How to Calm Your Nerves Before an Interview

Stressed before a big interview? Learn a few techniques to help you keep your cool.

Calm Nerves Before Interview

We’ve all been there. Nervous, right before you go in for a big interview. Your stomach in knots and worried thoughts are racing. Unsure how to calm your nerves before your interview? What happens here in the body and the brain can give us some insight on how to hack these processes. When you’re stressed, the fight, flight or freeze response in the brain activates and your body prepares for survival mode, elevating cortisol so you can literally run away. Neurologically speaking, your brain is now focused on activating whatever processes are necessary to survive, while limiting power to the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain that governs higher thinking and decision making, essential processes for a job interview!

What’s fascinating is that this stress response happens both when a threat is real and when it is imagined, an important distinction. So, relatively the same response would happen physiologically if I was running away from a saber-tooth tiger and in the moments before I went into a job interview. The difference is in the story your mind creates about the interview. Our pre-interview stress is based off of a ‘perceived threat’ because it’s likely there is no real, immediate threat to your life or safety. There is only the fear of failure or embarrassment and their repercussions. So, how can we hack this process so we can calm those nerves before the interview?

Try a Power Pose

Amy Cuddy became famous for her Ted Talk  in 2012 when she described the “power pose” which she had researched while on the faculty at Harvard Business School. Though some attempted to discredit her work, “power pose” fans will be pleased to hear that her colleagues and she successfully refuted criticism with their latest research. I can tell you from my personal research, the power pose works. Before each and every interview I have had, or presentation I’ve felt nervous before, I spread my arms out wide and let the confidence seep in. All you need to do is stand in a pose that inspires confidence, spread your arms expansively and hold that pose for 2 full minutes. This can take you quickly from a state of uncertainty, doubt and fear to a feeling of power and confidence to carry you through your interview. 

Mindful Breathing

One thing we forget to do when we’re nervous is to breathe! When our brain starts to go into survival mode part of what happens when our sympathetic nervous system kicks in is our breath shortens. The best way to counter this response is to practice conscious, slow, deep belly breathing. You could even place one hand on your belly and feel the hand moving as your belly expands and contracts. Try this out for more than a minute and consider it a meditation!

Try an Affirmation 

Remember that your nerves come from a wholesome place, a desire to perform well, and perhaps an excitement or a passion for your work. Try your best not to get down on yourself before the interview. One last tip to keep your confidence strong is to repeat an affirmation aloud as many times as it takes for you to really feel it. 

Here are a few good ones to try out:

  • I am confident in my skills and talents 
  • I connect easily with others and communicate clearly my strengths
  • During the interview I will be relaxed and calm
  • The result of this interview does not determine my value as a human being

Accept What You Cannot Change.

Listen, you can perform self-regulating techniques and crush your interview and the fact remains, you still may not get hired. This quote is a lovely reframe on worrying from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, “If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it’s not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.”

Worrying may be our natural reaction to fear and uncertainty, and that’s okay. It may feel challenging, but it is actually quite freeing to accept the things that you cannot change, especially if they haven’t happened yet! So while you’re waiting eagerly to hear back from the interviewer, practice this phrase for a few breaths: “Breathing in I do my best, Breathing out I let go of the rest”. Hopefully with this you’ll be able to calm your nerves before your interview!

Happy Interviewing!

Have a great pre-interview affirmation? Share it here for the Till community to see!

Photo: Charles

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