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Trainer’s tip: Calming interview nerves


Jane Hodgson asked readers for exercises to help those suffering from interview nerves as they look for jobs after redundancy. Several trainers offered practical tips and advice. Don't forget, we also have an audio file of a relaxation exercise recorded for us by Annie Lawler that visitors to the website can listen to.

Sue Beatt offers the following tips:

It's amazing how many people I've interviewed over the years that have paid no attention to the basics:

  • Wear clothes appropriate to the situation but make sure you're comfortable in them. Make sure everything is clean, ironed and in good condition (no buttons missing etc).
  • Good posture, eye contact and a smile work wonders both in impressing the interviewer and making the interviewee feel confident. A good firm handshake is important (see recent article
  • Allow plenty of time to get there (add 25% to your estimated time to allow for traffic delays etc) Arrive at least five minutes early and go to the toilet to check hair and make-up and use the loo if necessary. Take some deep breaths before going in to the interview room. Count a couple of seconds before answering the questions.

  • If offered a drink, ask for water. Nerves can make you dry up and if you spill, water will not stain.
  • I have a copy of an article that appeared a few years ago showing results of a study that shows you only get 15 seconds to make an impression at interview. Email me at if you would like a copy.

    Rus Slater says preparation & maintaining eye contact are vital:

    Many folk in this situation find making eye-contact with the interviewer to be really difficult.

    My advice is to accept that you find it hard and find a way around it: if you look at the point between the interviewer's eyes, or their eyebrow, or the bridge of their glasses, or even their ear, it is almost indistinguishable to most interviewers that you are not actually making eye contact. However, the fact that you are not looking into the depths of their soul makes you feel less uncomfortable.

    Preparation is also key:

  • Arrive in good time: being late flusters most of us
  • Know what you have written on your CV/application form/letter
  • Try to guess what questions they will ask you; where is your CV weak in the face of their wants...this will save you from being "caught on the hop"
  • Decide what questions you want to ask them, you can even write them down and take these notes to the interview with you (having notes is often the "prop" that increases our confidence even if we don't refer to them)
  • Be prepared to stop and think if you are asked a question you cannot immediately answer; don't be afraid of silence...."engage brain before operating mouth"
  • And finally.....
    Remember that they wouldn't be investing their time in meeting you if they didn't think you were valuable....they believe in you already (up to a point) so believe in yourself!
  • These lessons come from 6.5 years as an outplacement consultant and continuing career coaching...they do work!

    Clare Anderson adds a relaxation exercise:

    Hi Jane, more like techniques than exercises ….. When I first started training and suffered a plethora of nerves I used a relaxation technique to settle the butterflies. Tapping into my imagination I would visualise myself sunbathing on a tropical beach lying on the soft sand and the sunrays warming my skin. With the image I would try to recapture the sound of the sea lapping gently on the shore. For me the sounds and feelings helped to settle the nerves a little in a similar way to the NLP technique known as anchoring. Encourage these individuals to capture a scene and/or sounds which help them to relax so they can tap into this visualisation prior to the start of the interview. Sometimes the use of affirmations can help where they recite a phrase either internally or aloud (if safe to do so!). It could be something like standing in front of a mirror doing a last check on their appearance before they set off and looking at themselves straight in the eye saying “I deserve to get this job, I am a valued individual and have lots to offer”. I also find reciting the serenity prayer is a very powerful way to help me keep calm. Hope this helps.

    Rory Heap suggests taking control where you can:

    Most job-related interviews are essentially threatening to interviewees because they are relatively powerless. The important things to do before during and after the interview are:


  • Take time to anticipate questions

  • Rehearse some possible answers

  • Sit in silence, alone, and think about being comfortable
  • During:

  • Write down the question

  • Read it back to yours

  • Pause for three seconds before commencing the answer (and don't worry if this seems like three minutes to you

  • If you don't feel you have understood the question, or are unhappy with it, seek clarification

  • If you need to, ask supplementary questions
  • remember that you are also interviewing the panel
  • After:

  • Go and do something nice straight away

  • Don't reflect on the interview for at least half an hour

  • When you do reflect, tell yourself what went well
    before worrying about what went badly (That way you will have something positive to come back to

  • Remind yourself that you did the best you could at the time
  • Annie Lawler, a stress management specialist, adds some more tips:

    I agree with much of the advice that has been offered and add the following:

    1. I fully endorse the use of breathing & relaxation techniques and best results will be obtained if the candidate works with these on a daily basis. I have a range of recordings available for sale but would be happy to offer your candidates access to a free 'Quick Fix Relaxation' recording if they email me on

    2. Visualisation is also a powerful tool and practising visualising the scene when you are offered the job and are already in it and doing well, is very useful. It's important to ask the candidate to experience how this scene looks, sounds and most importantly feels.

    3. Preparation is one of the keys to relieving nerves in exam situations and it's important for the candidate to think about how their skills and personality fit into the job description as given in the advertisement of the role so that they can answer questions about that positively. It's also important that they should do a little research on the company they're going to see, so that they can ask questions or demonstrate their knowledge of that company and the sector in their answers.

    4. Remind them that their attitude will be one of the most important influences on the outcome of their interviews and showing a willingness to learn as well as demonstrating existing knowledge will be important.

    5. If a question comes up which the candidate finds difficult to answer or does not understand, remind them to take a deep breath before answering, giving themselves time to think and to know that it's quite acceptable to ask for the question to be repeated or rephrased.

    6. When people have been made redundant, they can experience knocks to the confidence and can feel rejected and lacking in control. It's important, when they go for a new job that they can offer a mature reaction to their redundancy if asked about it. Affirmations used every day and frequently throughout the day which support their confidence will be good practice. For example "Although I have been made redundant, I have excellent skills which can be transferred to another company" or "I have more than sufficient skills and experience to get another job in the same sector or a new sector than that which I have worked in" or "I have all the skills, experience and personality necessary for me to attract a new and even better job"

    7. It's good to be able to point out to candidates that their skills may be transferable to another sector and that the redundancy may be their ideal opportunity to reassess their lives and work out if they want to change direction or explore other areas.

    View the original posting:

    Exercises to help with interview nerves

    See more Trainer’s Tips


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