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Do You Get Nervous About Being Nervous During an Interview?

A reader named Lisa recently wrote me about how nervous she gets in interviews…and how she feels it’s keeping her from getting an actual job offer:

“I find interviewing exhausting. I have decent cover letters, but when I get in the door, I always try for natural and confident…and end up falling short of the mark. When I do mock interviews, to practice, people tell me I’m fine, so I think it’s nerves.”

Clearly Lisa is not alone. Interviews can be exhausting. Not only do we get nervous, but we get nervous about being nervous! And nerves, an oh-so normal part of the process, just add to the exhaustion. Especially if you’re focusing so much energy on fighting them.

Please know that most interviewers expect a bit of nerves. In most cases, nerves alone will not keep someone from getting a job – unless it’s so severe that’s all the interviewer sees.  And the best way to help keep that from happening, is by trying not to get caught up in worrying about the nerves on top of all else you’re dealing with.

The less you think about them, the more natural and effective your interview can be. That doesn’t mean they go away…it just means you don’t add to it by having an internal conversation about it (Uh oh! I’m nervous. Can she tell? Is she watching the sweat? What did she just say?) while you should be focusing on the interview!

In Zen philosophy, they might say you should acknowledge the nerves, welcome them, invite them to sit with you, and get on with your business. I know that’s much easier said than done, but maybe a helpful image for some.

It’s how you handle them

But if you’re trying too hard to fight what’s happening (maybe like Lisa), the nerves can get even worse because that’s what you’re paying the most attention to.  By trying so hard to look cool & confident when you are nervous, you come off looking unnatural – and also waste a lot of energy that could be focused on the interviewers’ questions and your answers. Better to divert your attention from your own nerves (and worrying about them) to the actual interview. It’s ok to even say “Please excuse me. I’m a little nervous.” And smile…and then go on.

Any company that doesn’t think it’s ok to be at least a little nervous in an interview is probably not one you would ever want to work for! I’ve interviewed many people who showed some nerves…and they got offers. It was how they handled the rest of the interview that mattered. And, come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever made an offer to someone who was 100% confident – they seem so annoying…and plastic. ;-)

What to do when nerves hit during an interview

Just acknowledge (at least to yourself) that you are nervous and it’s ok…and then  focus on the interviewer. Listen carefully as they speak, without thinking yet about what to say (or what you just said), and when they finish, take a moment and then respond as naturally as possible (without forcing anything) while looking them in the eyes. It’s about the connection as much as the words. If you have a question about their question, feel free to ask them to clarify. It shows you’re a good listener and not afraid to ask questions.

Remember to take some deep breaths – in and out – a few minutes before you go in. Also, prior to the interview, you might want to visualize a warm, comfortable, lively interview with the interviewer and you totally connecting. Good to start doing both a day or two before the interview!

Please know interview nerves are normal, so no need to be so nervous about having them. BUT…if they are so severe they are effecting your interviews (and maybe even the rest of your life), it might pay to speak with a professional and get a little extra help. ;-)

For more tips  to help you get through those very normal interview nerves, check out the last part of this article: Why Do I Get So Nervous During a Job Interview?

And for even more from Work Coach Cafe:

Help! I Get Nervous When I Interview for a Job

What Should I Be Thinking During a Job Interview?

How to Answer Annoying Job Interview Questions

Should I Apologize for Being Nervous in My Thank You Letter?

How to Answer Annoying Job Interview Questions

Job Interview Tips


About the author…

Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, and on Google+.

Comments

  1. When I’m interviewing someone, I always feel candidates who briefly acknowledge a bit of nervousness are more real.

  2. Hi Ronnie, great tips!

    Interviewees need to remember that the person on the other side of the table is a person, not a resume-consuming monster. When you say, “It’s about the connection as much as the words,” I completely agree.

    I’d encourage nervous interviewees to try to find some common ground on which to connect with the HR manager, whether it’s a college or a sports team.

    This type of small talk puts everyone in the room at ease and results in a much better interview experience.

  3. So I did have another interview, and I was much more relaxed, however, the company posted for a proj. mgr position and then said ‘we don’t want a project mgr…’ Ah well. When I get another interview, I’ll let you know, but it’s been a dry month, May. Now I’m looking for ways to jump-start the search. So much advice, it’s overwhelming! Someone told me statistically I have a 6 percent chance of finding a job!!! I said, ‘don’t tell me the numbers!’

  4. Thanks so much Marsha and Wesw for adding so nicely to the discussion.

    Especially appreciate my readers hearing from other interviewers, Marsha, that nerves – and acknowledging the nerves – are totally ok. And good tip about common ground, Wesw…although be careful not too get too personal. Some interviewers freeze up when that happens. I know…it once happened to me! ;-)

  5. Oh Lisa! So sorry about the job, but hoping the right one comes your way soon.

    Some things to help jump start: Set networking goals (1 or 2 new contacts a week including former co-workers and even teachers or schoolmates), share your exciting job search story with everyone, even folks in line at the supermarket ;-) and volunteer somewhere asap for the boost it will give you and for the “you never know who you meet” of it. Also…you might tweak a version of your resume to exactly the dream job you want and then see if you can find it.

    As for the numbers…smart of you not to let them affect you. Statistics are horribly skewed by all kinds of things. My whole career has been based on not matching statistical norms…and that includes getting jobs I didn’t even qualify for on paper.

    Numbers do lie. ;-) And the only number you need is the ONE job offer you get. You go get ‘em grrrl!

  6. thanks so mush for ur help wish me luck :)

    • I wish you much luck, Sara!

      Be yourself, look them in the eyes, don’t be afraid to say “I’m a little nervous” and remember to show them how well you would fit with the position you’re interviewing for. Most of all, just be yourself. You seem like a person anyone would like to work with. I’ve hired many people with nerves. It’s totally normal.

      Go get ‘em, tiger! :)

  7. Hi Ronnie Ann,
    This is such a great website. I find your tips very helpful and advice very reassuring.
    I just had an interview that I thought went pretty well (it went on for about an hour). The recruiter called me the day after and said that they thought That even though my personality came through at the end I was nervous at the start of the interview. But isn’t that normal haha. Anyway I just wished they had given me more feedback.

    Anyway, again thanks for all the great entries and articles you post !

  8. Thank you, Kristin! Comments like yours make my day.

    You’re right. It’s totally normal to start out a little nervous. Good to hear that your personality came through at the end. But agree that it would be nice to hear more concrete feedback. So hard waiting. I wish you much luck! Please let us know what happens. Fingers crossed for you.

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