How to Overcome Big Nerves for a Big Interview

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Written by Lindsey Marx | Last Updated November 11th, 2019
Lindsey is passionate about healthy living in all aspects of life. She enjoys the outdoors, loves to travel, and especially loves to dance.

woman smiling and talking on phoneDo you get extremely nervous before a big interview?

Do you lack confidence?

Are you looking for tips to help you succeed?

Check out the following 20 tips to be successful before, during, and after your next big interview:

Before the interview

1. Take deep breaths

This piece of advice is pretty common, but it absolutely works! Deep breathing helps oxygen flow to your brain so you can relax. It helps you calm down and feel more peaceful. Deep breaths also allow you to gain a wider perspective.

Keep in mind, the more calm you are, the more like yourself you are, and that is what the interviewers want to see. They want to see who you are and how you act. Be yourself, and stay calm. Think of the interview as more of a conversation. You are telling the interviewers who you are. The interviewers in turn are telling you about themselves, the team, and the company as a whole. 

2. Be prepared

A day or two before the interview, go find where your interview will be and look up who it is with, if applicable. This helps you to be prepared and relaxed. It is also helpful to look up (if possible) who you are interviewing with. This gives you a leg up as you can ask more specific questions and show you are prepared.

It also shows you are passionate and truly care about the position you are interviewing for. I also recommend reading as much as you can about the company you are interested in. It is impossible to be overprepared, and so you should read aout the company on Linkedin, Glassdoor, Google, and any recent news articles about the company and position for which you are applying. 

3. Meet with a connection

If you connect with someone on Linkedin who happens to work at the company of interest to you, try to chat with them or meet up with them to learn more about the company and the role. You can also find out what your connection likes and dislikes about the company. This will prepare you for harder interview questions and most importantly, your connection can speak volumes about you to the hiring manager. If you establish great rapport before your interview, your connection can help vouch for you to get the job later. Sometimes awards are given to employees and prospective employees who are successfully onboarded.

4. Practice, practice, practice

Absolutely, 100 percent practice before an interview. I have tried to "wing it" at interviews in the beginning, and it almost never works out. Practice your STAR stories (Situation, Task, Actions, Results). This allows you to show your preparation and illuminate your best qualities. By practicing, you have a game plan and know what you want to do. I find it most helpful to practice with mentors and friends who will give you honest feedback and will give great suggestions that worked for them in their own interviews.

two men shaking hands

5. Doodle

I never bring my phone to an interview. It is too risky a temptation. Instead, I bring my portfolio and doodle in it while taking deep breaths. Because this relaxes me, I often feel creatively inspired and I can transition to taking notes and jotting ideas down.

Having your phone out is unprofessional and looks terrible at an interview. If it happens to go off during the interview, it will look even worse. Turn your phone off or leave it in the car. Don't get caught glancing at your phone for even just a second. If you happen to have a serious life event such as a family emergency, I highly encourage rescheduling the interview to another date so that you can focus and have all of your attention on the interview. Honesty is the best policy; be honest with your interviewers and they will understand.

6. Exercise

Exercising the night before the interview will help you relax and sleep better, despite nerves. If I have time to properly get ready afterwards, I exercise and shower before the interview. At the very least, I take a walk to focus and relax. This allows for better concentration, and your nervous energy is expended on exercise so you can be at ease.

7. Meditate

I don’t do this as often, but sometimes I meditate to relax as well. Meditation can relax your body as well as your soul. I like to meditate in my car or in the bathroom prior to the interview. I find that by checking in with myself and speaking positively to myself helps me to focus and feel in control.

8. Plan

Sometimes I can get too antsy, and then it becomes difficult to concentrate on doodling. In this case, I like to plan out how I envision the interview going in my head. I will physically write out my answers to questions, as well as questions I plan to ask the interviewers. This helps me relax and calm down because I know I have a plan in place.

9. List the consequences

When you list the worst things that could happen in the interview, it helps you to relax because you have a game plan and are prepared. You know how to fix any problems that could potentially come up, and you realize that you can't control everything. Do your best to relax and realize it is just an interview. Just be yourself; the worst that could happen is you don't get the job, but at least you made connections and tried your best.

10. Arrive early

This is probably my favorite piece of advice. Arriving early is so, so critical. By arriving early, you show that you are dedicated to the job and you truly care. Arriving early is professional and it avoids the awkwardness of being late. If you happen to get lost, forget something, or get stuck in traffic, you provide yourself with a buffer so you don't show up late.

woman looking at tablet and smiling

During the interview

11. Smile

This will sound ridiculous, but I like to go to the bathroom before an interview and smile at myself in the mirror. This helps me to have confidence and relax. If you aren't feeling confident about your smile, try whitening your teeth. Smiling also sends a positive energy throughout your body that will help you feel more confident even as you interview. Plus, it signals to your interviewers that you are an open, friendly, happy person, which everyone will want to have on their team.

12. Be calm

Don't figit with your hair, nails, or clothes. I like to keep a paper clip in my hand so that I can place my nervous energy into the paperclip. I will sometimes press into a pen as well. Don't get the loud clicky pens. I like to get the ones that have rubber tips on them that are quiet and non-distracting. You don't want to distract the interviewers and you don't want distract yourself. Find what works best for you. Sometimes, having nothing in the hands is the best solution to staying calm. Practice with freinds and family beforehand to see what works best for you.

13. Keep eye contact

Eye contact is important in interviews. People are more open and trusting when you keep eye contact. It also makes you feel more comfortable and shows you are focused. Sometimes it can be hard if there is more than one interviewer, but try your best to keep even and consistent eye contact with everyone. Dont stare though. I like to keep eye contact and truly listen as the interviewer talks, than I will glance to the left or right of their forehead and as I speak, I will alternate between both of their eyes and a spot on the wall behind them. I want to show that I am engaged and listening, but not giving a staredown.

14. Take and keep notes

I like to keep out my interview notes that I prepared beforehand to glance down at in case I forget my train of thought. This helps me to focus and remain calm. I also like to keep my notes out to show that I am taking the job seriously and that I am prepared. Sometimes interviewers will ask you to do research beforhand and showing that you did the research in a non braggy way, such as keeping notes out, can leave a positive impression. I also jot down notes and answers to questions that come up as the interview goes on.

15. Ask questions

So many people neglect to ask questions at the end of an interview, and this can be the determining factor in getting the job! When you ask questions, it shows you did your research and you listened, truly listened, during the interview. I like to ask questions such as, "What do you like and dislike about your role and the company?," "What does a typical day look like?," "What opportunities are available for growth and professional development?"

You can ask as many questions as you want, but I suggest having three to five ready to go. If your question was already answered earlier in the interview, don't ask it. It will appear as if you weren't listening; however, if you want something clarified, then definitely ask. Asking questions helps you determine if the company and the role are good fits for you. Remember, the interview is not just for the company to see if you are the right fit for it, but also for you to see if the company is the right fit for you.

Woman writing in planner

After the Interview 

16. Send a follow up

No matter what, send a follow up email as a thank you. This is professional, and quite frankly, hardly anyone sends them anymore. This helps you to stand out even more after the interview and allows you to keep lines of communication open so that you can quickly and easily hear back for next steps.

17. Write a "Thank You" note

I have written thank you notes after many interviews, and I can honestly say, I always got the job after I sent a handwritten thank you note to each individual who interviewed me. This is going the extra mile and setting yourself apart even more than everyone else. Plus, if you decide to work at the company (assuming you get the offer), you've already established a great foundation of friendship with everyone you write thank you notes too. Your reputation will be off to a great start.

18. Keep in contact

This goes along with following up, but be sure to consistently return emails and phone calls. If the interviewer contacts you, be sure to reach out within one to three hours of them reaching out. Be prompt and professional. Don't wait several days to get back about a second interview or even the offer. Be sure to communicate quickly and efficiently and ask for extensions of time if needed.

19. Continue practicing

No matter what the outcome of the interview is, continue to practice and perfect your interviewing skills. With so many jobs being added and company changes, you never know when you will find yourself interviewing for another position. You may even interview as an internal hire for promotion. Consistently practice and develop your skills. Keep your resume up to date and ready to go. Work on developing yourself more by learning new things, taking classes, and attending conferences.

20. Give back

Be sure to thank those who helped you practice and prepare for your interview. If someone reaches out to you for guidance in the future, be willing to help them with an interview as all connections lead back to each other eventually.

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