Five Helpful Hints

1. Control your pre-performance focus of concentration.

          You will never be able to calm down out-of-control nerves unless you can learn to control your pre-performance focus of concentration. Two main concentration mistakes made by interviewees generate unwanted nerves. The first is focusing on the outcome before the interview. If you make an interview too important and put too much pressure on yourself to be articulate and present well, chances are you will stress out and under-achieve. Instead, learn to go into an interview focusing in the present, one point at a time.  When it really counts, leave your ultimate goals and expectations at home.

          The second concentration mistake is paying too much attention to the interviewer or panel of interviewers. Of course you have to engage the interviewers, and it helps if you know one or two details about the people on the panel who are asking questions, but if you become overwhelmed by other factors, such as the size of the panel or reputation of some individuals in the panel, you will really send your nerves through the roof. Instead, discipline yourself to keep your mind on you and your job. Be in the moment and stay centered to remain calm before and during your responses to questions..


2. Keep your pre-performance routine the same.

One thing  that will consistently “bind anxiety” and keep you calm is to rely on a consistent pre-performance ritual. Regardless of the importance of the interview, approach it the same way and do the same things you usually do before you speak to an important group. The familiarity of your ritual will help you stay calm and comfortable. If you don’t have a routine, and you are going to attend a few interviews, then it is well worth while developing your own personal routine. Here are a few suggestions:

  • warm up the voice with a variety of sounds
  • drink water and gargle to clear the throat
  • running on the spot
  • stretching the muscles in the back, chest and shoulders
  • occasional deep breath to decrease tension

Some of these activities can be performed while you are in the waiting room prior to the interview, or perhaps in the bathroom. Any or all of them will help to get you “in the zone”.


3.  Focus only on factors you can control

Far too many people get hung up on the “uncontrollables” right before and during their interviews. Thinking about things you have no direct control over will make you nervous, undermine your confidence, and sabotage your performance. Instead, try to keep your thoughts  only on the things that you can directly control. Whenever you’re feeling nervous, ask yourself, “Do I have direct control over what I’m worried about right now?” If the answer is “No,” try to switch your thoughts to something that you can control.


4.  The situation isn’t the problem. How you react to the situation is the problem.

Getting nervous before an important interview is not a problem—but how you react to your nervousness can be a problem.. Many people, noticing their pre-interview jitters, react to them by freaking out. When you feel nervous, or when anything unexpected happens  (for instance, the interviews are running late, or you are having trouble finding a parking spot for your your car), try to remember that the real problem lies in how you react, not in the situation itself. Accept your pre-interview jitters as normaland view them as a sign that you’re ready to perform at your best.


5. Slow and deepen your breathing.

Whenever you’re feeling stressed in the days, hours, or minutes leading up to an important interview, immediately switch your focus to your breathing. Deliberately try to slow and deepen your breathing. When thoughts about the upcoming interview intrude, quickly return your focus to the feel and rhythm of your breath. This technique will be far more effective if you practice it every night for three to four minutes right before falling asleep.


Dr. Patsy Tremayne