How to Calm Nerves Before an Interview

By Biron Clark


Interview Preparation

Biron Clark

Biron Clark

Writer & Career Coach

It’s normal to feel nervous before an interview, but you don’t have to stay that way.

Taking steps to calm your nerves before an interview won’t just help you feel better and more relaxed… it’ll also help you show more confidence and deliver better answers.

In this article, we’ll look at the best ways to calm nervousness before an interview so you can land the job!

How to Calm Your Nerves Before an Interview

1. Recognize What a Job Interview Really Is

Other websites are going to tell you to breathe deeply, have a good breakfast, etc. And those tips help. We’ll get to them.

But there’s something far more important to discuss first.

A lot of job seekers feel overly nervous before an interview because they aren’t recognizing it for what it is.

The job interview is simply a two-way conversation to determine if this opportunity is a good fit for both sides.

It’s a business conversation.

Once you understand this in your job search, you’re going to feel more confident and less nervous.

This means you should go in with the aim of learning about the job, not just answering questions. Prepare good questions to ask the employer and think of the interview as an opportunity to learn about the role.

Aren’t there some aspects of the role you’d like to learn more about or clarify? If not, you probably need to take more time to research the role and company.

Now, some anxiety before the interview is still totally normal, so I’ll share plenty more ways to slow your breathing, calm those shaky hands, and boost your confidence.

But this first step is critical in calming nerves before the interview.

2. Focus on Breathing

Before your job interview, take a couple of minutes to sit quietly and focus only on your breathing.

Take a few deep breaths, focusing on breathing in and out slowly. This can help calm interview nerves by lowering your blood pressure and heart rate.

Controlling your breathing takes practice, but once you learn, you can manage how your body feels in tense moments.

Try to continue breathing in a slow, controlled manner after the interview begins, too.

It’s okay to pause for a few seconds after a question, before giving your answer. Take your time to think and respond thoughtfully, without rushing.

This will help you give better answers and calm those job interview nerves.

3. Talk About the Interview With Someone

Sometimes, the best solution when you’re feeling too much pressure about any kind of situation is to simply talk it out with somebody.

If an upcoming interview is stressing you out, you don’t need to face that alone. Talk to a friend, family member, or someone else you trust and mention that you’re feeling nervous.

You may calm some of your nerves before the interview by simply telling someone that you feel anxious.

Saying this aloud, and discussing it with another person, will help you realize that it’s normal to feel some interview anxiety, and that this interview process also isn’t the end of the world!

You’re going to get through it.

Plenty of people feel tense before an interview but still have interview success.

Plus the other person might be able to offer interview advice and tips, too.

They may even be willing to practice some interview questions with you, which also helps you prepare. (I’ll talk more about this below.)

It’s okay if you don’t want to share how you’re feeling with everyone, but try to find at least one person, whether it’s a parent, a sibling, a friend, or someone else.

4. Put Cold Water On Your Wrists

Here’s a lesser-known tip to calm your job interview nerves:

Run a bit of cold water across your wrists (with your palms facing up), or across the back of your neck.

These are areas of your body where blood flows near the surface of the skin, so you can cool your entire body quickly by placing cold water or a cold towel on these targeted spots.

Your whole body will cool down as the blood circulates, helping you feel more relaxed.

You can also wet a paper towel with cold water and lay it across the back of your neck for a few seconds, instead of dripping water directly.

However you do it, this can be a great last-minute trick to feel less nervous before an interview.

So keep this in mind as a way to calm interview nerves before leaving your home, or if you have access to a bathroom while waiting for the interview to start.

5. Count Backward

If you feel yourself starting to worry about your job interview at the last minute and need a quick fix, try slowly counting to 10 and then back again a few times.

Why does this work? It’s harder to freak out about the future when you’re busy remembering what number comes before seven. (Hey, kindergarten was a long time ago.)

You don’t have to do this for very long to start noticing yourself feeling calmer, and then you can focus back on the task at hand — acing your job interview.

You probably shouldn’t do this in the job interview because you might miss a question, but it’s a fast, effective solution to use in the waiting room, in your car on the way to an interview, etc.

6. Talk Positive to Yourself

You have a huge amount of control over your thoughts and what you tell yourself each day. Most people don’t stop to think about it, but what you tell yourself has a major impact on how you feel about a situation and about yourself.

Stay positive and try to notice if you’re telling yourself negative things like “I can’t do this” or “I’m barely qualified for this job; the employer isn’t going to choose me.”

If you say negative things to yourself, it’s only going to amplify your pre-interview nerves and also cause you to give worse job interview answers, because you’ll feel less confident.

So try to replace any doubt or negative emotions with positive thoughts. Instead of thinking about everything that could go wrong, think about what happens if everything goes right.

Imagine yourself saying goodbye to the interviewer after a great conversation, and being excited to hear feedback when it comes. Imagine them asking “When are you available to start?”

If all else fails and you still feel nervous or scared going into the interview, give yourself a mini pep-talk:

“This is going to be over in one hour no matter what, so I might as well believe in myself and do everything possible to succeed in the meantime. I’ll be a lot happier with myself after if I do that, so that’s my plan starting NOW.”

7. Transform Nervous Energy Into Enthusiasm

One more strategy you can use to combat job interview nerves is to transform those nervous feelings into excitement and enthusiasm in the interview.

Hiring managers love someone who has positive energy and shows interest and excitement about the position.

So if you feel yourself getting a bit nervous, sit up straight, make good eye contact, and use that energy to show your best self to this potential employer.

Employers get excited when they see someone engaged, interested, sitting up straight in their chair, maintaining good eye contact and body language, etc.

And this is true whether it’s an in-person or remote interview.

Beyond this, you can say things like, “This role sounds like it offers the type of work that I’m genuinely interested in.”

Or, “The role sounds like it may be a nice step to build upon what I’ve been doing in my last two positions. I’m excited to discuss it further.”

Turn that anxiety into excitement and enthusiasm both in body language and verbal cues, and you’ll build rapport with the hiring manager, show confidence, and feel less nervous.

8. Visualize Success

Plenty of studies have proven the effectiveness of visualizing success before a big event.

Picture yourself going through specific tasks successfully — like the first handshake before an interview, sitting down confidently in the chair, and walking out of your interview an hour later feeling like the hiring manager was impressed with you.

There’s a reason visualization is used by professional athletes, actors, and more. Here are some successful people who use this trick:

• Michael Phelps (Olympic swimmer)

• Oprah Winfrey (TV personality/mogul)

• Will Smith (actor)

Visualizing interview success will help you feel less nervous and possibly give you an edge over other job seekers.

9. Exercise the Night Before Your Interview

Exercise releases endorphins — natural chemicals that make you feel calm and happy. This makes physical exercises an ideal natural mood-booster and relaxation tool before a big job interview.

To tackle your interview nerves, choose whatever form of exercise you like – lifting weights, running, swimming, sports, yoga, etc. — and commit to doing it for 30 minutes the night before your interview. Or more!

You’ll likely sleep better that night and wake up with fewer nerves to battle.

10. Avoid Excess Caffeine Before Your Interview

A bit of caffeine can help you feel alert and ready in the morning, but having too much caffeine before you enter the interview room can sabotage your job search, leaving you anxious and jittery.

Too much caffeine can also cause you to talk a bit faster than usual, which makes you seem nervous and less confident.

If you’re a regular coffee drinker, the key is to find a balance. You want to show enthusiasm when you answer questions, but without the anxiety.

If you plan on going on many job interviews, take the time to find the right amount of coffee to reach that perfect balance.

But don’t drink more caffeine than you normally do before your interview, because it could harm your ability to answer questions, impact your body language, and more.

11. Practice Common Questions and Answers at Home

One of the best ways to succeed in your interviews is to practice answering questions in your own home.

Giving the top interview questions a trial run will calm your nerves before the interview will allow you to work out any weak spots or areas of struggle before the big day.

Then, when the real job interview comes, you’re going to be less likely to feel anxious, and be far more likely to land the job.

Here’s how I recommend practicing your interview answers:

Think about common topics an interviewer will ask, like why you’re looking for a new job, why you left your last job, what your strengths are, etc.

Then, write down the main points you’d like to discuss for each.

And then run through a couple of practice answers to make sure you’re hitting the key points you want to discuss.

Don’t try to memorize your answer word-for-word. In my experience, that won’t relieve nerves and may even add to the tension in the interview, since you’ll be so focused on trying to remember your exact answers.

So instead, my advice is to practice discussing the key points you want to hit for the common topics you expect employers to ask about (which you can study here).

Once you can hit the key points you want to share for the key questions you expect to be asked, you’re ready for the interview.

12. Have a Good Breakfast

Conducting a job search isn’t easy and your body needs energy to do it well. Make sure you eat a good meal before your job interview and don’t skip breakfast.

Sitting down and taking time to eat good food will help with pre-interview nerves.

You’ll have more energy and feel relaxed instead of tense, and the meal will also give you time to reflect on your overall interview strategy, the questions you expect to hear, etc.

I recommend eating a great meal, then staying at the table for five more minutes. Focus on deep breathing and do a bit more visualization to prepare for your interview.

13. Listen to Calming Music

Listening to music is another great way to feel less nervous before an interview.

A few hours before your interview, sit down in a space without too many distractions (for example your home, your car, etc.) and listen to calm, slow music.

I recommend music without words, and something calming like classical music.

Slowly breathe in and out, shut your eyes, and try not to think about much of anything over the course of a few minutes (or more).

And steer clear of fast, intense music when you’re on the way to your interview!

Listening to tranquil music will slow your breathing and heart rate and relax your mind so that you can feel confident when entering the interview room or online meeting.

14. Wear the Right Clothes

If you’re someone who gets nervous easily, then wearing the right clothes can provide a small boost in helping you stay calm, comfortable, and not get too hot/anxious once the interview starts.

Wear professional-looking clothes but nothing too tight/constricting, and you’ll feel less nervous throughout the interview.

15. Trust That Everything Will Be Okay

Sometimes, stressful situations seem more scary or dangerous than they truly are, which is often the case with job interviews.

Try to notice any negative thoughts arising and recognize that you’re going to be fine no matter what happens in this interview.

An interview can be a stressful event and it’s normal to feel nervous, but it’s not a life-and-death scenario.

Always remember that the interview is simply a business conversation to decide whether the job is a good fit for both sides. This should be review if you read tip #1 in this article.

You should go in with confidence and ask questions, just like the interviewers will, to determine if this is a good potential match.

Focus on learning about the job and truly determining if this is a good place for you to take your career. Listen to the info they share, instead of just waiting to talk. You’ll build a better bond with the interviewer and feel less nervous at the same time.

You’ll also get more oxygen, since you’ll be listening more and talking less, which is always a good thing!

The bottom line is:

There are other jobs out there if this one isn’t the fit, and your job search will end someday. You will get hired.

If you feel nervous before the interview, take a deep breath, try staying calm, and remind yourself that you’re going to do the best you can here, but that you’ll also have other opportunities. There’s always the next interview!

Remembering this should help remove some of the pressure so you can walk in with confidence and make a better impression on the interviewer.

Recap: How to Calm Nerves Before a Job Interview

If you read the tips above, you know how to relax your nerves so you can feel confident and have a great interview.

And you know that a job interview is simply a business conversation where both sides are trying to learn if this is a good match. There’s no reason to be overly scared.

It’s normal to have some performance anxiety, but if you take a deep breath or two and use the other tips above for calming your nerves, and remember that you’re going to survive this no matter what happens, you’ll be able to deliver a strong performance and get more job offers.

Further reading:

Biron Clark

About the Author

Read more articles by Biron Clark