How to Overcome Job Interview Nerves

Ways to minimize stress when interviewing

Interview Nerves Hero
Is the thought of doing an interview causing you anxiety? If you’re feeling nervous about an upcoming interview, these expert tips can help you relax so you make the best possible first impression.

Calm your interview nerves.

Chapter 1: What Is Interview Anxiety?

Chapter 2: Is It Normal to Experience Nervousness?

Chapter 3: Coping Strategies for Interview Nerves

Chapter 4: Prioritizing Self-Care

Chapter 5: The Power of Positive Thinking

Chapter 6: No Substitute for Preparation

Chapter 7: Other Popular Ways to Destress

Chapter 8: Dealing with Post-Interview Nerves

Chapter 9: Channeling Your Stress for Good

What Is Interview Anxiety?

Interview anxiety is when a person experiences elevated levels of worry relating to an upcoming interview. While it’s wonderful you’ve been offered an interview, that positive news is often accompanied by a wave of anxiety. You may have applied for a new job, asked for a promotion, or applied for admission into an educational or professional development program. Your interview may take place in-person, via video interview (pre-recorded or live), or on the telephone. No matter what type of interview you’re about to participate in, nerves can wash over you, shaking your much-needed confidence. Since everyone experiences stress differently, interview anxiety can take many forms. Symptoms can be physical, physiological, mental, emotional, or some combination.

Some typical responses to anxiety can include:

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Tension in the neck and shoulders

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Racing heart

Upset Stomach Icon

Upset stomach

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Sweaty palms

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Flushed face

Dry Mouth Icon

Dry mouth

Clenched Jaw Icon

Clenched jaw

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Shaky voice

Is It Normal to Experience Nervousness?

Let us reassure you that interview nerves are 100% normal. Nearly everyone experiences them.

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93% of people feel anxiety related to job interviews.

There are lots of reasons why people get pre-interview nerves. The most common reason is because you really want to ace the interview. You’re generally nervous because you don’t want to mess up, and that’s totally understandable!

Interview anxiety originates from the pressure to perform well. The more you genuinely want to succeed, the more nervousness you may feel. Unsurprisingly, these feelings are tied to performance anxiety and the knowledge that you’re being evaluated by others. Whenever we face the possibility of rejection, anxiety can soar.

Another common scenario when anxiety may pop up is when you’re interviewing for a new job while you’re still employed. You may be fearful that your current employer will find out, or nervous about having to ask for time off work to accommodate the interview. One solution to this concern is to ask the recruiter if there’s an option for a pre-recorded video interview. This allows you the flexibility to record answers to interview questions whenever and wherever you feel most comfortable—without arousing suspicion from your employer. This simple scheduling convenience can help reduce your anxiety.

While interview nerves typically hit applicants the hardest, even interviewers may experience this phenomenon. Depending on hiring expectations, deadlines, and other professional (and personal) circumstances, recruiters and hiring managers can feel nervous, too. This is especially true for those early in their career, but even seasoned professionals who’ve been interviewing most of their lives sometimes get nervous.

Take comfort in knowing we’re all human beings who experience a wide-range of perfectly normal feelings.

Cassandra Thompson, Career Strategist & Speaker at Cass Tompson Career & Business Consulting
“Interviewers understand you’re going to be nervous, so don’t be scared if it shows a bit. It means you care and want the position. To help get your nerves under control, practice your answers out loud as much as possible beforehand! Practice really does help.”
Cassandra Thompson CAREER STRATEGIST & SPEAKER Cass Thompson Career & Business Consulting

Coping Strategies for Interview Nerves

Since everyone experiences anxiety slightly differently, certain strategies tend to be more effective in calming interview nerves than others. What works best will depend on your unique personality and situation.

Some people are naturally more resilient to stress, or they’ve already developed effective coping mechanisms to keep their worries at bay. Other people (especially those who are new to interviewing) will need to devote more conscientious time to adequately destress before their interview.

Common strategies to calm your nerves include:

Prioritizing proper sleep, exercise, and nutrition

Practicing positive thinking

Proactively reducing potential stressors

Preparing for the interview well in advance

Researching popular interview questions

Rehearsing your answers and prepping anecdotes

Working with a career coach

Listening to music

Journaling

And more!

We encourage you to experiment with different stress-busting techniques to find a combination of strategies that helps you feel most at ease.

Prioritizing Self-Care

Let’s begin with the basics. In order to perform well during your interview, you need to take care of yourself. That means tending to your most basic needs: sleep, movement, and nutrition.

Get Enough Sleep—But Not Too Much

Stress and sleep are closely related. If you’re stressed out about an upcoming interview, you might lose sleep worrying about it. And when you don’t get enough sleep, your anxiety can reach new heights. It’s easy to fall into a vicious cycle of sleep deprivation that can sap our energy levels and brain power when we need them most.
Get Seven to Nine Hours of Sleep

Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep to function their best.

If you’re suffering from stress-related insomnia, pay attention to your daytime routine. Is it time to ditch that afternoon caffeine fix? It’s likely not helping your anxiety or your sleep patterns. If you usually go to bed late at night, try slipping into the sheets an hour or so earlier than you typically would. Other sleep tips include establishing a new, relaxing bedtime routine, and/or rolling out a “screen-free” rule for your bedroom. Blue wavelengths from your phone are proven to negatively affect sleep. A word of caution: don’t fall into the trap of sleeping too much either. Oversleeping is a common (often unconscious) attempt to avoid dealing with anxiety. This stress reaction stems from self-protection, but ultimately does not serve your best interests. Try your best to get out of bed and address your worries head on. The night before your scheduled interview, go to bed nice and early, increasing your chances of being well-rested the next day. Make sure you don’t oversleep and miss it! Double-check the volume of your alarm, and that you’ve set the correct time (e.g. – A.M., not P.M.). Give yourself a little extra time in the morning to get ready so you’re not rushed.

Move Your Body

Our bodies need rest, yes, but they also need movement. Exercise helps us expend pent-up nervous energy. Moreover, it releases feel-good endorphins to improve our moods, and it cleans up mental cobwebs so we can think more clearly. Exercise is a no-brainer when it comes to improving our overall health and stress management leading up to an interview. Human bodies generally need a mix of aerobic and strength training exercises for good health.* Aim for muscle-strengthening activities two or more days a week, and couple that with aerobic activity several times per week. The amount of time needed depends on the intensity of the workout, but as a general rule, aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most days (except during illness or injury).
150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week Moderate Aerobic Activity Illustration
75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week Vigorous Aerobic Activity Illustration
A combination of moderate and vigorous activity
Moderate Aerobic Activity Illustration Vigorous Aerobic Activity Illustration

*Consult with your doctor if you have concerns before beginning any exercise program.

Going for a walk outside is especially effective in reducing pre-interview nerves because, in addition to exercise, you can get fresh air and your daily dose of vitamin D, too. Depending on the weather and where you live, a nature hike can do wonders to help clear your head and pacify negative emotions. Just make sure you leave enough time to look presentable for your interview after you’ve exercised.

Eat a Balanced Diet

Food is fuel! What we eat and drink influences how we feel both physically and mentally. But it’s not uncommon for people to either overeat or undereat because of stress. That’s why proper nutrition plays an important role in managing your interview-related nerves.
33% of Adults Overeat Because It Helps Distract Them From Stress

33% of adults overeat or eat unhealthy foods because it helps distract them from stress.

30% of Adults Skips Meals due to Stress

30% of adults report skipping a meal due to stress (either no appetite or no time).

When you’re stressed, it’s almost second nature to reach for heavy, calorically-dense foods. These “comfort foods” (like macaroni and cheese) tend to leave people feeling temporarily satisfied, but then bloated and tired. For this reason, avoid eating a big meal before your interview. You want to be alert and ready for anything. That said, it’s not wise to go into an interview on a completely empty stomach either. You don’t want to be light-headed from not eating or struggling to hear your thoughts over your growling stomach. On the day of your interview, have a healthy breakfast. It really is the most important meal of the day! If your interview isn’t until later in the day, you should also plan to eat a light lunch or snack. Check your teeth in the mirror after you’ve eaten to ensure your smile is interview ready. If you usually drink coffee, have one (but not five!) on interview day. If you drink too much, your heart will race, intensifying your anxiety. If you try to quit caffeine on the morning of your interview, you may experience withdrawal symptoms. This isn’t the time to quit cold turkey. And while we’re talking drinks: hopefully this goes without saying, but it’s never a good idea to have an alcoholic drink before an interview, even if you think it will “relax” you.

The Power of Positive Thinking

Now let’s talk about headspace. Getting in a good frame of mind is critical for interview success. But our desire to succeed can introduce disproportionate worry. Our imaginations are very good at dreaming up all sorts of “worst case scenarios” and “what ifs” that aren’t likely to occur. While it’s easy to jump to conclusions and catastrophize things, try to catch your negative thinking when it arises and challenge unfair assumptions. Focus on positive, encouraging self-talk instead. Here are ways to start thinking more positively:
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Try meditation or a relaxation app like Headspace to cultivate mindfulness and self-compassion.

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Use the STOP technique to gain perspective and defuse anxiousness. This simple and quick mental trick can help you manage stress in real-time, so feel free to use this strategy before, during, and after your interview.

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Make a gratitude list and/or give yourself a pep talk. There are likely many positive things happening in your life (including an interview invitation!). Take a second to pump yourself up instead of psyching yourself out.

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Practice visualization. Imagine you’ve already earned the interviewer’s attention and trust. They’re keen to hear what you have to say. Better yet, imagine you already have the job! Close your eyes and think about what you’d do on your first day of work. Make note of how the visualization made you feel, as well as any questions that pop to mind.

As your interview approaches, remember that you’ve been asked to attend because you show potential. Stay in good spirits and resist the temptation to “fear”cast. You can’t predict the future, but you can prepare for it.

There’s No Substitute for Preparation

Want to know the #1 tip for overcoming interview nerves? It’s being prepared! Proper preparation can help you feel more sure of yourself, so you can project confidence during your interview. When you’re asked to interview for a position, we encourage you to put on your detective hat and research everything you can about the employer. Who are the key players within the organization? What are the company’s mission, vision, and values? What products or services do they offer, and who is their target audience/market? While you’re certainly not expected to know everything about an employer, most interviewers expect you to have done your homework. Arm yourself with knowledge, and experience the many benefits.
Ashley Watkins Certified Resume Writing at WriteStepResumes
“You can generally find the name of the hiring manager by searching for a position title + XYZ company on LinkedIn. Once you’ve found them, look for commonalities in career trajectory, professional associations, or hobbies and use this information to spark a connection. I wouldn’t recommend sending a friend request on social networks like Facebook just yet since you don’t want to overstep. Always proceed with caution.”
Ashley Watkins CERTIFIED RESUME WRITER & JOB SEARCH AND INTERVIEW COACH writestepresumes.com
In addition to pre-interview research, there are other actions you can take to get ready. Prepare everything you may need for your interview no later than the night before your interview (ideally, well in advance). For example, choose a professional outfit that you know you’ll feel good wearing. This will alleviate indecision the morning of your interview, so you can focus instead on creating a good first impression.

What you choose to bring or not bring to your interview is a personal decision, but common items include:

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A copy of your resume/CV

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Pen and paper (a small notebook is best; don’t bring loose sheets of paper that can easily be misplaced or fall out of order)

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A copy of the job description

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Depending on the position, your portfolio or writing samples

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Name and contact information for one-three references

If you’ve been invited to a digital interview, don’t fret! You can learn absolutely everything you need to prepare yourself for success with these video interview tips. This one-stop ultimate guide provides a free tech check and expert advice to ace your virtual interview. We encourage you to read it to increase your preparedness.

Other Popular Ways to Destress

In this article, we’ve discussed many different tactics people often use to calm their nerves. Here are more strategies for those experiencing interview anxiety:

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Reduce the magnitude of the event in your mind. While your interview is of course important, sometimes it’s helpful to temporarily depreciate that importance a little. Think of the interview as just an exciting chance to network and meet new people. This easy-going approach to interviewing can help you relax enough to perform well.

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Listen to music. It reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The type of music you choose will depend on personal taste and your mood. Some people like to listen to calming music or soothing soundscapes before an interview, while others opt for high-energy music. A global survey found that when people listened to their favorite song, 75% felt lower stress.

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Practice aloud. To ease interview nerves, 70% practice their interview responses out loud, and 62% prepare anecdotes ahead of time.

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Try a power pose. A power pose is a stance where you keep your head held high and your chest lifted with your arms either outstretched or firmly on your hips—like a superhero might stand! Amazingly, power poses can provide a 25% decrease in cortisol levels while helping you appear confident and ready for the job.

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Breathe! When you’re anxious, your breathing tends to be short and shallow. Try breathing in for a count of four, hold for two, and breathe out for another count of four.

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Journal. The process of writing down your thoughts can help get your worries out of your head.

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Take a shower or bath. As the water runs off you, imagine that your worries are being washed away, too.

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Consult with a career coach. Some people find working one-on-one with a professional to be helpful in addressing specific questions and unique challenges.

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Medication. In certain cases, anti-anxiety medication may be prescribed to help patients manage their overall mental health. To explore this option, talk with your doctor.

Diana YK Chan, MBA, Career Coach & Job Search Advisor
“Working with a career coach is certainly worth it! It can minimize your interview anxiety and nerves. Typically, people need three coaching sessions to get results: planning, practicing, and polishing. Interview coaching can help calm your mind and change how you see yourself to create compelling reasons why you are the ideal candidate to hire.”
Diana YK Chan, MBA CAREER COACH & JOB SEARCH ADVISORY mymarketability.com

Dealing with Post-Interview Nerves

Now let’s talk about the feelings you may have after your interview.

Once your long-awaited interview has wrapped up and that initial rush of having it behind you fades, doubt and worry often creep into your mind. You start to wonder if you could’ve answered a particular question better, or you think of a brilliant work example you forget to mention during the interview. One word: RELAX. It’s over. For better or for worse, the interview is now in life’s rearview mirror. You cannot go back in time and change how it went. All you can do now is wait to hear back (and send a professional thank you message to the interviewers). Tom Petty said it best: “the waiting is the hardest part.” To mitigate anxiety during this time, be sure you ask about next steps in the hiring process during your interview. Understand expected timelines and be patient. While you’re waiting to learn more from the prospective employer, hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. If you don’t get the job, rinse and repeat. Apply the same tips you’ve learned in this article, adding anything new you learned from this experience. You’re more resilient than you might think, and other opportunities await—quite possibly ones that would be a better fit for you!

Channeling Your Stress for Good

Interviewing for a job, especially one you really want, can be stressful. We’re all likely to experience a bit of pre-interview nerves, but a certain amount of stress can actually be helpful. Try reframing your nervous energy as excited energy, and use the adrenaline to push yourself to be your best during your interview. By taking proactive steps to prepare and get in a good frame of mind before your interview, you’ll increase your likelihood of a successful interview. So the next time pesky nerves bubble up within you, remember:

You’ve got this!