How to handle and overcome interview nerves

Everyone gets nervous - some people thrive on their nervous energy - but when you find it difficult to perform well, you need to develop some coping mechanisms to help you get through high-stress and anxiety-inducing events like job interviews.

Remember, if you've been invited to the interview stage, you've already shown your worth to the prospective employer to some degree. You can walk into the room with confidence, safe in the knowledge that they have decided you're worth their time.

Beyond that, it's a case of convincing the hiring manager to make you a job offer. To do that, you'll need to conquer those nerves - so here are some methods to try the next time you feel your heart racing.

Top tips for getting over your interview nerves: 

1. Accept it

First and foremost, accept that feeling nervous is a natural response, and is more likely to happen the more you want the job. Take a moment to acknowledge your feelings, and then set those nerves aside and push through to give your best performance. Feeling nervous or anxious is not ideal, but it's a sign that your brain is working to solve something it perceives as a problem - and by adjusting how you interpret that, you can make sure you bring your A-game.

2. Visualise success

Visualisation techniques can help to focus your mind on success, rather than dwelling on your nerves. This method is used by top performers across all walks of life, from business to elite sports. You can start before the interview even begins: imagine walking into the room calm and in control, answering the interviewer's questions with confidence and poise, establishing good rapport with the interviewer(s) and walking out at the end satisfied with how well you did. Picturing the best-case scenario in this way can help you to keep your composure and helps you to avoid considering a worst-case outcome.

3. Practise responses

Practising common interview questions and preparing your answers might not be the most exciting part of a job search, but it helps you to perform better in interviews and can also allow you to conquer your fear of the unknown. Rehearse answers that you know you can remember and work on making your responses coherent and succinct. Recite them out loud - ideally with a friend who has interviewer experience - until you overcome any nerves associated with those most likely interview questions.

4. Prepare well

A lot of anxiety stems from a lack of preparation. Make sure you know the location of the interview and how to get there. Keep the interviewer's name and contact details handy - ideally not on a device that might run out of battery! Take all relevant documents, such as your CV, cover letter and any certificates. Set off in plenty of time to allow for delays (or getting lost, which can happen even when prepared). If you arrive early, you can use that time to compose yourself or grab a drink or snack nearby.

5. Take your time

A big mistake people make in interviews when nervous is to talk too much, too fast or too soon. When your heart is racing, your brain is too, and you might not even notice that you're operating on a faster speed than normal. Slow it down by deliberately pausing before you answer the interviewer's question. Make each point separately and succinctly, and ask the interviewer if you've covered everything they wanted to know, rather than offering rambling, runaway answers that stray into irrelevant topics.

6. Take a breath

When all else fails, pause for breath. A slow, deep breath is a great coping mechanism to reset the pace of your thinking. You can use deep breathing for a few minutes if you have time before the interview, or take a single slow breath if you feel yourself racing in the interview itself. To centre yourself even more fully, press the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth, just behind your top teeth, as you exhale.

7. Stay positive

This is really an extension of visualising success, but it's more general - work on taking an optimistic approach to interviews. Remember, you've already made it to the interview stage, so the hiring manager has seen something on your CV or cover letter that's of sufficient interest. Think about past times when you have been successful or proved your worth, especially if they're examples you can mention in your interview responses.

Putting it together

Always remember that interviews are opportunities and a challenge you can overcome. You're not there to be judged harshly and if you're not successful, it's a sign that the role wasn't right for you. If you still feel like you're not performing as well as you could, read more of our job search advice.

Take some of the anxiety out of tracking multiple applications and maintaining an up-to-date CV by moving your job search to MyPage, our all-in-one online job hunt dashboard. And if you want some direct help from our recruitment consultants, get in touch with us directly.