Calm Your Nerves Before the Interview

Here are some simple pointers to switch off the mind and body’s most irritating habits – so you can come and go to the interview with poise and calm.
The gradsingapore Team

The following tips can help minimise the stress of preparing for interview and maximise your performance on the day.

But remember, your interviewers will expect you to be nervous, and will take that into account. In fact, they may probably have their own nerves too!

Accepting the interview

If you get the chance to negotiate a time slot, ask for a morning interview if possible. This way, stress and anxiety won’t build up in your body throughout the day.

Practical preparation

A few days running up to the interview:

  • Know your own CV backwards and forwards, inside-out. The same goes for knowing the employer you'll be talking to as well!
  • If the interview is face-to-face, allow lots of time for the journey to the venue so you aren’t worried about arriving late.
  • Sift out negative thoughts and doubts about your skills, knowledge and past experiences. Focus on the times when you’ve achieved and learned the most, and turn those events into a series of good points about yourself that you can jot down, repeat to yourself and memorise.

Taking care of yourself physically

The night preceding the interview and on the morning of the interview:

  • Exercise in the evening before. Releasing endorphins will relieve stress and help you sleep.
  • You may be tempted to drink a lot of caffeine on the morning of the interview to be as alert as possible, but avoid having too much of coffee as you don’t want to be jittery or "crash" in the middle of the interview.
  • If you do take caffeine, don't forget that it's a diuretic – be sure to empty your bladder before going into the interview, or you may end up with an unwanted testing of your "endurance" as well.
  • If time allows before leaving your home on the day of the interview, take a walk, or do some simple, repetitive task to calm you down. In fact, some people will actually find calm in sweeping the floor or doing house chores.

    Mind-calming initiatives

    ... On the day – just before the interview

    Find a safe but solitary space near to the location of the interview, with time to sit up straight. Now plant your feet on the floor and relax all the muscles in your body. In particular, relax the muscles in and around the face, neck and eyes. 

    Any tension in these parts will show and make your facial gestures less animated and seem less appealing. Quietly saying all of the letters of the alphabet will ease the area around your mouth.

    Practise deep breathing from your lower abdomen, not your upper chest. Everyone recommends this because it works. (This is actually a common calming technique taught in a lot of martial arts!)

    Take five or ten minutes to sit still with your eyes closed.

    • Remind yourself that, even though you are giving your all for this interview, this is not the only interview you will have.

    • Avoid unsettling "mental chatter". Now is not the time for unhelpful speculation as to what you might have forgotten to prepare for or what could happen in the interview.

    Chill out by doing a quiet, repetitive task such as counting, staring at a fixed point in front of you, or by focusing on your breathing.

    ... During the interview

    • Try being assertive instead of forcing a sense of confidence. Feeling stronger soothes your nerves. 

    • Listen to encouraging responses from the interviewer. Having an interviewer say "That’s a really good question!" boosts the ego and banishes angst.

    If being interviewed doesn’t feel good, then change that feeling! Imagine that the interview you’re having is a friendly meeting. Or picture the interview in a less threatening setting.

    Make your scenario as sensory and specific as possible – anything so long as it helps you get the situation in perspective and makes the interview seem less daunting. Using your senses in this creative fashion is what psychologists call "re-framing".

    • Here’s another relaxation technique that needs a bit of practise. It’s called "anchoring". Recreate in your head a moment or a scenario that is very calming.

    Next, choose a physical "cue" such as touching your right thumb to your right forefinger. Do this often enough, and merely touching thumb and forefinger can conjure up a moment of calm without the need for the whole lengthy visualisation. It all sounds a bit "New Age", but it does work well for some people.

    • Another way to calm yourself during the interview is by making a list of good notes or statements about yourself. For instance, take time to remind yourself that:

    • I am confident in my own abilities and intelligence. The more you believe this yourself, the more likely it is that the interviewer will believe you.
    • My life is unique. It’s trite but it’s true. Even the work you’ve done at that coffee house won’t be exactly the same as anyone else’s.
    • This is a standard process that I’m going through. An interview is a necessary stage everyone goes through. This is not a trip to your headmaster's office – you are not being singled out for punishment!
    • I cannot know the future. What’s the point of getting worked up trying to guess the outcome of an interview?
    • I like this recruiter. Try to like him or her as a person – it will help you take your mind off your own situation.