Do You Get Nervous About Being Nervous During an Interview?

A reader named Lisa recently wrote me about how nervous she gets in interviews…and how she feels it’s keeping her from getting an actual job offer:

“I find interviewing exhausting. I have decent cover letters, but when I get in the door, I always try for natural and confident…and end up falling short of the mark. When I do mock interviews, to practice, people tell me I’m fine, so I think it’s nerves.”

Clearly Lisa is not alone. Interviews can be exhausting. Not only do we get nervous, but we get nervous about being nervous! And nerves, an oh-so normal part of the process, just add to the exhaustion. Especially if you’re focusing so much energy on fighting them.

Please know that most interviewers expect a bit of nerves. In most cases, nerves alone will not keep someone from getting a job – unless it’s so severe that’s all the interviewer sees.  And the best way to help keep that from happening, is by trying not to get caught up in worrying about the nerves on top of all else you’re dealing with.

The less you think about them, the more natural and effective your interview can be. That doesn’t mean they go away…it just means you don’t add to it by having an internal conversation about it (Uh oh! I’m nervous. Can she tell? Is she watching the sweat? What did she just say?) while you should be focusing on the interview!

In Zen philosophy, they might say you should acknowledge the nerves, welcome them, invite them to sit with you, and get on with your business. I know that’s much easier said than done, but maybe a helpful image for some.

It’s how you handle them

But if you’re trying too hard to fight what’s happening (maybe like Lisa), the nerves can get even worse because that’s what you’re paying the most attention to.  By trying so hard to look cool confident when you are nervous, you come off looking unnatural – and also waste a lot of energy that could be focused on the interviewers’ questions and your answers. Better to divert your attention from your own nerves (and worrying about them) to the actual interview. It’s ok to even say “Please excuse me. I’m a little nervous.” And smile…and then go on.

Any company that doesn’t think it’s ok to be at least a little nervous in an interview is probably not one you would ever want to work for! I’ve interviewed many people who showed some nerves…and they got offers. It was how they handled the rest of the interview that mattered. And, come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever made an offer to someone who was 100% confident – they seem so annoying…and plastic.

What to do when nerves hit during an interview

Just acknowledge (at least to yourself) that you are nervous and it’s ok…and then  focus on the interviewer. Listen carefully as they speak, without thinking yet about what to say (or what you just said), and when they finish, take a moment and then respond as naturally as possible (without forcing anything) while looking them in the eyes. It’s about the connection as much as the words. If you have a question about their question, feel free to ask them to clarify. It shows you’re a good listener and not afraid to ask questions.

Remember to take some deep breaths – in and out – a few minutes before you go in. Also, prior to the interview, you might want to visualize a warm, comfortable, lively interview with the interviewer and you totally connecting. Good to start doing both a day or two before the interview!

Please know interview nerves are normal, so no need to be so nervous about having them. BUT…if they are so severe they are effecting your interviews (and maybe even the rest of your life), it might pay to speak with a professional and get a little extra help.

For more tips  to help you get through those very normal interview nerves, check out the last part of this article: Why Do I Get So Nervous During a Job Interview?

And for even more from Work Coach Cafe:

Help! I Get Nervous When I Interview for a Job

What Should I Be Thinking During a Job Interview?

How to Answer Annoying Job Interview Questions

Should I Apologize for Being Nervous in My Thank You Letter?

How to Answer Annoying Job Interview Questions

Job Interview Tips

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