How to remain calm at your job interview

content stay calm job interview

Interviews have a strange effect on even the most confident and experienced people – nerves take over.

They are part of our stress response when we perceive a threat – perhaps a threat to future plans that depend on getting the job or a dislike of being in the spotlight. When your brain perceives a threat, it can trigger an automatic fight or flight reaction. However, fleeing from the room or fighting with the interviewer is not appropriate, so panic sets in. This can result in behaviour such as freezing, your mind going blank or talking too much, all of which sabotage your performance. Good preparation and the right mindset will help overcome these reactions.  

Reduce the threat level

Prepare thoroughly. Interviews these days use competency-based questions which need you to use real life examples to answer the questions effectively. Your brain needs time to drag these examples from the depths of your memory, organise the information and choose the most appropriate one. The interview is not the time or place for this. Use the job description, to anticipate the topics to prepare plus the commonly asked questions. Good preparation will prime your brain to focus on the interview answers and not a perceived threatening situation. Practice your answers with a trusted friend or career coach because the more you practice, the more comfortable and confident you become in an interview situation. This further reduces the perceived threat level, therefore minimising your nerves and stress response. 

Manage your thoughts

Humans naturally focus on negative factors and candidates are good at noticing how they do not match the job criteria. This can lead to feelings of not being good enough and anxiety about how to convince the interviewer to hire them. Remember, it is rare to find a candidate who is 100% match to the criteria and the recruiter has called you for interview because they are confident you already have what it takes to do the job and has seen something in your application which interests them. You do not need to convince them. 

Your brain will focus on your dominant thought. If you are thinking “don’t trip going up the stairs”, guess what? You are highly likely to trip up the stairs. If you feel unworthy of the job, your negative thoughts will affect your vibe in terms of body posture, tone of voice and language used. The interviewer may subconsciously pick up your negativity and reject you.

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Think of a time when you were really confident and visualise it in as much detail as possible, including body posture and tone of voice. Also, write down a list of positive things others have said about you. Have faith in your abilities, look in the mirror and tell yourself “you can do this, you are the best candidate for the job, relax” then smile. Smiling will brighten your mood and trick your brain into feelings of happiness and relaxation. Keep positive images and messages in your mind as you enter the interview room. This will help you convey a confident attitude.  

Body language

Just before the interview breathe in deeply through your nose and exhale through your mouth several times. This is another excellent way to calm the nerves. Shoulders back, head up and smile to yourself. When you are introduced to the interviewers, give them good eye contact and smile again. This will help relax both yourself and the interviewer (who are often nervous themselves). If you are meeting face-to-face and handshakes are appropriate, be firm and confident. No-one likes a limp handshake and could lose you the role before the first question is asked. Be sensible, a bone crusher will not impress either.    

Remember, it is just a business meeting, a two-way conversation. What is the worst that could happen? You don’t get the job. You learn from the experience and move on to apply for another role.  

Believe in yourself and your abilities, be well prepared and maintain a positive frame of mind. If you feel your nerves taking hold during the interview, pause, breathe deeply, smile and carry on.  

This article is written by Michelle Hiseman, Career Counsellor at CV Writers. 

CV Writers are the official CV partner to ACCA Careers. 

In addition to a CV writing service they can help with LinkedIn profiles, cover letters, career counselling and interview coaching. You can get things started with a Free CV Review.

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