12 Ways You Can Zap Your Job Interview Nerves

By Mike Simpson

OK, it’s “go time”.  You open the front door to the company you are about to interview with.

The floor beneath your feet is cold and unforgiving, echoing your footsteps as you make your way down the unfamiliar hallway.

Each ragged breath you draw in fills your lungs, causing your already pounding heart to skip a beat.

Sounding familiar?

You try to swallow, your tongue thick and heavy feeling, your mouth so dry you feel as though you’re crossing a thousand deserts.

Your heartbeat picks up in speed and you glance around, eyes wide and wild, convinced that someone…anyone can hear it thundering in your chest.

“Oh good,” the figure behind the desk leers at you, fingers crossed beneath their pointed chin with seemingly demonic glee.

“You’re just in time.”

No, this isn’t the start to some new blockbuster horror novel, or even the first five minutes of a really good Halloween special.

This is you…on your way to an interview…and you’re nervous.

Of course you’re nervous! Interviews can be scary things…but we’re not here to tell you why you’re nervous…no, our job is to teach you how to NOT be nervous…or at least not AS nervous as you are right now.

Hey, a few nerves are actually a good thing…definitely don’t want to go in too cocky. And we’re going to teach you how to find that balance.


Good. Now wipe your hands, they’re still clammy.

Battling Through Your Interview Nerves

Nerves are a natural response to being in a new situation. Without them, our ancient ancestors wouldn’t have lasted a heartbeat in a world much more wild than the one we’re in now. Of course, we’re no longer battling sabre-toothed tigers, but if you’re fairly new to interviewing, sitting down across the table from the hiring manager can seem to be just as scary.

First off, take a deep breath.

Hiring managers are used to nervous candidates.

It comes with the territory. So don’t think you’re accelerated heart beat is anything they haven’t seen before.

Of course, if you’re hiding behind the door holding a chair out like a lion tamer and yelling “Back, I say,” well then, we might have deeper issues here.

For those of us who aren’t hiding behind the doors, but are still feeling that all too familiar sinking in the pit of our stomachs at the mere thought of an interview, we’re here to help.

First thing we want to do is try to manage that fear.

Coming into an interview as a borderline wreck doesn’t do much to inspire confidence and you want the hiring manager to look at you and see a leader, not someone who is going to crumble the first time you’re under pressure.

There are two critical points at which you can tackle your fear; before and during the interview.

Before the Interview – 6 Tips To Get You Ready

The best part about getting an interview is you have a little bit of prep time to figure out what you need to do to get yourself under control.

First thing you have to do is give yourself a pat on the back.

Hey, they called YOU!

Clearly the company saw something in your application and/or resume that made them say, “This one might be the missing piece! Let’s bring them in and talk with them!”

Feels good to be wanted, doesn’t it? Good.

Give yourself a few minutes to bask in that glow. Breathe deeply. Fill those lungs and hold it for a minute. Don’t hold it too long, we don’t want you passing out.

Hopefully you’ve gotten the heads up for the interview with a little bit of lead time before you have to actually walk in and sit down with the interviewer.

If you have a day (or two or three) now is the time to really prep for that big moment and get yourself ready, both physically and mentally.

1) Get Plenty Of Rest

First thing you want to do is make sure you get plenty of rest. You want to go in to the interview at the top of your game and that means getting some serious shut eye the night before (or even better, during the week leading up).

Take care of yourself. You want them to look at you and see the perfect fit for the job they’re offering, and it’s hard if you can’t even keep your eyes open or if you’re so sleep deprived you’re bouncing around like a cricket on crack.

2) Get Some Exercise

Another great way to relax is through exercise.  Not only does doing exercise give you a mental edge that will help you stay on top of all of the details needed for your interview, but it also releases endorphins in your system that will naturally help calm you down.

Find yourself as a jumpy sort of nervous individual? Hit the gym first. If you’re a bottled up mass of excitement, try the treadmill or swim some laps. Need to slow down and really focus on yourself? Try some meditation or yoga.

3) Eat Right

Don’t forget the importance of eating right as well. The night before make sure to reward yourself with a good meal, but don’t to too heavy on the rich or exotic. And whatever you do, drink any alcohol in moderation…or better yet, skip it all together.

Not only can it leave you fuzzy the next day, but it’s also a diuretic and can overly dehydrate your body…which can lead to the dreaded dry mouth bad breath dilemma, among other unpleasant little side effects.

Okay, so you’ve exercised, you’ve meditated, and you’ve just finished up a fabulous meal and now you’re counting down the hours to your interview. What to do with all this spare time…what to do…

How about more prep?

4) Practice Interviewing Aloud

Role play your interview. No, you’re not psychic and we aren’t either, so what you practice won’t be 100% accurate but it will absolutely help if you can run through a simulated interview a few times before you actually do one.

Grab a friend or a family member and have them play the part of the interviewer.

If you’re interviewing with a company and you already have a friend that works there, even better! Buy them dinner and have them run you through what they went through. Then ask them if they have any advice for you and what you can do to make yourself really shine.

Mike's Tip

As you go through your mock interview, make sure you’re giving conversational style answers, not just parroting back word for word answers you’ve memorized. Remember, they’re hiring you to be a real person, not a tape recorder.  Practicing with a colleague will help ensure that when it's time for the real thing, you'll maintain your conversation tone.

5) Visualize A Successful Interview

Once that’s all done, it’s time to hit the hay and get some serious rest. Before you go to sleep, pre-visualize your interview one more time. Imagine yourself knocking it out of the ballpark and really sailing through it with no problems.

Go ahead and laugh if you want, but it’s been proven that by imagining yourself in a positive light actually does help when it’s time to do the real thing! Besides, this is YOUR imaginary interview, right?

Why not have a little fun?!

Seriously though.  If you aren’t familiar with visualization techniques, a simple Google search will give you lots of info to help you out.

6) The Morning of Your Interview

Wakey wakey, eggs and bacon!

Time to get up and get ready. As you prep for the big meeting, run through your mock interview again and really focus on being positive. Practice your breathing as you get ready and make sure you leave for your interview with plenty of time to get there.

Plan for little unexpected bumps in the road like traffic, finding parking, finding the right address, etc. The last thing you want to do is panic before you even get there because you can’t figure out which building is the right one.

If you get to the interview early, great! Don’t go in and try to bully your way to an earlier spot…take the time to focus and gather yourself.

Go to a café and get a cup of tea (stay away from the coffee… you don’t want any added jitters!) and go over your material one more time, or better yet, grab your iPod and listen to some classical and let the music calm you down.

Whatever you do, don’t go to the bar and grab some liquid courage. No. No. No. No.

During The Interview – 6 More Tips To Keep You Dialed In

It’s that time. Put down the croissant, dust off the crumbs, and put on your best smile, its interview time!

During the interview, you’re bound to still feel some nerves. It’s human nature. No matter how much you’ve prepared and practiced, you’re bound to still have a slight flutter in your stomach…and its okay! Just don’t let it overwhelm you.

1) Get In Your “Power Pose”

Just before you go in, take one last moment to really gather yourself. If you can, try the “Power Pose” for about two minutes.

According to Harvard Professor Amy Cuddy, various “power poses” don’t just change how others perceive you, Professor Cuddy says, they also immediately change your body chemistry.

Put your hands on your hips and imagine yourself as either Superman or Wonder Woman. Now remember, I said imagine…this is just to help boost your confidence and elevate your ability to project power and calmness. Don’t take it too far and zoom into the interview with your arms out like you’re flying.

Oh and one more thing.  You may want to get some privacy when using this technique, as other people in the waiting room might think you’re insane. 😉

2) Be Mindful Of Your Body Language

In the interview, try to continue to keep your cool. Body language is the number one give away when it comes to revealing nerves. To that end, make sure you’re in control. Give a firm handshake but don’t break any fingers trying to over squeeze. Alternately, try to avoid the limp fish handshake as well. Keep it simple, short, and strong.

Avoid any shifting, tapping with your hands, bouncing your legs, darting your eyes around, or any other dead giveaways of interview nerves.

3) Watch Your Pace

Don’t talk too fast. Take the time you need to answer the questions honestly and fully. This isn’t a race to see how quickly you can get out. Keep in mind again that they called you! Let them get to know you…the real you!

Don’t be afraid to stop to take a quick breath to gather your thoughts.  Just be careful not to let the pause go on for too long, let’s say, more than 5 seconds.

4) Open Your Ears

At the same time…make sure you’re listening! Listen to what the interviewer is saying as well as asking…it can provide valuable information about the job that might not have been included in the listing or any previous communications with the company.

Not only that, but listening generally means you aren’t speaking, which gives you another opportunity to gather yourself in between questions and calm yourself down.

5) Use Your Voice

Above all else, be yourself. This isn’t the time to practice your radio voice or try to make yourself sound more important, more experienced, or more qualified than you really are. You want to get hired because they want you…not who you’re pretending to be.

Your interview shouldn’t feel like you are public speaking to a large crowd.  Rather, you should be calm and collected and presenting the “version of you” that the hiring manager could expect to see if hired for the position.

6) Don’t Know An Answer? Then “Redirect

Having trouble answering a question? Rather than blowing over it or ignoring it, try redirecting it. Let’s say you get asked a question you have no experience with. Don’t panic! Rather than freezing up like a bunny on the freeway with a semi bearing down on you, take a deep breath and find a way to redirect the question to something you do know about. If they ask you about something specific to the company, try to relate it to an experience or situation you’ve had outside the company and how you dealt with that.

Mike's Tip

If you followed what we taught you in our article Job Interview Questions and Answers 101, you should have some Success Stories prepared, but more importantly, you should have a good idea of which Qualities the company covets.  If you get stuck, try to redirect your response to one of the Success Stories you know well, and make sure it highlights the Quality that your company puts a lot of value in.

If you find that you’re still feeling nervous during the interview, own up to it. It’s okay to admit that you’re a little shaky. If you start to stumble or find that you’re having difficulty with a question, it’s perfectly okay to let the interviewer know you’re a little nervous.

This will not only make you appear more human, but will also let them know that you’re owning up to being human and can, in some ways, make you more appealing and relateable.

However, you want to be careful not to go overboard.

Here’s the deal.  If you are complete wreck, the hiring manager will have second thoughts about your ability to perform under stress if they hire you.

So just make sure that you use all of the tips listed above to calm those nerves and work through it. Who knows, the person interviewing you might be just as nervous as you are!

And above all else, take the time to prepare.  More than any of the other tips combined, solid preparation will be the number one thing you can do to blast your interview nerves and nail your job interview.

About The Author

Mike Simpson

Co-Founder and CEO of TheInterviewGuys.com. Mike is a job interview and career expert and the head writer at TheInterviewGuys.com. His advice and insights have been shared and featured by publications such as Forbes, Entrepreneur, CNBC and more as well as educational institutions such as the University of Michigan, Penn State, Northeastern and others. Learn more about The Interview Guys on our About Us page.