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How to Overcome Nervousness in a Job Interview

Let’s face it – for most of us, job interviews are a nerve-wracking experience.

Even the most confident and competent of candidates can be reduced to a puddle of nerves in the interview hot seat. A survey conducted by Hays Recruitment revealed that of 400 candidates surveyed, half of them said that job interviews made them more nervous than public speaking or taking a driving test!

So how can you overcome potentially-crippling interview jitters, and present yourself as the ideal candidate for the role? We take a look at some common causes of interview nerves, and how to overcome them.


If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail

Many candidates feel nervous due to lack of prep for an interview. If you’re new to the interview process, it can be hard to know what to expect, and this fear of the unknown can cause crippling “stage fright” when it comes to the interview. Start by researching the company you’re applying to, as this will arm you with self-confidence when discussing the role and the organization. Then, research key personnel and if possible, the person with whom you’ll be meeting. With tools like LinkedIn available, you can see a photo of who you’re going to be meeting before you step into the boardroom, which can eliminate the fear of the unknown and put you at ease.

Rehearse your answers

Lack of experience in an interview setting can make it seem all the more daunting. The Hays survey revealed that 64% of respondents said that not knowing the answers to questions was their biggest fear. Identify the questions that make you the most nervous, and rehearse your answers to them. For many candidates, this can include, “what are your weaknesses?”, or “what skills do you feel you are lacking?” There are numerous online resources that can help with this, offering lists of common questions and good examples of answers as told by HR specialists. By doing your research into these questions, you can then prepare your own answers. Your responses should appear clear but not rehearsed, so try to draft up a couple of key bullet points for each question and structure your answers around these.

Practice makes perfect

Lack of confidence will speak volumes to a potential employer, and can cost you the job. Practice your body language in the mirror, as the way you present yourself physically is part of your communication technique. Utilise firm handshakes, practice casual eye contact and don’t fidget! The Hays survey revealed that 42% of candidates spent up to an hour researching interview techniques, more so women than men. Practice with friends or alone, going over how you’ll sit, breathe, and interact. This will make you feel more comfortable when it comes to doing the real thing.

Know your own value

Relax, you’re not meeting Lord Sugar! A job interview isn’t an interrogation, so don’t view it as such. You can bring a lot to the organization in question, so think of the interview more as a discussion between two people. You both want to ascertain is there’s a good fit for both parties, so don’t appear desperate for the job. Focus on your strengths and give concise answers that prove you can have a discussion with management, as this may well be a key part of the role for which you are being considered.

Give yourself plenty of time

Arriving late to an interview almost guarantees you will be passed over. Candidates can increase nerves by cutting it too fine or running late thanks to things like getting lost, not being able to find parking or travelling to an interview during rush hour. Give yourself plenty of time to arrive, so you have some time to sit in your car or in the waiting room before and get comfortable with your surroundings. Go over your key talking points in your head, relax and don’t feel rushed into the interview. Which leads us to the next point…

Don’t rush your answers

Take your time to answer your questions thoroughly and carefully. If you’re caught out with a question, take a minute to breathe and formulate your answer. You can even say to the interviewer, “I’d like to take a minute to think about that,” or, “that’s a good question,” and give yourself some time to think. By rushing, you increase your chances of making a mistake, which can then fluster you and have a domino effect on each answer thereafter. When you feel your face start to flush and palms start to sweat, remember you’ll show more initiative and ability to problem solve by taking a second to formulate a concise answer then by succumbing to the nerves and cracking under pressure.

Dress the part

Finally, dress for success. If you look confident, you’ll feel it as well. Remember your posture should exude self-assurance, and you should present yourself in a courteous and friendly manner. When practicing your interview responses, you may want to do so in the outfit you’ll be wearing so you can see yourself exactly as the interviewer will. This will help boost your self confidence on the day, which will in turn stomp out any unwanted interview jitters.

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