United Kingdom

Take control of job interview jitters

10 ways to beat interview nerves

Rachel Burge for CareerBuilder.co.uk

Your palms are sweaty and your mouth is dry. You feel oddly clumsy and you can’t remember your own name, never mind why you’re the best person for the job. Don’t let nerves get the better of you. Try these tips to beat anxiety and impress at interview.

1. Phone a friend before you go in

Waiting to go into an interview can be more nerve-wracking than the actual meeting. Prevent anxiety from building by “warming up mentally”.

‘Think about positive things in the 30 minutes before an interview. You’ll find it makes an enormous difference to your state of mind, especially if you are a modest, slow starter,’ says John Lees, career coach and author of The Interview Expert.

‘Better still, phone a loved one and practise telling them why you’re the right person for the job. Just hearing a friendly voice can help calm you down.’

2. Stretch to de-stress

Hopefully you will have arrived at the interview early (leave yourself plenty of time so you don’t arrive flustered). Take this opportunity to go the bathroom and do some stretching.

Doing a few stretching exercises will loosen the body, get the oxygen flowing and will help to relieve stress. If you have limited space, clasp your hands behind your back, extend your heart forward and your elbows back and breathe deeply.

3. Calming mantra

As well as stretching and breathing deeply and slowly, now is a good time to practise some meditative techniques to help still you mentally as well as physically. John suggests repeating a phrase that works for you, such as “confident, calm and capable”.

4. Leave your coat and bags at reception

Once you check in at reception, ask if there’s somewhere you can leave your coat and bag – ideally, you just want to keep hold of your resume and portfolio/presentation material.

‘First impressions count. You want to be able to greet the interviewer calmly and confidently. You don’t want their first impression to be one of you struggling out of a chair, dropping your bag or looking flustered,’ says John.

5. Keep body movements slow and controlled

How you sit – and stand – is also important. John’s advice is to centre yourself and keep your body movements slow and controlled.

‘Look at politicians. The ones who are trusted the most are often the ones with a calm, dignified presence. Even though they may be nervous, they don’t look it because their body movements are slow and controlled.

‘Sit in a position which is comfortable but where your balance is tipped slightly forward, with one foot slightly forward of the other, exactly as you would if you were holding yourself ready to stand up quickly in one smooth motion.’

6. Stop your hands from shaking

If your hands have a tendency to shake, John suggests holding a documents folder to keep them still. If you’re offered a drink, accept a glass of water and put it to one side where you won’t accidentally knock it over. Having some water is handy in case your mouth dries up.

‘Never hold a drink in your hands or rest it on your lap. If you shake when you’re nervous, you will end up wearing it, not drinking it,’ adds John.

7. Listen carefully

When we’re under stress, we tend to not listen very well – yet listening can help with nerves.

John says: ‘Pay full attention to what the interviewer is saying and it will stop you getting caught up in your inner turmoil of wondering what on earth you’re going to say next. Plus, you’ll be able to answer their questions because you’ve actually been listening!’

8. Breathe before you speak

If you find your heart racing and have a sense of rising panic before you are about to speak, Robin Kermode, author of Speak So Your Audience Will Listen, suggests trying this exercise:

‘Breathe in through your nose very slowly for a count of three. Then breathe out through your nose for a count of three. Repeat this three times. That should take you a total of 18 seconds. In that time, you will have significantly lowered your heart rate.

‘Try this one even if your heart is not racing. It will centre you and you will feel rather like you have had a short meditation. Your mind will be calmer, you will speak more slowly and your voice will be more centred – and you can do this even when people are watching you.’

9. Speak slowly

Many people have developed bad vocal habits – from speaking too fast to mumbling and dropping the ends of their sentences, according to Robin.

‘On top of all that, when speaking in public, we also have to face the prospect of nerves affecting our voice – and one of the reason we get nervous is because the voice coming out of our mouth often isn’t our usual one.’

Make a conscious effort to speak slowly and use your everyday voice – and words and expressions you would normally use, rather than trying to come across in a particular way.

10. Practise to eliminate nerves

Finally, proper preparation helps kill nerves because you won’t have to worry about whether your answers are credible, says John.

‘Practise saying the actual words and phrases you will use to begin each answer. Nerves tend to diminish once we get into the flow of what we’re saying – it’s the first few words that trip us up.

‘By preparing some opening phrases and practising them out loud, your answers will flow and you’ll come across as confident and professional.’


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