Updated: Dec 2, 2022
Whether you are an undergraduate, graduate or already a working professional, job interviews are a natural step in applying for jobs, and we all know how dreadful they can be. Interview anxiety is a thing!
Being stressed out before an interview is very common, especially for inexperienced job seekers such as students and graduates. It's just too much pressure and it feels like a lot is at stake!
Is it normal to be stressed before a job interview?
It is completely normal for you to be stressed before and during an interview. This is simply your brain telling you that something big is coming up and maybe over-exaggerating the threat this interview poses to your life and communicating it to your body. Fortunately for all of us, there are many ways to reduce this effect and calm your nerves before D-day.
So, you have an important job interview coming up? We listed 7 tips on how to reduce your stress levels before a job interview. These tips can actually also apply to other stressful situations, so feel free to use them in a different context as well!
Is it okay for me to be stressed during a job interview?
Hiring managers and recruiters are well aware that the great majority of job candidates experience higher stress levels during interviews. As previously explained, it's perfectly normal for you to be stressed, especially if you're not used to being interviewed.
That being said, it's important you manage these stress levels so they don't affect your interview performance. Too much nervous energy might also influence recruiters' perception of you, and unfortunately, nervosity sometimes has negative connotations, especially in the business world.
Accept being stressed on the inside, display serenity on the outside
While feeling nervous inside is okay, try to convey an "excited energy" and "positive thinking attitude" during the interview. This will benefit you, as this mindset will eliminate negative thoughts and relax the interview atmosphere, which everyone in the room will benefit from!
To illustrate, you want to look like a duck: you appear very calm and composed on the outside but you're moving your feet very fast under the surface to move forward!
7 steps to calm your nerves before an interview
First of all, it's important for you to measure the overall steps of the interview process. This interview process doesn't start when the interview begins and you sit with the hiring manager.
For you, the interviewee, the process starts much earlier: you need to prepare for it. If you're well prepared for your interview, you might still feel nervous but more in control, and that's one of the keys to considerably decreasing your stress levels as this stressful event approaches.
1. Be mentally well-prepared
The first thing you want to make sure of is being mentally well-prepared. That means making sure your mind is ready to face the upcoming challenge: the interview. What we mean by this, is you want to use all resources at your disposal to help your mind familiarise itself with the unknown approaching event, the company, and the people you will be interacting with during the interview.
To be well mentally prepared for an interview, make sure that you:
Do your research on the company you’re applying for
Read the job description thoroughly
Have a few questions ready (about the company in general and/or the job itself)
Prepare answers to interview questions
Potentially find out who will be interviewing you
Prepare a solid salary negotiation approach
Collect audience insights: practice with a family member
Give yourself a pep talk 5 minutes before the interview
Moreover, in order to feel secure and confident, you can make sure you have notes nearby. Perhaps they'll be of help right before the interview or even during the interview if it’s an online one.
Knowing that you have notes nearby, even if you are not using them will make you feel supported and therefore boost your confidence (pun intended).
2. Be physically well-prepared
First and foremost, being physically well-prepared for an interview means getting a good night's sleep. If you're well-mentally prepared and have done your research about the company and rehearsed your strongest selling points - in addition to the previously mentioned points - you will have deserved to rest before D-day.
To be well physically prepared for an interview, make sure that you:
Workout, do some sports or any other physical activity
Have a relaxing evening before D-day: treat yourself to a good meal and a movie (you can use a hot water bottle to lower your stress and anxiety levels during this time)
Go out with friends, and try to disconnect as much as possible
Get at least 8 hours of sleep (or more if that's what you need!)
Avoid overpreparing: try not to go over your notes until 3 am, you need that energy to perform during the interview
3. Take a few deep breaths
Whether the interview is online or in person, find a quiet spot 20 minutes before and make sure to breathe. Research has shown that inhaling and exhaling deeply around ten times can activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which is the part of your nervous system responsible for calming down your entire body.
It is important that you are therefore in a quiet environment with no distractions so that you can take the time to calm yourself down and be properly focused for your upcoming call/meeting.
4. Focus on the good outcomes
Our minds tend to always go for the worst-case scenario, even when they are the least realistic one. Make a mental or physical list of all the good and possible outcomes instead of the bad ones. You’ll be very quick to find out that all the bad outcomes were quite unrealistic and the good ones actually reasonable.
This will help your brain rewire itself to realistic outcomes and make you realise how wild your imagination can get when it comes to stressing over different scenarios.
5. Remember most recruiters know what you are going through
Also, remember that the recruiter is used to conducting interviews and realises that it is a stressful situation for any candidate. Your stress will be taken into account; even if you stumble a bit at first, you should quickly be put to ease.
In the best-case scenario, everything goes well and you land the job. Worst case scenario, you don’t get a job that wouldn’t have been the right fit for you and you’ve gained extra experience in interviewing skills, which will make you even more confident during the next interview.
Doesn’t sound like the end of the world, does it?
6. Get in touch with nature
Studies show that being in nature or even looking at pictures or videos of nature helps with concentration and reduces anxiety.
So, you can just sit at home and watch your favourite nature documentary, or just google “landscapes”: isn’t this image already quite soothing, for example? Our google search was extensive.
If you have the time, grab a pair of tennis shoes and step outside to your favourite natural spot. There’s nothing more relaxing than watching Mother Nature. Going for a walk also helps with amygdala deactivation, reducing anxiety and therefore indicating to your body that no, you’re not about to be attacked by a lion but actually simply going to have an “important” conversation with another human being.
Puts things quite into perspective, doesn’t it? This brings us to our last point.
7. You’ve got this!
Don’t forget that you’ve got this: try and minimise the stress by telling yourself that an interview is basically just a conversation with another person to talk about your skills, your motivation and an opportunity for you to learn more about the job and the company you’re applying for. Nothing more, nothing less.
As previously stated, the person interviewing you takes into consideration that this is a stressful situation for you, and is probably very used to talking to every type of person.
This is why most importantly, just be yourself! Interviews are a great way to see if the company culture fits you and if you fit them. Nobody wants to work somewhere where they wouldn’t feel 100% comfortable.
We hope these tips can help you with any upcoming stressful interview (or situation). Read another article we wrote presenting 5 tips to impress your interviewer for more details on how you can make a lasting impression.