8 Tips For Staying Calm In A Job Interview

By Gerald Walsh ©

Everybody gets a bit nervous before or during an interview. So you’re not alone. For some, it will be very minor like experiencing a dry mouth or slight shortness of breath. For others, it will be more noticeable like trembling hands or a shaky voice.

Why does this happen?

For most people, interview anxiety is caused by the belief that the stakes are high. We believe that getting the job will help solve some (or many) of our problems. It means we can pay our bills, buy a new house, complete a move to a new city, or get out of a bad job situation.

We also know that the interview is very much a make-or-break situation, especially the first interview. We know that if we blow that interview by being nervous, we will not likely get a second chance. That thought-process creates a lot of stress on the body.

While you may not be able to fully overcome your interview anxiety, here are eight tips that can help you stay calm:


1. Be prepared.

This is the single most effective way to cope with interview anxiety. Coming in with your research complete and ready to explain how your skills and qualifications line up with the job that you’re applying for will make you feel confident. You should also learn about the people who are interviewing you by researching their bios. Believe me, you will impress an interviewer if you can mention something about their background.

2. Know that you are a good candidate.

You may not get the job in the end but don’t forget: someone has read your cover letter and resume and decided they would like to meet you. Interviewers don’t want to waste their time or anyone else’s. Knowing that you are a candidate worth meeting should give you a boost of confidence going into an interview. 

3. Eliminate the possibility of any last minute panic.

Take care of everything the day before such as printing extra copies of your resume, figuring out your wardrobe and making sure that your clothes are clean and pressed. It’s also wise to map out your route so you know where you’re going and how long it will take you to get there.

4. Rehearse.

Ask a friend, family member, or mentor to play the role of the interviewer and conduct a mock interview with you. Critique your answers and ask your friend or family member to do the same. Like most things, the more we practice the better we become. Also consider videotaping your mock interview to observe your body language.

5. Think of the interview as a two-way conversation.

Remember, although you are excited about the job, it is possible you will decline an offer in the end if it is not right for you. From your point of view, the interview is an opportunity to determine if you will like the people, if the salary is in line with what you want, and if the work will be satisfying and challenging. It’s comforting to know that while the employer is deciding whether you are the right fit for them, you are deciding whether the job is the right fit for you. 

6. Don’t say you’re nervous.

There’s no value in saying you’re nervous. It will simply make you appear less confident. Remember, a little anxiety (if well controlled) can actually be a good thing and within a few minutes you will have worked through it.

7. Wear your favourite clothes.

Let’s face it, we all have clothes we feel better in. Maybe it’s the shape, the style, or a colour that makes us look better. Choose clothes that make you feel good and comfortable. If you have to wear a tie, make sure that your shirt collar size is large enough that you don’t strangle yourself when you button the top button of your shirt. This is not the time to experiment with a new look. 

8. Practise relaxation techniques.

Exercise helps me relax. When I have something important going on, I always go for a run or workout that morning. I know that if I have exercised and broken a sweat, my body and my mind will feel great. For you, it might be a brisk walk in a park, quiet time in private, or even meditation. Understand what makes you feel good and do those things before an interview.

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Gerald Walsh is an executive recruiter, career coach, public speaker and author. During a 25+ year career, he has interviewed more than 15,000 job candidates, completed hundreds of successful searches for a range of organizations and guided many individuals – from young professionals to senior executives – to successful career change. He is the author of “PINNACLE: How to Land the Right Job and Find Fulfillment in Your Career.” You can follow Gerry on Twitter @@Gerald_Walsh and LinkedIn.