I just found “why do I get so nervous during job interviews?” among the search terms used to get to this blog. In fact, there are quite a few of you looking for help with job interview nerves. Clearly, being really stressed out by the interview process is not an isolated problem. (To say the least.)
So why do job interviews make us feel really nervous, even if we know we’d be great for the job? A good question indeed. I’ll do my best to come up with some answers. And offer tips to help you fight those annoying nerves that may be keeping you from the job you want.
Job interviews stress all of us
The situation itself puts us out of our comfort zone. None of us like to give up control to others when it comes to something as important as your career. And almost everyone gets nervous during interviews to one extent or another — sometimes even the interviewer is nervous!
I hope it helps to learn that most interviewers expect you to be at least a little nervous. But for some of us, the mere thought of being on the answer end of an interview question makes our nerves run wild — way beyond a little nervous! And that can be a problem.
Actors are usually told to take their nerves and turn them into performance energy. It would be great if we could do this in interviews. And it’s worth trying. But of course we don’t get to rehearse our exact words the way actors do. For most of us, the only thing we gain from a bad case of interview nerves is a strong desire to run!
Worst of all … as much as we want to gain control of ourselves and our nerves during an interview, the more we try to control our nerves, the less relaxed we are. But of course what we want more than anything during interviews is to relax and just be ourselves.
Luckily there are some things you can do to help. But first let’s answer the question I found…
Reasons you get nervous
- It’s scary and uncomfortable being judged.
- It’s scary and uncomfortable being the focus and having to come up with good answers for whatever they ask you.
- You don’t know what they’re going to ask.
- You don’t know for sure if what you say is a good answer.
- Maybe you don’t like talking about yourself.
- Or you don’t feel comfortable “selling” yourself.
- You don’t interview every day and so you aren’t sure you know how to do it well.
- Maybe you desperately need a job.
- Or you worry that if you don’t get this job there may not be another chance any time soon.
- And you worry that you’ll sound stupid.
- You worry there’s something about you or your background they’ll hate.
- You have no idea exactly what they’re looking for.
- And you hate the idea of being rejected based on just one short meeting.
- You think you have to be more than you are.
Getting past interview fear
Luckily there are ways to help you get enough past the fear to still give a great interview despite your nerves. Actors for instance use those nerves to motivate a more energized and exciting performance. No reason you can’t do that too if you’re nervous during job interviews.
First and foremost, it helps to demystify that which we can’t control. So make sure to give yourself a better understanding of the hiring process in general — including what goes on behind the scenes.
Add to that stronger interview skills plus a belief in yourself and your abilities. Also really important, a clear picture of how you match what the employer is looking for.
Posts to help (calming tips below):
Tips to fight interview nerves
And finally, if you don’t feel like reading any of those posts (although I hope you read at least a few of them since they give a more detailed understanding), here are some quick tips I hope will at least help calm some of those interview nerves:
- Do relaxation exercises the night before, when you wake up the morning of the interview, and right before the interview. Gentle, slow deep breathing (in four, hold seven, out eight) is a very good way to help relax your body.
- Visualize the interview going well and everyone smiling and shaking hands afterward. (You may want to do this a few times prior to the actual interview day.)
- Practice interviewing beforehand with the help of friends and/or family. Practice a lot until you start to feel more comfortable talking about yourself.
- Research the company as much as possible to help you feel on top of things and answer intelligently. This will also help you come up with good questions to ask.
- Prepare stories ahead of time that speak to the employer’s needs and not simply toward your wants or interests. (Best of all is when they coincide.)
Now that you’ve done all that, on the day of the interview … trust in yourself and let it all go. It’s already inside you and will be there when you need it. Remember to
- Be in the moment (not thinking ahead or about what was just said).
- Listen carefully to what you’re asked.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if you need it.
- And most of all just be yourself. (I know from my own experience as an interviewer, this will help make the interview better for everyone.)
You are fine exactly as you are and have things to offer your potential employer that no one else can. Your only job during the interview is to help them see who you really are. You don’t have to be anyone else.
And if nothing else works…
Give yourself permission to fail. That’s right … tell yourself it’s ok if you answer every single question completely wrong and come out looking like a complete idiot. You might also tell yourself this is just practice (and it doesn’t really matter) to help ease some of the tension. Then just say “what the heck,” be yourself, and go for it!
You don’t have to be perfect to get hired —
Who knows what perfect means to them anyway?
They just want a real person who can do the job!
More posts to help
[Post updated 2020]
About the author…
Ronnie Ann, founder of Work To the Wise and Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development, as well as her many adventures as a serial job seeker.