Interview nerves? No problem! Here’s our top advice

At the Careers Service, we appreciate how stressful and daunting interviews can be. Remember, though: everyone who has a job has been through the same hoops – and interviews can be pressurised for both parties, as the interviewer is keen to get the best out of their candidates and make a good hire. That’s why we’re bringing you our top tips for handling interview nerves, straight from the minds of a group of our experienced careers advisers

In the days before the interview 

‘Treat it like an oral exam,’ says Amanda Norman, careers adviser on publishing, teaching and charity careers. ‘Sit with the selection criteria for a while, then write out examples of what you have done that demonstrate you meet each of the criteria, and summarise the evidence/facts and write these on revision cards. Visualising this ahead of the interview will help these points naturally flow into your mind as you are asked questions.’

‘Identify which question you would most not like to be asked, and prepare for it’, suggests Mary Blackman, careers adviser specialising in banking, consultancy and economics here at the CS. ‘That way, if you get asked it, you will be ready, and if you don’t, the very fact that you are ready for the worst question will make you more confident about the whole interview.’

‘If you have obvious physical symptoms of nervousness, plan for them,’ says postdoc careers adviser Anne Forde. ‘Red neck? Wear a high collar or scarf. Shaky hands? Hold a pen, or lean lightly on a desk. Sweaty hands? Discreetly wipe your hands against your clothes or inside your pockets before you shake hands with the interviewer(s). Dry mouth? Bring some water in your bag.’

On the day of the interview

‘Don’t arrive in a flap – allow yourself plenty of time to get to the interview so you have time to settle down,’ says Catherine Alexander, careers adviser focused on arts and heritage and media careers. ‘And drink water beforehand – not too much, but enough to be properly hydrated. A hydrated brain is sharper and works better than a dehydrated one.’

Struggling with nerves as you wait? ‘Let the adrenaline of nervous energy become your friend; it focuses the mind,’ advises Anne. ‘Accept the unpleasant feelings you have – they will settle and then you will perform better than if you were in a relaxed state. Visualise getting the job and enjoying it before you enter the interview, to help you feel on top of anxiety.’

In the interview

‘Breathe!’ says Catherine, ‘Take a few deep breaths before going in and at least one deep breath before launching into any answer. It will steady your heartrate and help you to relax.’

Act confident,’ Amanda adds ‘– shoulders back, smile on your face – if you do this you will give a good first impression and start to believe it yourself!’

‘Sit square in the chair to stop yourself looking and feeling nervous – if your legs are crossed and your body is at an angle you will jiggle around more, which will make you look and feel less confident,’ shares Krista Cooper, careers adviser on banking and finance. ‘Sitting square makes you look secure and confident, and having your feet flat on the floor will help you feel grounded.’

Stuck on a question? ‘Buy yourself some thinking time by sipping water or by asking if it is ok to take off your jacket – this last one can buy you a good 15-20 seconds,’ adds Mary.

‘Finally, remember: the interviewers genuinely want to meet you and to hear what you have to say’ says Krista, ‘they want you to do well, so it’s useful to visualise this as a two-way exchange of information.’

Explore the Careers Service’s Lent Term Card here

Got any useful tips of your own for interview preparation? Comment below, and find more of our guidance on interviews, including resources to complete virtual practice interviews and in-person practice sessions at the Careers Service, via our website


Careers Service | major events this Lent

What’s coming up from the Careers Service this Lent 2019? Don’t miss our major events, panels, Career Essentials sessions and more – get these dates in your diary!

Data Science Event | 30 January, 1-5pm, Hauser Forum

An excellent opportunity to meet with Data Scientists from a wide range of areas. Gain insight into what their jobs entail, which skills are needed, and how you can explore what this career offers.
RSVP on Facebook for updates in the run-up to the event.

Comms & Creative Event | 6 February, 3-6pm, University Centre

Learn about job opportunities, career paths and the realities of a media career! Participants range from freelancers to large organisations, who will discuss their own careers and the companies they represent.
RSVP on Facebook for updates in the run-up to the event.

Work to Change the World | 7 February, 3-6pm, University Centre

Explore possible career paths beyond the purely commercial and conventional – business-with-a-difference, charity work, conservation and the environment, human rights and health, international and UK Development, the public sector and research.
RSVP on Facebook for updates in the run-up to the event.

Tap into our website to find the Careers Service’s full diary

Cam Connect | 21 February, 3-6pm, University Centre

Cam Connect – Local Enterprise and Technology, is a chance to meet some of the firms in Cambridge’s Silicon Fen.

Start-Up Event | 21 February, 3-6pm, University Centre

Interested in working with a start-up? This informal ‘pop-up’ event runs alongside Cam Connect (see above). A selection of start-ups from around Cambridge and further afield attend to chat about their opportunities for full time roles or shorter-term projects/summer internships.

Top tip: in the days before the event, be sure to consult our website so you can research the companies/individuals attending!

Look out for our Term Card in your pidge (link to the PDF here), and access our diary online now to explore our events, book onto our Career Essentials sessions, and much more:
We look forward to seeing you soon.

Lent Term at the Careers Service

Happy New Year, all!

The Careers Service is delighted to share its Lent Term programme with you. Look out for our Term Card, pictured above, in your pidge (link to the PDF here), and access our diary online now to explore our events, book onto our Career Essentials sessions, and much more:

First and second years: don’t miss our Open House on 24 January for an opportunity to meet us, attend brief careers talks, grab our top publications and enjoy some cake! RSVP on Facebook for updates.

We look forward to seeing you in 2019!

With best wishes from the Careers Service

“What’s the plan after university?” – Careers Vacation Survival Pack

Hollie Berman, finalist in English from Murray Edwards College, shares how the Careers Service can support you this vacation, and beyond

Finalists: we’ve all been there. Providing a detailed plan of your working life to your Great Aunt Esmeralda over the dinner table is just not the one after a term of Cambridge. It’s time to bring out the survival pack. Like every great kit, not everything will be immediately useful, but it’s all definitely worth having.

Illustrated by Hollie Berman

Take a breather

Firstly, relax! The vacation is a designated period for things to slow down and for you to take it easy. Should you like it to be, this is a perfect window to consider your options post-graduation, at a pace that works best for you.

Know your skillsets

At this time of the year, many finalists are unsure what the next year will bring. Instead of heading into the cold abyss of panicking about ‘the future’, have a think about the skills you have developed from your subject, or even any extra-curriculars you have taken part in. For example, “I enjoy the creativity of my English degree, so I’d definitely like to work in a creative industry”. Voila! You have a go-to response, and a refined direction to keep you warm.

Explore sectors and vacancies

If you have a few more ideas about what you might like to do after university but can’t quite pinpoint a definite answer, use this time to explore your options. The Careers Service offers an A-Z list of career sectors and current employment opportunities, so have a look through and filter out the things you are definitely not interested in, the things you would be interested in exploring, and the things that excite you the most. You can then chime out the answer, “I’m looking at careers in Media, but also in Conservation at the moment”, with confidence.

Consider further study

Perhaps you’re thinking about, or even applying for, further study. Use the string to connect the dots from your current degree to a new academic destination. If you’re still seeking study inspiration, explore course opportunities both in the UK and abroad via the Careers Service’s website.

Access advice and network from home

If you have a clear idea of the next chapter, but are concerned about how you’re going to get there, now is a great time to access useful services from home, such as the Careers Service’s CVs & Applications Book. You can also access GradLink to connect with alumni who are currently working in your chosen field. These are valuable ways to feel in control and well-informed about your next steps.

Research a gap year

A lot of people will also be using this time to decide whether looking for immediate employment is right for them. The Careers Service can also provide information on planning your year ahead on this route. Bring out the map, and consider what you would like to get out of a gap year. You might find that talking to people around you at home will inspire you, too.

Stay connected

The best way to find out about future events (and to scroll productively) is to connect with the Careers Service on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even LinkedIn. You can also subscribe to receive sector-specific emails via CamCareers.

Listen to careers recordings

Recordings of previous careers talks are also available on the website, so there’s no need to feel as though you have missed out on previous events or information from the past term!

Note down Lent events and 1:1s

That being said, keep an eye out for important careers dates for Lent, and note those of specific interest to you (see below). You can also book an appointment to speak to a Careers Adviser about your options once you return back to Cambridge after the vacation.

Explore our full Lent 2019 Term Card here

A comprehensive list of our Lent events and sessions will be advertised on our website and via Facebook Event Pages in January.









* Information taken from 2016/2017 graduate data

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