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Top Tips for calming your pre-interview nerves

anxious before interview

Job interviewing can be tough, especially when our nerves get the better of us. What’s worse — our mood can sabotage our success if we don’t address it. So how can you stay alert, composed, and serene in the days (and hours) prior to your big interview?  

While you are never going to banish your nerves completely before your job interview, but by trying out some of these proven stress-reducing tips and tricks, you may be able to greatly reduce them.

Here’s how to calm nerves before interview: 

  1. Reframe your feelings and address your fears
  2. Divert your mind from constant interview preparation 
  3. Avoid alcohol the day before
  4. Get enough sleep
  5. Don’t skim on breakfast
  6. But avoid morning coffee
  7. Use essential oils 
  8. Self-talk to yourself before the interview
  9. Take a brisk walk 
  10.  Time your arrival well
  11.  Chew some gum
  12.  Try to smile more 
  13.  Give yourself a calming massage. 

Now let’s take a look at each tip in more detail. 

1. Re-appraise Your Feelings

In most cases, you feel nervous about the job interview because you imagine all sorts of bad things to happen i.e. you’ll make a goof out of yourself or get called out for being underqualified or whatsoever. You keep spinning those scenarios in your head and get all worked out before you enter the room.

Neuroscience says that our anxiety levels rise when we make a certain situation seem more visceral than it really is. To get calm, we must reappraise it — change our beliefs and perception of the situation to change how we feel about it. 

Cognitive reappraisal has proven to “modify emotional reactions to stressful, anxiety-provoking situations and can lead to psychological flexibility and emotional well-being” as science suggests

2. Divert from Interview Preparation 

It may be tempting to spend the day (and the night before) rehearsing answers to the common interview questions, researching the employer, and otherwise ‘cramming’ for your job interview. 

Don’t do that.  Researchers from the University of Illinois found that getting too intensely forced on a single task leads to a reduction in performance, plus pump up your stress levels. So when you are obsessively preparing for the interview, you are sabotaging your cognitive controls, eventually leading to higher anxiety. 

How do you battle this? Take timely breaks and let your mind switch to another simple task.

woman relaxing in the park with her dog

3. Abstain From Alcohol

The night before your interview you may be tempted to have a drink to steady your nerves, but this can often have a reverse effect. Alcohol acts as a stimulant and can actually keep you awake rather than allowing you to sleep. It is also a diuretic and can cause you to wake up in the night and disrupt your sleep pattern. This can leave you tired and cranky on the day of your interview – not what you want!

You will want to be well-hydrated and mentally alert for your interview so taking a break from alcohol for a couple of evenings before your big interview will really pay off.

4. Get Plenty Of Sleep

Two or three days before your interview try taking a warm evening bath with relaxing aromatherapy oils. Doing something like this will help soothe your muscles, reduce tension, and calm your mind. Also, a warm bath will help you drift off to sleep more easily.

Before going to bed take 20 minutes or so to sit in the dark, close your eyes and practice some deep breathing. A great calming technique is the 7:11 breathing method. You take in a deep and slow breath to the count of seven, then release your breath slowly to the count of eleven.

5. Have a Good Breakfast 

Hopefully, you will wake up refreshed and ready to take on the day. To start with, make sure you have a good breakfast to kick start your preparations. Quite often people will let their nerves get the better of them and will skip breakfast before their interview. This can often backfire and attending your interview on an empty stomach can be disastrous.

having a healthy breakfast

You may find yourself running on adrenaline, but you will soon burn out and feel awful. Your interviewer may also be put off by the loud rumbling sounds coming from your empty belly!

6. Skip the Morning Coffee 

Coffee may seem your go-to substance for getting alert. But too much caffeine can level up your anxiety levels and give you jitters. Certainly, you don’t want to give that nervous vibe via your body language during the interview.

So replace your morning brew with a cup of more soothing green, camomile, or mint tea. All of them are naturally calming and are thought to have stress-relief properties. 

7. Calm Down with Essential Oils 

Essential oils are a natural remedy for calming anxiety. If you feel worked out before the interview, mix two drops of Jasmine essential oil with a tablespoon of carrier oil, such as sweet almond or grapeseed, and gently massage into the soles of your feet. Apply a little to your wrists and take a little sniff when you need to. Research suggests that jasmine oil can make you more alert and boost your mood. 

8. Give Yourself a Pep Talk 

One of the simplest ways to calm nerves before an interview is to silently talk to yourself. Scientists from Michigan State University discovered that self-talk in the third-person is a staunch mechanism for regulating emotions and improving cognitive control. 

So if you are suddenly feeling nervous on your way to the interview, give yourself that quick pep talk. “Self, why are you being so nervous? You know that we’ve got this!”. You’d likely feel so much better! 

9. Walk To Your Interview

If it’s possible, walk to your interview. Research suggests that brisk walking, as well as meditation, can positively improve your mood.  A well-paced walk helps improve self-perception and self-esteem as it gives some room for your brain to pounder over the important things without many distractions (such as a screen). 

walking to the job interview

Also, by walking to your interview, you can avoid crowded public transport or bad traffic — another two nerve-wracking factors. 

10. Time Your Arrival Well 

Allow plenty of time to get to your interview. If you are driving, leave a little early to ensure that you can get there without the risk of heavy traffic or roadworks making you late. If you arrive feeling flustered or hot and bothered, go to the bathroom and run some cold water over your wrists. This can cool you down and prevent having to give your interviewer a horrible sweaty handshake!

11. Chew a Gum 

The physiological effects of chewing bubblegum have been studied for over 80 years! A good chunk of research suggests that gum chewers can be more alert and attentive when performing cognitive tasks. Other findings suggest that gum chewing can diminish the impact of stress on your brain. You can try that, but don’t forget to spit out your gum before you walk into the interview room. Or things might get awkward! 

12. Try to Smile 

The act of smiling can release calming endorphins in your body. The most interesting bit? Smiling doesn’t have to be ‘natural’, even a ‘fake-smile’ face movement tricks our brain into feeling happier and more relaxed. So that you can ‘fake it till you really make it’. 

smiling during the job interview

13. Give Yourself a Quick Massage 

If you feel your anxiety rising during your interview, try massaging the middle of your palm with your thumb. There is a pressure point here that you can work on to help relax you. Take slow, deep breaths and push your shoulders down to help relieve tension build-up.

These little things can be subtly done during your interview. Don’t forget that your interviewer will be aware that you may be a little nervous, so they are often quite forgiving.

To Conclude 

If it’s been a while since you’ve gone to a job interview, you may feel absolutely mortified the day before. That’s understandable. But don’t let your feelings take the best of you. Remember: no interviewer wants you to fail or choke. On the contrary, they genuinely want to learn more about your amazing skills and unique work experience! So don’t stress out too much! And if you do, you already know how to calm yourself down effectively!

This article has been originally published on September 21, 2016 and has been extensively revised and updated on December 31, 2020.

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