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How to overcome nerves before an interview

Someone is going to judge your appearance, what you say and how you say it, your mannerisms and anything else they can work out about you. Their opinion is going to determine whether or not you land this job. Whether it’s your dream career or something on the side, getting a new job is going change your life in some way. No wonder you’re nervous!

Unfortunately, serious interview nerves can sabotage your performance on the big day. Constant fidgeting, blanking out and talking too fast can all distract your interviewer from what you’re actually saying. Luckily there are some excellent ways to calm pre-interview nerves and get you looking forward to the interview (yes, really). Use the tips below to stay calm and confident on the big day.

Be prepared

This is the #1 best way to calm interview nerves! Preparation leads to confidence and confidence leaves you feeling in control. Knowing that you’re fully prepared allows you to channel nervous energy into excitement. Prepping for an interview is like training for a big game. The more you practice and prepare, the better you feel when game day rolls around.

An unfamiliar environment can add to uncertainty, which is why career professionals generally recommend that you pay at least one visit to any unfamiliar interview location in advance. Otherwise, you risk the nightmare scenario: getting lost or stuck in traffic and running into your interview late, sweaty, and flustered. Even if you know where you’re going, make sure to give yourself plenty of time to get there on the day.

Have a dress rehearsal

If you really want the job, it’s worth taking this extra step of preparation. Pick your outfit, get all your documents ready and have a friend or family member run through a mock interview with you. Brainstorm a list of questions you think they’ll ask in advance. Be prepared to answer “behavioral” style interview questions, where you’ll be asked to demonstrate specific times you have used certain skills. Let your “interviewer” give you feedback on your strengths and weaknesses and anything you need to work on before the big day.

Then take it easy

Once you have prepared, tell yourself you are ready and it’s time to relax. Spend the morning before the interview exercising, listening to energising music or watching a movie guaranteed to make you laugh. Some people even meditate or listen to motivational speeches before their interview. You could even pre-record your own pep talk. Give yourself plenty of time to get to the interview and pop into a cafe on the way to re-hydrate and freshen up.

Change your perspective

Remember that this job interview is a two-way street. You’re also interviewing the hirer to see if this job is really right for you. Instead of seeing the interview as a kind of exam, where you’re on the receiving end of an interrogation, think of it as a conversation between two people who are getting to know each other. You should want to know as much about the company as they want to know about you.

Will this job be a good match for your personality and working style? Make it less about giving a good performance and more about working out whether this is a good fit for both of you. Focusing on your needs and priorities is a great way to stay calm and in control. Do you like what you see? Do the people seem happy or not? Are people busy or not? What are the lunch facilities like? What are the IT facilities like? Looking around and asking yourself questions like these will help you retain a sense of balance.

Confidence hacks

Lastly, here a range of quick hacks for boosting confidence and reducing anxiety.

Don’t let hard questions make you nervous – Some questions will be designed to surprise you and stress you out. Don’t feel like you need to launch into an answer straightaway. Often, they’ll be more interested in how you react. It’s perfectly fine to ask them to repeat the question or tell them you’d like to take a moment to think of a good example. If the question is ridiculous, like how high is the Harbour Bridge, imagine you are discussing the concept with friends. Stay relaxed and just think about how you could work this out. They’re not looking for a perfect answer, they’re checking how well you keep calm and think of ideas under pressure. Slow down and don’t be afraid of pauses. If you race to fill every silence too quickly, you might blurt something out you’ll regret. Try not to feel self-conscious about pausing. Interviewers expect you to stop and think before answering complex questions.

Power posing – This simple 2-minute body language trick can instantly boost your confidence and improve your interview performance. “Power posing” is all about posing like a superhero for two minutes before your interview. It might sound silly but it works. Just stand stall and strong with hands on hips and legs confidently apart for two minutes. A recent study found that power posing led to significant increases in testosterone (the dominance hormone) and drops in cortisol (the stress hormone). This technique literally changes your body chemistry. A follow-up experiment looked specifically at job interviews. The “high-power” posers were overwhelmingly chosen by the interviewers as hiring material. For more info, watch Amy Cuddy’s Ted talk on body language here.

Visualization – Athletes use this technique all the time. If you start to feel nervous, picture yourself in the waiting room looking calm and confident. Imagine meeting the hiring manager and making a great first impression. Vividly feel the strong positive emotions you would feel knowing that you had aced the interview. Linking the positive feeling with the visual will give you the best results. This works even better if you do it a little bit each day during the days leading up to the interview. On the actual day it will be easier to recall that image and feeling of positivity and success.

Breathing – If you start to feel panicked, make a conscious effort to stop and focus on your breath. Pause and take a deep breath to centre yourself. Anxiety leads to fast, shallow breathing, so by forcing yourself to slow down your breaths, your body will start to relax. Anxiety is just a physical reaction in the body. Don’t judge yourself for being nervous, just realise that it’s a completely normal response to a stressful situation. It’s important to return focus to the breath and give yourself time to relax.

Interviews can be really positive, and even fun. Just remember all the great things you have to offer, and that you’re checking out the company as much as they’re checking out you. You got this.