How to Relax Before an Interview

Updated Dec 21, 20224 min
How to Relax Before an Interview

How to Relax Before an Interview

Caroline BantonUpdated Dec 21, 20224 min
How to Relax Before an Interview

What’s the secret to being relaxed going into an interview? Preparation. If you have done all that you can to be ready, you can be confident that you will perform at your best and create a great first impression. On the other hand, if you have done little to prepare, you will have no idea what to expect, no plan to fall back on, and nerves could sabotage your interview.

Preparation takes several forms. Researching the company and the job is key to anticipating what skills the hiring manager is looking for and the questions you will be asked. Preparing answers to those questions will help you avoid getting tongue-tied or giving a poor answer.

If you have done all the preparatory work and are still not feeling completely comfortable—because who does?— this article provides some valuable tips on how to relax, control those nerves, and even use them to your advantage during the interview process.

Interview Nerves Are a Good Sign

First, nerves are a good sign. They show that you are ready to perform at your best. However, the physical manifestation of nerves is unsettling, to say the least—rapid heartbeat, sweaty palms, pale or flushed skin—these are all signs of the fight or flight response that show your brain is working overtime to keep you safe. You can use this alertness and sharpness to perform well in an interview. 

That said, it can be comforting to have a few tools in your back pocket to help you manage stress before, during, and after an interview.

For tips on interview preparation read, “How To Approach Questions in a Situational Job Interview.”

Before the Interview

In addition to understanding the job requirements, preparing your responses to questions, and role-playing in mock interviews with family members, there are other things you can do in the days leading up to the interview to calm your nerves.

  • Check the dress policy where you will interview and plan what clothes you will wear a week or so before the date.

  • Make sure your clothes are clean and pressed before the interview so that you will have plenty of time to get ready and less to worry about on the day.

  • Arriving late to an interview is one of the worst things that can happen. Plan your route to the interview, and even do a practice run beforehand. Consider what the traffic will be like on the day. If you are driving, make sure you have enough gas so that you don't have to stop at the last minute.

  • Don’t plan any wild parties a day or two before the interview so that you can be at your best. Also, try to avoid being involved in any major events that might use up your time and distract you around the time of the interview.

  • Feeling physically and mentally healthy is a great confidence booster. Exercise, eat well, and get plenty of sleep so that you feel physically and mentally on top of your game.

  • Plan something fun to do after the interview to give yourself something to look forward to.

For tips on how to dress for an interview, read, "What to Wear to an Interview."

The Day of the Interview

The day of the interview can be a tense one. Depending on the time of your interview, you could allow some free time to take yourself to a calm place before you go.

  • Exercise. A good workout, like running, can set you up for the day and knock out any pre-interview nerves. Exercise boosts your heart rate, generates positive neurochemicals, and then lowers your heart rate getting rid of nervous energy. A good cardio session followed by calming yoga would be ideal!

  • Eat breakfast. Your brain needs food to function too. Eat a good breakfast, don't drink too much caffeine, and set yourself up for success.

  • Take a walk outside before your interview starts. The fresh air will help you clear your head, focus your mind, and rehearse what you will say during the interview.

  • Chew gum if it helps, but don’t chew gum in the interview.

During the Interview

It can be hard to focus on anything more than communicating well during the interview, but practicing a few behavioral techniques beforehand can give you something to do as you ease into the questioning. 

The following are interview tips and tools that you can call on to help you control your nerves and calm down your endorphins.

1. Use confident body language

If you confidently walk into the interview room and remain poised, you will feel much more empowered. Maintain eye contact when you answer questions, smile, and consider the interview an opportunity to meet new people and learn new things. 

Worry less about how your interviewers perceive you and more about how you perceive them. How friendly are they? What color ties are they wearing? Do they seem organized? Try to have fun too. Most importantly, be pleasant and approachable, and you will appear charismatic.

2. Focus on your hands.

Giving your hands a job can help you to channel your nerves. Try placing your hands on your lap if you are sitting at a table and twiddle your thumbs. The interviewers should not be able to see them. You could hold a pencil in your hands, just be sure not to nervously twiddle it or tap it. Just hold it. Either of these actions might help you avoid fidgeting if you tend to do so.

3. Maintain good posture

Don’t slouch during the interview. Sit up straight without seeming too stiff. This will help you to feel engaged and in control.

4. Use the S.T.O.P. method

S.T.O.P. is a technique to help you manage an overwhelming, stressful situation. Knowing that you can take the following steps can help you gain confidence and to remain calm.

  • Stop what you are doing and focus on what you are thinking and feeling.

  • Take deep breaths.

  • Observe what is happening inside your body, your emotions, your thoughts, and your reactions.

  • Proceed as you think best.

The S.T.O.P. method allows you to slow down and take control of your actions and thoughts. 

5. Breathe

Our breathing can control how we feel. Taking long, slow breaths calms the heart rate and the mind. To calm job interview anxiety, try to control your breathing. Pause before answering a question. Not only will you relax, but it gives you time to prepare the best answer. The interviewers will totally understand if you need some time to think about what you want to say.

6. Remember that You Are Interviewing the Interviewer Too

An interview is not just a one-way conversation. It’s up to the interviewer to also sell themselves to you. You will be given the opportunity to ask questions of your potential employer so that you can be sure that this is a company you want to work for and people you would like to work with.

Understanding that you have some power can help you to feel more confident and less nervous about an interview for a new job.

For ideas on questions to ask interviewers, read, “37 Interview Questions to Ask a Recruiter.

After the Interview

Congratulations on a job well done! Of course, you will replay the interview over in your mind—the good points and the bad points. That’s a good thing because you can fine-tune your responses for the next time. However, don’t dwell on any mistakes or negative thoughts for too long.

Regardless of how the interview went, it’s always good practice for your job search. Congratulate yourself for doing your best. Now do something fun to celebrate

Caroline Banton
Expert on career acceleration and business topics with vast experience writing for globally-recognized publications

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