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.’