How to Cope with Interview Nerves and Pressure – [Guest Post]

Interview nerves can do funny things to people. I’ve seen many capable candidates fold under pressure. So what can you do to give yourself the best chance of success?

1)     Prepare your mind and body beforehand

2)     Have some emergency measures up your sleeve

Prepare you mind and body beforehand

  • Get into a regular & healthy sleeping pattern (7 hours’ sleep as a minimum)
  • Exercise 3 times a week for a month prior to your interview
  • Eat healthily & moderate your alcohol content
  • Plan relaxation time & spend time outdoors & with family and friends
  • Practise the interview exercises you will perform on the day
  • Get a great night’s sleep on the eve of your interview or assessment day
  • Exercise for at least one hour on the morning of your interview
  • Get to your interview venue at least 1 hour earlier than is necessary
  • Make sure you have water & snacks with you to keep your energy high throughout the day

Practical Emergency Measures You Can Use On The Day

For a minority of people, interview nerves turn into severe anxiety that can take control to such a degree that they feel crippled. Here’s a couple of strategies you can use if you find yourself in this position:

  • Regulate your breathing – Breathe in through your nose and count to 7. Breathe out through your mouth and count to 11. You might find it difficult at first, if you’re feeling very nervous, but after a minute or two you will feel better as CO2 and oxygen levels become balanced again inside your body.
  • Take a toilet break – Seriously, if you’re feeling stressed while at your interview or assessment, just head to the restroom (even if you don’t use the facilities). It may sound silly, but having a few moments to yourself in a bathroom cubicle can give you a badly-needed break from the constant feeling of being ‘under scrutiny’.  The simple act of securing a few moments to yourself in private can give you a chance to clear your head and return to the interview feeling more focused and relaxed.
  • Use your posture and physiological triggers to your advantage – Sitting up straight will help prevent your interview nerves from making you tense and stop your chest getting tight.
  • Smile often: Not only does this project a relaxed and confident image to your interviewers, but it sets off a chain reaction of hormones inside your body which will help you feel more relaxed and positive.
  • Men should consider wearing a shirt with a collar that’s half an inch “too big”. (Especially if you’re wearing a tie.) If you’re usually a 15” collar, buy a 15.5” shirt for your interview. This gives you a little breathing room, metaphorically and literally, as the throat often becomes engorged with blood when anxiety sets in and this can lead to discomfort and unpleasant feelings that you can do without.

If you do only one of these things…

Exercise for at least one hour in the morning before your interview or assessment day. Get up early if you have to. Exercising not only burns off any negative energy you may be carrying, but it also replaces that negative and anxious energy with a supply of endorphins (peptides released by your pituitary gland that produce a feeling of well-being).

Feeling relaxed and confident on the day hinges on the quality and amount of preparation you do. Interview nerves can be banished with the right groundwork.

Mike Kennedy spent 15 years working and recruiting for some of the biggest corporate employers in the UK, including BSkyB, Emap, Unilever, the BBC and News International. Mike’s site offers expert advice to job-hunters hoping to learn how to succeed at interviews and assessment days.

For more interview and assessment day success guides (covering areas like: presentations, psychometric testing, role-plays, group exercises etc), head over to Mike’s site at


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