17 Ways to Calm Interview Nerves

It’s a couple of days before your interview. You’ve practised answers to every possible question you can think of, researched the company and re-read the job profile. You’ve been waiting for the opportunity to meet the employer and let them know why you’d make a good match.

You can feel the nervous energy simmering away. So, how do you make sure the adrenalin doesn’t take over?

In our experience in helping accounting and finance professionals secure their ideal role, it all comes down to a few simple things (well, 17 to be precise).

In the build-up to an interview

Whether your interview is a few days or hours away, there is a lot you can do to calm those interview nerves, and here are our top tips.

Arrange a morning interview

Ok, so it won't always be possible to arrange a morning interview as it largely depends on the employer’s availability. However, if you have the choice, it’s a good idea to choose an earlier interview time as you’ll spend less time overthinking your answers. Plus, the chances are that you’ll feel a bit sharper in the morning.

Be prepared

Honestly, there’s nothing worse than feeling unprepared for an interview. As specialist finance and accountancy recruitment specialists, we’ll remind you of what you’ll need to take with you and offer our support and advice. Beyond this, though, you’ll need to do a bit of background preparation. For example, it’s a good idea to research the employer – What are the ambitions for growth? Where are they positioned in their marketplace? What can you glean from publicly available financial records? How do they recognise and reward success? All these things are important if you want to ask good questions at interview and avoid any awkward silences.

You may also find it helpful to practice your answers to questions you know you’ll be asked. It’s a good idea to have a bank of real-life scenarios you can draw from to evidence your capabilities.

Stay rested

We appreciate this may sound obvious but making sure you get enough sleep before an interview is really important. After all, up to 70% of communication is through non-verbal cues (how we look and express ourselves) rather than what we say. So, if you feel tired, you may not give a true representation of yourself.

Exercise or go for a walk

Exercise is a great way to clear the mind and feel good about an upcoming interview. If you go for a jog or even a walk and then come back to your interview preparation, you’ll be surprised what else comes to mind. Some of the best interview answers are given when we feel less pressured.

Use positive affirmations

Remember, there’s a very good reason why you’ve been chosen for interview, especially if MacKenzie King have put you forward as a strong candidate. The employer can already see that you have the experience, skills and capabilities required of the role. So, do keep this in mind and tell yourself “I’ve got this!”

Make post-interview plans

Make sure you have something to look forward to after your interview. That could be meeting a friend for coffee, reading a book or even popping in to say hello to us!

The Day of the Interview

Everyone’s different but, generally speaking, there are a few things to keep in mind on the day to keep those interview nerves at bay.

Eat a good breakfast

There’s nothing more distracting than feeling hungry during the interview or feeling flat out of energy. Breaking the overnight fast will give you just the right amount of fuel you need and clear any brain fog you may have.

A healthy breakfast will also help stabilise your blood sugar and make it easier to stay focused in your answers.

Avoid stimulants

We know this can be a tough one. We absolutely get it as we love a coffee at MacKenzie King. While caffeine and sugar may give you a boost first thing though, you might be setting yourself up for an energy ‘crash’ mid interview, which can affect your focus.

Make sure you’ve packed everything you need

Your recruitment specialist will let you know what to take with you but it’s always a good idea to do a quick check before you set off. It’s especially important not to forget your mobile phone in case something happens to stop you getting there and you need to let the employer (or us) know.

Know where you’re going and how to get there

If there’s one thing that’ll make your interview nerves spike, it’ll be struggling to find the employer’s office or a place to park. Make sure you have the correct post-code, leave in plenty of time and have a couple of different parking options.

Listen to music

As one of the best ways to soothe the soul, listening to your favourite artist will keep you upbeat and motivated. It’s a great distraction too!

During the Interview

Enjoy the experience

While there can be a lot riding on an interview, try not to put yourself under too much pressure. An employer has invited you to meet them because they genuinely want to find out more about you. An interview is your chance to listen to what the employer has to say and share how you could be the right person.

Ask if you don’t understand a question

Sometimes a question may be phrased in a slightly different way, and you may not quite understand what you’re being asked. In this situation, it’s easy for those interview nerves to take over. However, it’s completely fine to ask the interviewer to repeat or clarify a question.

Remember, it’s not an interrogation

When an interviewer is asking you questions, they simply want to know more about you. It’s easy to fall into a pattern of “I didn’t answer that question very well” but try not to let those thoughts creep in. Every candidate would have been asked the same set of questions, and while you may have found one answer tricky, you may have given a stand-out answer to another.

Try not to fidget

If you tend to fidget when you are nervous, take away the obvious items you’ll be drawn to such as a pen or earrings. Constant tapping, while it may calm your interview nerves, will distract an employer. It can also be a tell-tale sign that you’re feeling under pressure.

Listen carefully and talk clearly

A big part of communication is taking the time to listen to the employer. So make sure that you’re paying careful attention to what they are saying. Also, try not to talk too fast (a common side-effect of interview nerves). You don’t need to be slow either – just steady and clear so that they can hear everything you have to say. Also, try to keep your answers relevant to the question asked.

Use positive body language

We all have a default position that we naturally fall into when stressed. That’s why it’s important to be aware of what your body and expressions are saying to an employer.

Maintaining good posture is also important, as is keeping your hands either on your lap or rested in the desk in front of you. Just be mindful not to cross your arms or slouch – both poses subconsciously suggest that you’re closed off and disinterested.

If you have good eye contact, nod in the right places, and smile when you agree with something, you can’t go far wrong!