Interview Nerves: How To Cope With Anxiety About Your Interview Or Assessment Centre
[NOTE: You can get hold of a full suite of interview preparation tools here.]
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This article will tell you how to deal with ‘interview nerves’; that awful feeling of anxiety that can affect us all at important moments in our career and life. Don’t worry! As always we’ve got you covered; there’s tons of expert advice here and elsewhere in the Personal and Wellbeing section.
Let’s get started!
So the big day has arrived and your interview or assessment centre is looming large. All your preparation is done and you have a chance to unlock the next stage of your career, your finances, your life. This is it.
How you perform at this moment is genuinely important because it can have a pivotal impact on your future and this is why lots of people are so affected by interview nerves and anxiety both before and during their interview or assessment event.
Nerves can run riot at an interview or assessment centre. I’ve seen some candidates paralysed by anxiety and it’s vital that you learn to master your nerves if you’re to give a strong performance on the day
Some interview nerves = Good
Feeling anxious before a big event in your life is perfectly normal and actually a healthy response to the stimulus and situation you’re faced with. (And don’t forget that a little anxiety will actually help keep you sharp and quick-witted.)
But obviously it’s crucial that you don’t let your interview nerves impact your performance in a negative way.
Lots of interview nerves = Bad
If you’re so nervous that you feel overwhelmed and can’t think straight then that’s not a great place to be and clearly your performance will be affected in a way that won’t be beneficial.
‘Ok, I get the picture. So what can I do about it?’
Most importantly of all, read our in-depth guide: “How To Prepare For Your Interview Or Assessment Event“.
Interview nerves and anxiety arise mainly through fear of the unknown and in the above article we tell you exactly what to expect and how to prepare your mind and body to ensure you feel relaxed and confident on the big day. It offers advice and tips including:
- Get into a regular & healthy sleeping pattern
- Exercise 3 times a week for a month prior to your interview
- Eat healthily
- Moderate your alcohol content
- Plan relaxation time
- Spend time outdoors & with family and friends
- Practise the exercises you will undertake on the day
- Ensure you do the right prep on the day
- Getting a great night’s sleep on the eve of your interview or assessment
- Getting to your destination a hour earlier than is necessary
- Making sure you have water & snacks with you
Stop worrying! Download a 12-step assessment day cheatsheet & be perfectly prepared.
We’ve written lots of in-depth articles which give you expert advice and guidance as well as practice tests, examples and exercise samples. (We’ve also written a full section on psychometric testing which is generally a huge area of concern – for a lot of candidates it is the primary cause of their interview nerves.) Here’s a few links to get you started:
- An Introduction To An Assessment Centre (A must-read)
- Assessment Centre Exercises (Role-plays, presentations, in-tray exercise, e-tray exercise, group exercise)
- Psychometric Testing (Verbal reasoning, numerical reasoning, personality questionnaires)
- Interviews (Our ultimate guide tell you how to stack the odds in your favour before, during and after you interview)
- Personal & Wellbeing (Coping with nerves & anxiety, social etiquette etc)
- Resources (Essential tools and equipment)
‘Ok that’s all great but what if I have a panic attack or something?’
For a minority of people, interview nerves turn into severe anxiety that can take control to such a degree that they feel crippled. If you find yourself about to cave-in on the day you need to bring out the big guns and control your breathing.
- Breathe in through your nose and count to 7. Breathe out through your mouth and count to 11. You might find it difficult at first if you’re feeling very nervous, but after a minute or two you will feel better as CO2 and oxygen levels become balanced again inside your body. For more information on this tried and tested technique click here.
- If you have a history of anxiety/panic attacks you should consider speaking with your doctor about medication. Many public speakers (such as politicians, CEOs etc) use medication such as beta blockers to ensure their performance isn’t impaired at critical moments. This is obviously a highly personal choice and is not something we can endorse wholeheartedly as the decision rests entirely with you and your physician. If this seems like a drastic step, you could consider natural or herbal remedies as an alternative which work well for many thousands of people.
‘That’s great. What else?’
Another useful and practical step to offset interview nerves is to take a toilet break to relax. Seriously, if you’re feeling stressed while at your interview or assessment just head to the restroom (even if you don’t use the facilities). It may sound silly, but having a few moments to yourself in a bathroom cubicle can give you a badly-needed break from the constant feeling of being ‘under scrutiny’.
The simple act of securing a few moments to yourself in private can give you a chance to clear your head and return to the fray feeling more focused and relaxed.
You should also ensure you use your posture and psychological triggers to your advantage. Sitting up straight will help prevent your interview nerves from making you tense and stop your chest getting tight.
Remember to smile often, not only does this project a relaxed and confident image to your interviewers but it sets off a chain reaction of hormones inside your body which will help you feel more relaxed and positive.
Men should consider wearing a shirt with a collar that’s half an inch ‘too big’. (Especially if you’re wearing a tie.) If you’re usually a 15″ collar, buy a 15.5″ shirt for your interview. This gives you a little breathing room, metaphorically and literally, as the throat often becomes engorged with blood when anxiety sets in and this can lead to discomfort and unpleasant feelings that you can do without.
If you take only one tip from our entire personal and wellbeing section it should be to exercise for at least 1 hour before your interview or assessment event.
This is huge. Get up early if you have to. Exercising not only burns off any negative energy you may be carrying but it also replaces that energy with a supply of endorphines (peptides released by your pituitary gland that produce a feeling of well-being).
Feeling relaxed and confident on the day hinges on the quality and amount of preparation you do. Interview nerves can be banished with the right groundwork.
Read our article “How To Prepare For Your Interview Or Assessment Event” and use the above tips to give yourself the best possible chance of succeeding.
Practise, practise, practise
Practising the tests and exercises you will perform at your interview or assessment day will not only improve your competency, but it will also help you relax as you will feel prepared. You can get hold of a full suite of interview preparation tools here.
Important! Update your CV before your interview
Lots of candidates make the mistake of thinking they don't need to improve their CV once they've been invited to interview.
Big mistake. Here's why:
1) You should update your CV before the interview event and take a fresh, new-and-improved version with you. (Ideally one that is TAILORED to the role you want.)
2) At interviews and assessment days, your CV will form the basis of your interview. (Whether the interview is competency-based or not.) You'll be expected to answer questions on your CV and usually to walk your interviewer through it.
3) This is the big one: After you've left your interview or assessment day, your CV will be held in the hands of the people who are making the hiring decision. They will literally be looking at your CV while making the hiring decision.
(I've been in this position many times. After spending an entire day meeting and interviewing lots of people, the candidates' CVs are the documents you use to remind yourself which candidate was which and also to revisit the candidates' skills and experience.)
Your CV summarizes the 'professional benefits' of you and is what leaves the last impression. So one last time: Your CV makes your first and last impression; it's a crucial document. Make is as strong as it can be.
Two good books that will help you prepare
1) ‘Now you’ve been shortlisted: Your guide to being successful at interviews and assessment centres’
2) “You’re Hired! Psychometric Tests: Proven tactics to help you pass”
Some final questions for you…
- Do you have to take a numerical reasoning test or a verbal reasoning test? If so you may want to check out the aptitude tests section of the site.
- You can find practice tests and tons of free advice on every other type of ‘reasoning test’ too: numerical, verbal, abstract, logical, inductive, diagrammatic, spatial, mechanical comprehension, UKCAT and Watson-Glaser tests.
- Worried about your assessment day? Maybe you’re worried about performing a presentation or preparing for an interview or group exercise or in-tray exercise?
- Perhaps you’d like some guidance on how to deal with nerves & anxiety at your interview?
- Lastly the Tools and Resources page is packed with useful equipment and ‘A’ List recommendations that will make your life easier.
Thanks for reading!
We hope you enjoyed this article? We’d love to hear your feedback on it and also to learn how your interview or assessment centre goes. Please feel free to get in touch and let us know, thanks and good luck!
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