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Job Interviews: How to Ease Nerves and Make a Good Impression

Updated on December 29, 2013

The act of applying and interviewing for a job can be an extremely stressful experience. You worry about how to get noticed and make a good impression on the job; you worry about whether or not the company will like you, and whether or not you will like working for the company. Of course, all of these worries cannot come into play if you are not picked for the position.

The first step to getting a job is to update your résumé and then tailor it to each position for which you apply. Given that you do that successfully, you will be invited to an interview, either over the phone, or in-person. There are a lot of great articles on HubPages that deal with both creating résumés and interviewing for jobs, so I would suggest checking out some of those as well, but I thought I could add my two cents (and that of those I queried when doing my job search) to the literature.

Phones as objects are non-threatening, but when the person on the other end is set on evaluating you based on your answers alone, the situation changes.
Phones as objects are non-threatening, but when the person on the other end is set on evaluating you based on your answers alone, the situation changes.

For The Phone Interview

To me, a phone interview can be just as nerve-wracking as public speaking. Your audience is significantly smaller, but you do not have the luxury of picturing them in their underwear. In fact, you can barely picture your interviewer at all, given the distance between you. This makes it difficult to read off of body language how your responses are being received. All of this can easily add up to a very stressful situation.

Hopefully a phone interview will be scheduled so you have time to prepare. If the interviewer catches you off guard, however, remember that you can ask to postpone to a more convenient time. Either way, you want to make sure you take your phone call in a quiet area where you will not be disturbed mid-interview.

High intensity exercise, like jumping rope or running, helps disperse the adrenaline that comes with nerves and stress.
High intensity exercise, like jumping rope or running, helps disperse the adrenaline that comes with nerves and stress.

In preparation for the interview, here are a few tips:

  1. If you have time prior to the interview, the best thing you can do to calm your nerves is to do some high intensity exercises, complete with running and jumping. Exercising right before the interview will benefit you by dispersing the adrenaline coursing through your body.
  2. Before the interview starts you also want to prepare a listof your best qualities with examples of situations where you displayed them as well as your weaknesses, as most interviewers will ask after them.
  3. If you can anticipate difficult questions that might arise (like asking you to explain any gaps in your résumé or why you left a certain position), it is not a bad idea to create a scripted response to those questions. You do not have to read your script verbatim to the interviewer, but having the proper words down can keep you from fumbling through an answer.
  4. Have your list, script, and résumé in front of you during the phone call. You can't see them, but they can't see you, so props are allowed.

During the interview:

  1. To keep calm while you respond to answers, you can try some quiet deep breathing techniques.
  2. Remember you do not have to respond to a question immediately after it is asked. You can delay your response by asking the interviewer to clarify their question or by simply stating, “I need a minute to think about it.”
  3. Still have some excess adrenaline despite your pre-interview workout? Release physical stress by kicking your legs or shaking out the tension in your limbs. Remember, they cannot see you!
  4. Ultimately, you have to put yourself in the right frame of mind. You have to “accept the uncertainty” inherent in an interview situation. Just set out to do your best and be content with that, whatever the outcome.

More exercise!
More exercise!

For after the interview:

  1. Exercise after the phone call is over as well to disperse the adrenaline that builds up over the course of the interview.
  2. Plan to treat yourself with something that you have not had in a while. You need to reward yourself for getting through the interview! It is okay if you cannot do it immediately following the phone call. Just make sure you do something nice for yourself before the day is out. I chose to get a milkshake from my favorite diner. It does not have to be big (and if you are not currently employed, I would not suggest spending much money on it), but it is the simple act of doing something that counts.

Bring copies of your rsum and cover letter.
Bring copies of your rsum and cover letter.
Dress to make an impression.
Dress to make an impression.

For the In-Person Interview

Many of the tips that work for phone interviews work for in-person interviews as well. The main difference is that your interviewer can see you, so you have to make a good visual impression. This means exercising prior to the interview and excessive movement during to relieve tension is out. Here are a few other things to keep in mind:

The day before the interview:

  1. Research the company or facility at which you are interviewing. Familiarize yourself with the job description, the background and responsibilities of the people interviewing you, and the background and responsibilities of the people for whom you would be working.
  2. Use multiple tools to map your route to the interview site. Physical maps, Google Maps, Mapquest. Make sure all of these tools are in agreement as to how to get there.
  3. Print out copies of your résumé and cover letter for each individual interviewing you. Then print some extras.
  4. Plan your outfit. It should be in line with what would be worn on the job, but slightly nicer. A suit does not hurt as long as you are not interviewing at an extremely casual business (Google, for example). NOTE: Do not dress too stylishly. Boring is better. As my sister tells me, you will not be hired for your fabulous green peep toe pumps. And if you tend to pile on the accessories, dial back. One or two at most will do.

A nice relaxing beverage without caffeine can help you kill time and relax any residual nerves.
A nice relaxing beverage without caffeine can help you kill time and relax any residual nerves.

The day of, prior to the interview:

  1. Leave early! Earlier than you think you need to leave. You have no idea what the traffic or parking situation will be like. Bring change in case you need to pay for parking.
  2. Do not forget to bring the copies of your résumé made the day before. Also bring a notepad and pen to take notes.
  3. If you arrive early, take the extra time to explore the area. If you are interviewing for a department that is part of a larger facility, it does not hurt to get the lay of the land.
  4. Find a place that sells coffee and get yourself a drink, just try to stay away from anything too heavily caffeinated as it might make you shake during the interview.

During the interview:

  1. Be personable. The interviewer will want to know that you can get along with your coworkers. They do not need to know everything about your personality, but they do need to know that you will be a good fit.
  2. Be attentive. Common courtesy and an important skill for on the job training.
  3. Be engaged. The interviewer wants someone who is actually interested in the job.
  4. Take notes. Again, it shows interest. It will also help when it comes to the next step...
  5. Ask questions. Your time to interview the interviewer. This gives you more information about the job, while allowing you to plug more of your good qualities after you get your answer. This can also help prove how insightful you are.

What kind of exercise best releases tension for you?

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After the interview:

  1. Have any excess adrenaline? Now you can exercise it away.
  2. Take the time to treat yourself again. My choice? A nice salad for lunch from the Nordstrom café. A little pricy, but healthy, and a definite luxury.
  3. If the interviewer asked you to provide anything else (like additional references), follow-up quickly. Again, this shows interest in the job as well as professionalism and promptness.
  4. Do not forget to thank the interviewer for their time and consideration with an email, phone call, or thank you letter.

What To Do After

Congratulate yourself for getting through the primary interview process but do not be idle. Keep circulating your résumé to attract more interview opportunities. Keep all of these tips in mind for future interviews and write down any that particularly work for you. Make sure you do not get discouraged. This is a difficult process for everyone. Good luck!


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