How to beat interview anxiety (a guide for before and during)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 8 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Having a successful interview is more important than ever as competition for jobs increases across industries. This has also meant that interviews can cause professionals a great deal of anxiety, but this anxiety is manageable if you take a healthy perspective on the process. If you struggle in interviews because of anxiety, consider practising some different techniques to manage stress and prepare well in advance. In this article, we explore how to beat interview anxiety with 12 simple techniques to manage your worries both before and during the interview.

What does anxiousness look like before and during an interview?

Many professionals experience varying degrees of nervousness in the run-up to an interview, which can have both physical and mental effects. Common symptoms of anticipatory anxiety include an inability to relax during the day or sleep the night before, scattered thoughts and a raised heart rate during the interview. This can make it difficult to focus, cause you to respond badly to questions, or give an inaccurate representation of how you usually are. Many of these worries tie into broader problems, such as generalised anxiety or social anxiety, but management techniques can help you recognise and counteract these fears effectively.

How to beat interview anxiety the night before

Although it may be unlikely that you will eliminate all the anxiety before an interview, some methods can help you reduce its effects by recognising the anxiety for what it is. Here, we explore how to beat interview anxiety with 6 examples of techniques that you can use before interviews:

1. Prepare for the interview in a relaxed way

Interview preparations are not about cramming as much information as possible the day before, since this information rarely sticks in your mind and can be a waste of time. Use your time effectively by making sure you know all the basic information thoroughly and can formulate some opinions and answers to questions in advance. Brush up on the company's mission statement and think about why you're interested in working for them. Preparing broadly and letting yourself relax allows you to answer questions flexibly without appearing to have a script and can make you appear more approachable.

Related: How to research a company for an interview

2. Practise interviewing

Having a role-play interview with a friend or family member can help you simulate the interview in a relaxed environment to test your responses to general questions. If it's an option, consider booking an interview with a career advisor at your university or elsewhere for a more high-pressure environment. Practising the process can help you realise what information you can look up or whether you can phrase answers in a more effective way.

Related: How To Practice For a Job Interview

3. Visualise success

It's useful to visualise succeeding in the interview and the steps you're going to take afterwards. This visualisation can give you the ability to see the interview as an exercise and relax into confidence when you answer questions. Picture yourself answering questions successfully and feeling comfortable in the situation to make the environment less stressful when you get into the room. It's easy to visualise failure when you have anxiety, so training yourself to be more positive with your visualisation takes practice.

Related: 7 leadership interview questions (with example answers)

4. Arrange the details of your logistics

Getting all the practical arrangements together in advance can also help you relax beforehand. Make sure you know the location of the interview and consult a map of the site so you can get around comfortably. Remember to give yourself enough spare time on the day of the interview in case traffic or other unforeseen circumstances delay you. Pack your bag with essentials such as copies of your paperwork, a notepad and pen, business cards and water.

5. Deal with practical concerns in advance

Giving yourself as few decisions as possible on the day of the interview can stop you from feeling rushed in the morning. Set out your outfit and prepare your meals in advance. Pack up your car or buy your public transport ticket in advance. Eat well before the interview and properly rest the night before without offsetting your natural rhythm too much.

Taking care of yourself physically before an interview is essential to avoid having to cancel the interview because of sudden illness. Try to get some exercise by having a run and avoiding caffeine and alcohol. Lifting weights or walking may release nervous energy and help you sleep well.

Related: A guide on how to ace an interview (with tips and examples)

6. Reduce your stress levels

Try to find ways of reducing your stress before the interview rather than over-preparing and unsettling yourself. Consider writing down your worries in a journal to clear them from your mind and listening to music to relax the night before and while you travel to the interview. Having conversations with friends and watching things that make you laugh can be a welcome distraction to help you release some pressure. This is a very individual process, so if you relax better after heavy preparations instead, then do what relaxes you most.

Related: How to get motivated at work and reduce stress in 10 steps

How to reduce anxiety at the interview

There are also some techniques you can use just before and during the interview to manage nerves and put yourself in a relaxed mindset. Here we explore 6 examples of techniques to use in an interview to manage stress:

1. Relax and boost your confidence just before the interview

Try tensing and relaxing your muscles one by one from your head to your toes, as if you're going to sleep. Relieving tension from your muscles may stop you from seizing up and appearing stiff when you enter the room. If you get the opportunity, give yourself a pep talk in the car and reaffirm your confidence by visualising success and treating it as an opportunity to showcase your abilities, not as a test. Anxiety can also cause you to take quick breaths and heighten your blood pressure, so take deep breaths to control your heart rate.

Related: How to prepare for a strength-based interview

2. Enter the room confidently

Greeting your interviewer with a smile and a firm handshake can give you the confidence to continue forward in the interview. A nervous start can feel discouraging, so start as you mean to go on, with confidence in your preparations and your ability to perform well in the job. This presentation is important for your own confidence and for the interviewer's confidence in your abilities. Pay attention to subtle cues to sit and don't let the room layout affect you, since the company may set it up to either put you under pressure or disarm you.

3. Pay close attention

Anxiety can cause you to hyper-fixate on particular phrases, paralyse you when you make a mistake or make you draw too deep into your thoughts. Fight against this by trying to focus on engaging with the interviewer or with other people in the office before the interview. Having a friendly conversation with the receptionist or chatting briefly to the interviewer before starting the interview can help you combat these. Do small mental tasks to keep your thoughts balanced and practical.

4. Think about your responses carefully

Interview anxiety can make you jump to conclusions and give a rehearsed answer that feels convenient for the question. Taking the time to think through questions properly and coming up with an answer that addresses what they're asking is usually more impressive than something you have rehearsed. Don't be afraid of silence and take the time to organise your thoughts properly, since you can jeopardise an otherwise excellent answer by delivering it while flustered. Interviewers design questions to test you, so you can naturally take more time to formulate a proper answer that fits its difficulty.

Related: Common Interview Questions For Graduates

5. Ask questions

The power dynamic of an interview can be unsettling, so taking back a small amount of power by asking the interviewer your own questions can put you at ease. Remember that all interviews are a two-way relationship and it's equally important to establish whether the job is right for you as it is for them to assess you. Ask about the company policy on different things that matter to you and clarify their expectations of employees. Don't be afraid to ask for clarification if you feel the interviewer is being unclear, and treat it as an opportunity to find out more information.

Related: How to ask for feedback after an interview

6. Take a healthy perspective on rejection

While looking for a job, you often have many interviews in a short timeframe, usually with at least a few rejections. It's important to remember that the hiring process is complex, and recruiters base their decisions on much wider questions than just your performance. Build on criticism if it's offered, but don't let rejection deter you from applying for similar roles with the same confidence. Every successive interview is an opportunity to practice and develop your communication skills.

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