Manage Your Nerves for a Successful Job Interview

WorkCoachCafeYou’ve worked long and hard at your networking, your LinkedIn Profile, and your resumes. You focused your job search and carefully applied only for jobs that were good fits. You’ve done everything right, and it worked!

You’ve landed a job interview for THE PERFECT JOB for THE PERFECT employer.

YIKES! A Job Interview!

If you are like the vast majority of people, while you are thrilled and excited at this opportunity, you are also terrified. You are afraid that you will blow this big, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Four Important Facts About Job Interview Nerves

Know that the facts support your success:

  1. Being nervous can actually improve your “performance.”

    Studies have shown that being nervous keeps you “on your toes” so you present your best self. Being too laid back for a job interview is not usually a good thing. So, appreciate that you are going to be doing your best.

  2. Being nervous is not an unusual reaction.

    Understand that most of us react exactly this way to being interviewed for a job. Also understand that most interviewers — having been interviewees at several points in their own personal histories — are not going to judge you harshly for being nervous.

  3. You won’t be the only nervous interviewee.

    Your competitors will also be nervous, and, if they aren’t, most people will wonder what is wrong with them.

  4. Interviewers usually are not trying to make you fail.

    Know that most interviewers are sincerely interested in how well you can do the job. They do want to make a “good hire” — someone who will be good to work with and do the job well — so they will ask you questions to learn about your personality and your capabilities.

Keeping the above points in mind, dig in to your preparation so you can give your best performance.

How to Succeed in This Job Interview

Bring your “A Game” best efforts to this opportunity. Now that you know it’s OK, even good, to be nervous, take the following actions:

  • Get real.

Keep this opportunity in perspective. Ask yourself what is the worst that could happen to you if you blow this opportunity.

You will realize that this really isn’t a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Chances are extremely good that you will survive if you don’t get this job. In fact, a better job may be waiting for you either with this employer or with a different employer.

Consider this interview an opportunity to gain interviewing experience: practice and improve your job interviewing skills, expand your network, and learn more about this employer.

  • Be well-prepared.

You know this is essential! Review the job description. Very carefully. Know your strengths and weaknesses as they apply to this job — particularly make note of your accomplishments that demonstrate your fit with the requirements of the job.

Research the employer so you understand what they do, where they do it, and how and why they are successful. Prepare your questions to help you understand if you really want this job for this employer. Dig in and see what you discover (and have an excellent answer to the seemingly casual, “So what do you know about us?” interview question).

Get comfortable with your answers to the standard job interview questions (read How to Answer Job Interview Questions), with an emphasis on the aspects relevant to this job and this employer. Practice answering those questions, preferably with someone asking the questions, or in front of your mirror.

If you have more than 24-hours notice, pay a visit to the job interview location so you have no trouble getting there. Check out the  traffic, the route, and the location. Notice how employees seem to be dressed (unless they are all wearing uniforms), and plan to dress accordingly or a bit more formally.

  • Keep positive thoughts running through your mind.

As you prepare and travel to the interview, keep your thoughts positive! We all have thoughts running through our heads as we work, drive, ride in elevators or rapid transit, meet new people. Keep those thoughts pleasant. Stay optimistic about the outcome of the interview. Practice positive thinking.

Positive thinking is a variation on the old, “Is the glass half-full or half-empty?” question. You’re not avoiding reality. You are just choosing how you will view it.

How can you be positive? As you prepare and go to your job interview, think “I am prepared and confident, and I will do my best in this interview” rather than having “DON’T FAIL” running through your mind.

  • Practice Dr. Amy Cuddy’s “power poses” in private before the interview.

Research has shown that striking one of Dr. Cuddy’s power poses for just a couple of minutes in private (like in a restroom stall, quiet corner of the parking garage, or somewhere else where you are alone and unobserved) before the interview can be a very big help.

These poses turn the old fake-it-till-you-make-it mantra into a reality. You’ll feel confident and successfully put those nerves to good use in your interview.

  • Take a deep breath, put a smile on your face, make eye contact, and shake hands.

Now, go for it! Picture yourself doing this job, working with these people, and being a big success. Start out expecting success or, at least, an interesting discussion.

Bottom Line

Let your nerves show a bit, unless you are so nervous you can’t talk coherently or think you will faint. Push on through the initial fear, and dig into the discussion. Let your nerves help you show you best self, and leverage your thorough preparation to demonstrate your interest and your qualifications.

When the interviews are over, send a great thank you note to each person who interviewed you. Then, move on with your job search — without waiting to learn the results of your interview — just in case this employer isn’t lucky (or smart) enough to make you a job offer.

More About Managing Job Interview Nerves

Build Your Confidence with Power Poses

How to Answer the Job Interview Questions

Help! I Get Nervous When I Interview for a Job!

Please Help Me Ace My Phone Interview!

Job Interviews: Practical Tips to Help You Ace That Job Interview

The Single Most Important Thing in Any Job Interview


About the author…

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 2011, Susan has been editor and publisher of WorkCoachCafe.  A veteran of the United States Marine Corps, Susan also edits and publishes, is a Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and a columnist on HuffingtonPost.  Follow Susan on Twitter (@jobhuntorg) and on Google+.


  1. DreamWorker55 says:

    Click my heals 3 times and say “positive thoughts, positive thoughts, positive thoughts.” This site is the best, I just love it. Once again, so much advice I really need to hear (or in this case, read).

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