How to shake off those pesky interview nerves

Erin Delaney
Team GradAustralia
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It’s pretty much a given that going along to an interview will leave you with a case of the nerves. Most people can’t help but succumb to a bout of butterflies in the tummy and clammy hands, and their nervous laugh mutates into a sort of guffaw mixed with shrill top notes. When the pressure’s on to secure the job and you don’t know how to shake off the nerves, it’s enough to make anyone want to stay home under the bed covers.

But, like learning to ride a bike or speak a second language, learning to control your adrenaline is a valuable skill that will take you a long way in the world of work. From pitching for new business to giving a keynote address, knowing how to put your anxiety to one side and get the job done will open up opportunities for advancement and recognition. And job interviews are the perfect vehicle for practice!

The night before:

  1. Eat a high-protein meal (lean chicken breast, oily fish, legumes and beans) that will give your brain plenty of fuel overnight so you wake up feeling bright-eyed. Drink lots of water or non-caffeinated tea to keep hydrated.
  2. Take a bath (or a long shower), and really let yourself relax. Use aromatherapy oils or light some candles, and let your mind drift. It’s probably been hard at work thinking up worst possible scenarios and running endlessly over the job description, so give it a well-deserved rest.
  3. Triple-check you’ve set your alarm for the right time. Go to bed early and get a good night’s sleep.

In the morning:

  1. Start the day off with another high-protein meal. Oatmeal, eggs or a protein smoothie are great options for getting your brain into gear for the day ahead, because these will slowly fuel your blood sugar over a long period.
  2. Get dressed slowly, paying attention to every part of your appearance. Give yourself plenty of time so you can walk in feeling a million bucks.
  3. If you have time before you go, do something relaxing: read a book, play a video game, listen to your favourite music. Anything that makes you feel good (but won’t crease your clothes!).

At the interview:

  1. Arrive early so you have plenty of time, and let the interviewer know you’re there when there’s 5-10 minutes to go (don’t signal your arrival any earlier, or you run the risk of inconveniencing the interviewer).
  2. Take long, steady breaths. When you inhale count to seven, then count to 11 when you exhale. This is called 7/11 breathing, which is very good for relaxation. Here’s a tutorial for more information.
  3. Smile. It sounds so simple, but not only will it give your interviewers a good first impression of you, it will actually help you feel better! In the 1980s, a psychologist called Robert Zajonc published a seminal study on how smiling makes you feel happy, which you can read more about here.
  4. Don’t forget that breathing!

After the interview:

  1. Congratulate yourself on a job well done! You were invited for an interview, which is a massive achievement in itself. Give yourself a pat on the back.
  2. Don’t dwell. Whatever you said or didn’t say, now is the time to kick back and do something you enjoy. Once you’ve had some distance from the interview, go back over it and see where there were good points made or stories told you can use again, and points you could articulate better.

You might not ever walk in feeling totally invincible, but with patience, time and lots of practice you can walk in knowing you’re going to give it everything you’ve got and — even more importantly — that it’s all going to be alright.