousness. If you don't have your act together, the interviewer may see that as well.

How to Avoid Being Nervous in the Waiting Room Before a Job Interview

Once you are sitting in the waiting room, you can find your nervousness grow. Use these tips to calm yourself before the interview:

  • Breathe. Just take slow, deep breaths. Don't breath fast, that will just make your anxiety grow.
  • Don't fidget. Cross one of your legs and place your hands in your lap, crossing your fingers. This will prevent fidgeting.
  • Don't play on your cell phone. While it can serve as a great distraction, if you aren't paying attention and get called in, you could be startled. That will start up your nervousness all over again. Plus it doesn't show you are focused.

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Do you see any nervousness going on during this job interview?
Do you see any nervousness going on during this job interview? | Source

Tips on How to Avoid Being Nervous During A Job Interview

These are general tips you can use when having an interview of any kind, whether it be on the phone, one-on-one, or a panel.

  • Don't state that you are nervous. Interviewers know that you are nervous, you don't need to state that point. It's how you handle yourself despite the nervousness that will matter to them.
  • Don't be afraid to answer a question with, "I don't know". This isn't a bad response. If you get thrown a difficult question which you don't know know the answer to, don't freak out and make yourself even more nervous. Just state that you don't know. An honest answer is better than trying to feign your way through it, making your nervousness apparent. Alternatively, you can say you don't know, but state what you believe the answer is or what you would do in that particular situation.
  • Speak slowly, but speak loudly. Don't try to rush through a response just so you will have to stop speaking. If you talk slowly and calmly, not only will your interviewer be able to understand what you are saying, you will calm yourself down from your nervousness. Fast talkers tend to talk much faster when they are nervous. Alternatively, those who are nervous can also speak quietly. Ensure you speak up so your voice can be heard.
  • Don't ramble on. Those who are nervous during an interview tend to repeat lines and ramble on. When you are asked a question, gather your thoughts and answer in a concise manner. If you start talking right away, you will ramble on, which will only make you more nervous since you know you are rambling, just making the situation worse.
  • Smile. It's surprising how often this is overlooked. But don't give yourself away that you are nervous. If you smile and show you are at ease, your interviewer will feel at ease as well. Give the impression you are happy to be interviewed and are not affected by nervousness at all. It will give you the self confidence you need.

One-on-one interviews require you to maintain eye contact with the person interviewing you.
One-on-one interviews require you to maintain eye contact with the person interviewing you. | Source

How to Avoid Being Nervous During a One-on-One Job Interviews

One-on-one interviews are more intimate in a way that the interviewer will have all eyes on you, and your eyes will always be on them. This can be a good or bad thing, depending how you handle yourself. Here are some tips on how to handle your nervousness during a one-on-one interview.

  • Keep your eyes directly on the interviewer. If you maintain eye contact and focus on the words the interview is saying, you won't have time to think about being nervous. So keep that eye contact so you can remain focused.
  • Control your hands. More than likely you will be sitting in a chair during these interviews. It will be easy to try to talk with your hands, especially if you are nervous. But talking with your hands can distract the person interviewing you. Cross your hands and place them in your lap. If your hands are under control, so is your nervousness.
  • Be prepared for a less than formal interview. When it's one-on-one, your interviewer may be more relaxed. So you should relax with them. You could be so nervous that you won't be able to relax. That will just keep the situation tense. In a way, the interviewer may be trying to ease your nervousness by encouraging a relaxed interview. Keep that in mind.

During a panel interview, each panelist will evaluate you in different ways.  Don't let that make you nervous, just address all of them equally.
During a panel interview, each panelist will evaluate you in different ways. Don't let that make you nervous, just address all of them equally. | Source

How to Avoid Being Nervous During a Panel Job Interview

Panel interviews can be much harder to contend with. Not only do you have to endure an interview, you have to do it in front of multiple people. That could just compound your nervousness, making it harder for you to sell yourself. Use these tips on how to alleviate that nervousness during a panel interview.

  • Realize it's not an intimidation tactic. Panel interviews are designed so that everyone conducting the interviews has input on who is selected. Perhaps the position requires interaction with those on the panel, so they all have a say on who is hired.
  • Focus on all of them. When one asks a question, don't just respond to that person directly, respond to all of them. If you are focused on each of their faces, you won't have time to realize or act out on your nervousness.
  • Place your hands on the table. Most panel interviews will require you to sit at a conference table or some other place where you can place your hands. Cross your fingers together and lay them on the table. Nervousness makes someone talk with their hands. If you control your hands, you control your nervousness.

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Experiences With Nervousness During Job Interviews

I have a few experiences I can share when it comes to being nervous during a job interview, which can provide some insight on how being nervous can affect your chances of getting a job.

  • I was part of a panel interviewing one of my employees for a promotion, and this person was nervous during the entire interview. The problem is that this person knew who the interviewers were, so this person was not able to respond to almost all of the questions asked. The nervousness was apparent, because it was a new situation that the person had not prepared for.
  • I went through multiple interviews, with the panel increasing in size each time. First it started out with a few people, then a couple more for the second interview, and then for the last interview it was a panel of seven people. That was the biggest panel interview I had ever been on, and certainly made me nervous since I had various heads of departments in the room. However, I felt confident as well. If they needed that many people to conduct the interview, I knew it was an important position. So I turned my nervousness around once I sat down and felt confident.
  • I found out after I was hired that my boss thought I was very nervous during the interview. This was an entry level position, and I was young so it was one of the first interviews I had been on. It was a panel interview, and I recall being very nervous at the time of the interview. My hands were shaking, my voice cracked, and I failed to make eye contact. I got the job, however, years later I was doing some shredding that had to be done at that same job. I happened to come across the sheet that my boss took during my interview. The only thing written on it, which had been underlined and in bold letters, was "VERY NERVOUS". I took that as a turning point, as that was the one thing she noticed about me the most, and nothing else. For any future interviews I held back my nervousness, and have been able to overcome it to obtain four job promotions within the last fifteen years.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2013 David Livermore


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