3 Tips to Reduce “Interview Nerves” [Career Coach]

I’ve been thinking about writing a post sharing some tips on how to reduce “interview nerves.”

Man preparing for a virtual interview. He sits in front of a microphone, and is looking directly into the camera lens.
Photo by C Technical on Pexels.com

Upshot is, it’s fairly normal to be nervous when you’re getting ready to go into an interview, because an interview is a pretty big deal.

The quality of your job has an impact on your ability to pay your mortgage, feed your family, and help you buy a car, or other desired items.

And now, with the COVID-19 situation, few interviews are held face-to-face. Most, if not all, are held over video chat these days.

Video chat with family is one thing – these are pretty low stakes. For employment interviews, however, this is a whole other concept for most of us. And relatively, much higher stakes.

Consider this – we are not used to looking into the lens of the camera (to maintain eye contact), and we are torn as to whether we should look at the image of the person that’s speaking to us, or look into the eye of the camera. Most of us are not professional newspeople, so looking into the camera directly feels pretty foreign and uncomfortable to most of us.

The whole idea, though, is to make the person/people on the other end of the conversation feel like you are making eye contact with them directly. It makes it a bit tougher on you to both see the other person’s expressions and body language, but it does make them feel like you are speaking directly to each individual.

This best simulates the face-to-face conversations of “old.” And by that, I mean less than a year ago.

Wow, right?.

The tips we’d like to share

For the most part, nerves are good. They help us get into “the zone” in whatever activity we are about to participate. It’s when our nervousness gets the better of us that can cause our problems.

Too much nervousness can cause one to talk too fast, ramble too long, and not make a salient point. Our brain can feel like a lightning storm is going on inside our heads, and be very distracting to logical thinking.

Too much nervousness can also cause us to just blurt out the first thing that comes to mind, rather than a well thought-out response to an interviewer’s question.

Too many nerves can give us undeserved “imposter syndrome.” If you have the quantified successes that tell you you are the right person for this job, don’t let imposter syndrome blind you during your search. You’ve earned the right to be here, at this table, at this time.

Finally, too many nerves can stop us from remembering the questions we may have for the interviewer.

And that’s not an optimal outcome for you.

So how do I deal with this level of apprehension? Here are three tips to help reduce “interview nerves.”

  1. Firstly, prepare, prepare, prepare.

Way before you start interviewing, you need to prepare your materials. Compare this step to preparing to paint a room, or a car. The better you are at preparation, the better the end result will be.

The basis for all elite job search tool preparation is the SAR story. To derive these, you must research your professional background. If you’ve worked at public companies, then they have to keep your HR file for 10 years (at least in California and Illinois anyway – we assume most other states as well). If you ask them for it, you should get it free of charge. In there will be your reviews and kudo letters and emails from customers and colleagues.

From this information, you can create 2-5 SAR stories per decade of your professional experience.

If you’ve forgotten what a SAR story is, here’s a link to one of our previous posts that explains: https://ecareercoaching.com/2020/09/20/so-the-word-sar-is-back-to-being-a-bad-word-heres-what-to-do-instead-part-1-of-2/.

When you have several SAR stories, you can review them as a last-minute study session before the interview starts.

Man preparing for an interview by having his resume and notes out on the table. Preparing for an interview helps reduce "interview nerves."
Photo by Arina Krasnikova on Pexels.com

In the “old days,” the way you achieve that is to arrive at the interview site about 20 minutes before your interview is scheduled to begin.

At that point, you can get out your file folder full of SAR documents and your resumé out of your file folder, and you can review them quickly, and remind yourself of where each one falls in your professional history.

After you document your successes, shorten them to around 30 seconds’ worth of words. Keep your answers succinct. Think bumper stickers. Look at it this way – you can say a lot in 2-10 words. Especially the right 2-10 words.

I wrote a post about this recently:

By doing both of these, you’ll be prepared for anything, no matter what direction the interview takes.

2. Breathe.

When we get a bad case of interview nervse, there are some tips we can use to reduce our anxiety.

One quick way to reduce these (possibly) debilitating anxious feelings is to breathe deeply, 3 or 4 times in a row.

Take in a deep breath while you’re in your car (or at your desk, 20-30 minutes before the interview begins). Start by closing your eyes. Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold that breath for 4 seconds, then blow that breath out of your mouth for 4 seconds. According to MedicalNewsToday.com, this is the 4-4-4 method, or box breathing. It has been used by the Seals, police officers, snipers, and by people in other high-stress jobs for years. The post reports that it can help you relax, focus better, and it also helps clear your mind.

If you do this 3-4 times, you will begin to feel your heart rate slow down, and much of the adrenaline will be processed out of your bloodstream.

You will start to feel somewhat comfortable, and in control of your emotions again. This will increase your confidence, which in turn lowers your nervousness. The snowball builds.

In other words, it’s a great tip to help you reduce your interview nerves.

3. Practice, practice, practice.

With all of the technology at our disposal today (cameras and microphones in our cell phones, laptops, webcams on our desktops, etc.), we can record ourselves doing anything we want.

Record yourself answering the normal set of questions. See if you like your facial expressions, and whether they reflect the message you want to portray with each answer.

As we’ve said many times before, Academy Award winners practice their lines over and over again until those lines feel smooth and right coming out of their mouths. The main difference is, they can have several “takes” to get their lines right. We don’t have that luxury when we’re in an interview, so we need to practice even more.

If you do this, I can guarantee that you will be better off than most people, who believe they can just “wing it” as it relates to job search and interviewing. You’ll prepare, and you’ll be ready.

We have a document available called “51 of the Most-often Asked Interview Questions,” that will help you prepare yourself better. Check it out at:

Thought for the post

Practice will not make perfect, because we are humans. You should be the most-confident person in the interviewee chair, however, because you’ve prepared, practiced, and you took several cleansing breaths before the interview started.

These are the 3 top tips to help you reduce your interview nerves.


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