How to Manage Pre-Interview Nerves

Written by Emilie Brunet

Are you in your “New Year, New Career” Era?

Maybe you spent December and the holiday season considering a job change and now you’re ready to jump in and start applying.

With job hunting comes excitement, new energy… and possibly major sweating.

The job hunting process can feel super overwhelming especially when you get to the interview stage.

You’ve got just a few minutes to convince an HR coordinator/manager that you really are the right person for the role.

That you’re going to change the company for the better.

That you are valuable.

And that’s hella nerve-wracking.

Not to mention the fact that the more rejections you get, the more nervous you start to get. Because not only do you have an increased pressure to find a job soon, but your confidence has taken a hit as well.

And if you’re applying for a job you really want (I mean really, really, really want!), it’s even scarier. It’s your dream job after all, how are you supposed to interview for your dream job?!

So whether it’s your first interview in a long time, or your 50th interview, or an interview for your dream job, here are 5 things (plus a bonus one!) you can do to fight those interview nerves!

1. Do your research and prepare, but then stop!

Doing your research feels obvious.

Usually if you’re super nervous for an interview, you’ve already entered the “How can I prepare in the most intense way possible?” phase.

So it might go without saying, but make sure you’ve taken the time to figure out the following info:

- What product or services does the company offer: Put a lot of the focus of your research here — you should be able to explain what the company does in 1 or 2 sentences

- What are their values

- Who will you likely be reporting to?

- How big is the company?

- What are the exact requirements of your role?

If you can’t find answers to some of your questions, write them down to ask the interviewer.

When the candidate asks questions during an interview it demonstrates their genuine interest in the role, what they value and their professionalism.

So if you can’t find all the answers after searching for some time, you can ask the interviewer.

Prepare answers to possible questions.

The most obvious ones include:

- Tell me about yourself

- What are your strengths/weaknesses?

- Why do you want to work here?

- Why did you leave your last job / want to leave your current job?

You can take the time to Google common interview questions and formulate answers to them.

But once you’ve done this basic research and preparation, STOP!

You don’t need to know the CEO’s children’s names.

You don’t need to have an entire 18-page response prepared.

You don’t need to imagine every single possible question that they might ask you.

While doing a solid amount of research and preparation is important, over-preparing is a problem, too.

If you over prepare, you might find yourself coming off as disingenuous in the interview. It’ll sound like you’ve rehearsed answers.

So yes, prepare. But also trust in yourself and your already existing abilities and knowledge!

2. Write out a list of the things you’re most nervous about.

Maybe you have a big gap in your work history.

Or you’ve changed jobs a lot in the last few years.

Maybe you were fired from your last position.

Write down everything that you think will be “deduction points” during your interview.

Then take the time to think of a genuine, positive spin on them. What did you learn from being fired? What projects or self-discovery did you do in your time away from work?

Now to clarify, I’m not saying that you should lie.

Lying in an interview is never a good idea.

Mostly because if you do end up getting hired for the job, you’ll have to keep that lie going for the entire time you’re employed there. And also because lying means not being genuine, and unless you’re an expert manipulator, that will come through.

Instead, find the silver lining.

How can you reimagine some of the things in your work history that you feel a little more nervous? This will not only allow you to think more confidently about this period of your life, but it also allows you to have an answer to those questions if they come up in the interview.

3. Do some “Getting Ready” the night before, not just the day of

If you aren’t just being asked to interview on the day of, take the time to “get ready” prior to the interview.

Pick out your outfit the night before.

Especially if your interview is in person or early in the morning, stressing about what you’re going to wear the morning of won’t help your nerves. Maybe you had intended to wear a specific blazer, but then you take it out of your closet to find that it has a massive stain on it.

Planning and trying on what you’ll wear the night before means that it’s one less thing to think about the day of.

If your interview is online, test your camera, mic and lighting the night before.

Doing all of this the night before means that if anything comes up, you don’t have to stress because you’ll have plenty of time to problem-solve before your actual interview.

4. Give yourself plenty of time before the interview to get ready and show up on time.

Nothing increases anxiety around an interview quite like being worried that you might be late for it.

If it’s an in-person interview:

Show up at least 5-10 minutes early.

If it’s far away, leave way earlier than you normally would (if you need to take public transportation to get there, take the earlier bus).

You can even show up 30 minutes early, and grab a drink at a cafe next door just to buy time. (Also hydrating beforehand will help if you have a tendency to have a dry mouth when you’re nervous!)

If it’s an online interview:

Don’t open your laptop right at the start time.

Open your computer at least 20 minutes in advance.

Locate the appropriate video conferencing link, test your camera and your audio again (especially if you didn’t have a chance to do it the night before).

Make sure your background is clear or blurred. Open notes on your computer so you can take notes during the interview or refer to your own notes (see research point above).

Get a glass of water to keep next to you during the call.

Giving yourself plenty of time in advance will allow you to take a few deep breaths and ground before it starts.

5. Imagine yourself getting the job.

Yes, it’s important to heed expectations.

Yes, it’s important not to get your hopes too high up and all that jazz.

But honestly, you’ll have plenty of time AFTER the interview to be a Negative Nancy.

The moment you walk out of the interview, you’re going to be overthinking everything you said. You’ll be somewhere on the spectrum between “Holy sht, that went perfectly, I definitely got the job” and “Holy sht, that was the worst interview of my life, I am horrible at this and will never get hired.”

But you won’t actually know until after the interview is done.

So while it’s important to set realistic expectations, sitting and thinking about all the reasons why you won’t get it or all the ways that you’ll for sure mess it up isn’t going to help you before the interview!

Instead think, “Wow. I’m going to get this freakin’ job!”

Imagine yourself being amazing during the interview.

Imagine yourself getting the job.

Bonus: Do some breathing exercises.

Okay, this is a bonus because it’s an often over-recommended tip.

As someone who’s had diagnosed anxiety my whole life, nothing frustrates me more than being super stressed and someone telling me to just calm down and breathe.

But like honestly, and I hate it, but it works.

Taking some deep breaths when you’re freaking out prior to an interview will help your body to relax, will settle the shakiness in your voice and will overall allow you to become a little bit more present (which always helps with nerves).

Try a simple breath in through your nose for 4 counts, slow breath out through your mouth (or nose) for 6-8 counts.

Extending your exhale so that it’s a little longer than your inhale helps with calming the nervous system.

You can do this breathing while you’re researching, when you’re picking out your outfit, when you’re on the bus to the interview or when you’re waiting on the Zoom meeting before it starts.

So breathe. You got this. You’re amazing and you’re going to nail that interview!

About the author

Hey, I'm Emilie 👋🏻

I'm the Business Support Manager at Journey Education. I have always had a passion for writing, organization and finding creative solutions. I aim to be personable, empathetic and compassionate and believe that kindness can go along way in both business and life.

Having worked and organized with anti-capitalist, feminist and queer organizations, I strongly believe that EVERYONE deserves, not just a living wage, but a thriving wage and that it should be the priority of every business to create an inclusive, caring and diverse work environment that doesn't just ensures the work happens, but allows people to be people while the work is happening!

My approach to everything I do reflects my training in trauma-informed practices, active listening and harm reduction as well as my interest in understand the way people work, behave and exist as their full human self. I want to create safer spaces for people to explore, create and excel in a supportive environment - whether that's in life or at work.