Managing your nerves in the interview
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Engemann Student Health Center: Student Counseling Services. “Managing Your Nerves in the Interview”. Kyle Isaacson, M.A. Elizabeth Reyes, Ph.D. Student Counseling Services. Audience Input. Before we get started, are there any specific questions or topics you would like addressed?.

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Managing your nerves in the interview

Engemann Student Health Center:

Student Counseling Services

“Managing Your Nerves in the Interview”

Kyle Isaacson, M.A.

Elizabeth Reyes, Ph.D.

Student Counseling Services

Audience input
Audience Input

Before we get started, are there any specific questions or topics you would like addressed?

Getting started
Getting Started

The interview process starts with the first contact (phone, email, etc). Be professional in all interactions. Think about the impression you are setting on the continuum of no follow-up to 5 calls within one day.

Areas of review:


Preparing for what to expect

Managing doubt and anxiety


Get enough sleep and eat breakfast

Minimize caffeine

Wear comfortable, professional clothing in which you feel comfortable.

Bring extra resumes and/or business cards, even if you have already provided it to them

Plan on arriving 15 minutes early to account for traffic, parking, etc.

Prepare for what you can 1 3
Prepare for what you can 1/3

Use Career Services on campus for resources and assistance

Ask friends who may have worked or interviewed with the company

Research the website and the job description carefully. How do they describe themselves? What tone does the website use?

Research potential questions whether from friends who have worked there, student organizations, or good old google.

Prepare for what you can 2 3
Prepare for what you can 2/3

Research potential questions whether from friends who have worked there, student organizations, or good old google.

With regard to the application process, follow instructions. It is ok to ask what to expect or if they have an anticipated interview and decision schedule.

Practice interviewing with a friend.

Review your notes beforehand while waiting, but also try to focus on relaxing.

Prepare for what you can 3 3
Prepare for what you can 3/3

Ask the interviewer about what to expect in the interview, or if they would like you to prepare something ahead of time.

Reiterate your strengths and do not simply ask them to read the resume. This can be perceived as not making an effort or low interest on your part.

Plan ahead by preparing responses to questions that you can predict such as: your strengths and weaknesses; why you want that job; and questions you have for them (it shows interest in their company).

Try to avoid repeating the same examples. New examples give them more data about you.

Managing doubt and anxiety 1 3
Managing Doubt and Anxiety 1/3

Before we move on to managing anxiety, let’s assume the worst. Failure, disappointment, setback. It does not feel good not to get the second interview, or offered an interview.

What does it really mean not to get the interview or the job?

In the past, how have you managed setbacks when they have happened?

Managing doubt and anxiety 2 3
Managing Doubt and Anxiety 2/3

Nerves are normal, so the goal is to manage the nerves not eliminate them.

Job descriptions are the “dream candidate,” so do not dismiss yourself just because you do not think that have 100% of the skills requested. Employers expect you will have areas to develop, otherwise you would be bored in the job if you already knew how to do everything.

Normalize the process: not every application leads to an interview.

Managing doubt and anxiety 3 3
Managing Doubt and Anxiety 3/3

Super Secret tip: The interviewer wants to like you and wants you to succeed!

If you have an interview, they see something they like and want to know more. They are searching for someone with skills and that can see “living with” at the company. Try to shift from seeing this as a hostile interrogation. It’s like a first date to see if there is compatibility and a good fit.

In the interview 1 2
In the interview 1/2

Know thyself: what is your communication style and what might you need to pay attention too? For example, talking too much when nervous; speaking too softly; short answers that do not give the listener a true sense of your interest, etc. Know what you need to monitor in your own behavior.

Pay attention to your listener, are you getting any cues that your answers are too long? Or vice versa, check in with them, “Do you need more detail?” Do not personalize or get distracted by their own in attention—it may have nothing to do with you.

In the interview 2 2
In the interview 2/2

It is OK to ask for time to think about your answer, or to ask for clarification.

It is ok to say you are unsure of an answer, but add what more information you would like to know to answer, or acknowledge that the question is an area you are interested in learning more about. This helps them understand your problem solving skills.

Practice deep breathing (inhale, hold, exhale for a count of 4 each). It is hard to feel anxious and deep breath at the same time!

Self doubt 1 2
Self-Doubt 1/2

Monitor negative self-talk. Are you so critical that you get discouraged just thinking about updating your resume, the job search, or interview? How do you think this would affect you in an interview?

Difficulty taking credit for your actions? You may say you were “lucky” for doing well, but if you do poorly, you will certainly take credit/blame for that OR notice if you are able to achieve it, then it wasn’t that hard so “doesn’t count.”

Self doubt 2 2
Self-Doubt 2/2

How does your thinking affect “self-fulfilling prophecy?” “The self-fulfilling prophecy is a statement that alters actions and therefore comes true.” For example, a person stating “I’m probably going to have a lousy day,” might alter his actions or interpret everything so that such a prediction is fulfilled by his actions.”

The goal is to manage, not eliminate, self-doubt. Would the employer be aware of your self-doubt and what impression would it make?

Focus on your strengths 1 2
Focus on your strengths 1/2

Review your strengths or past examples of academic or work achievements. Take the time to write them out so you can really see them.

In the US, interviewers tend to value self-confidence and some initiative. Some family or cultural messages may discourage “boasting” about one’s self. How can you find a middle ground in an interview?

Focus on your strengths 2 2
Focus on your strengths 2/2

How do your strengths make you a good fit for the job? The key is to focus not on tasks, per se, but transferable skills and traits such as being responsible, organized, or a good problem solver.

Consider asking a friend or co-worker what they see as your strengths for an alternative perspective.

Find a professor or mentor. Ask them about their career history as well: how did they decide what to do or how they dealt with setbacks. It is eye-opening to see that everyone has dealt with disappointment.

Visualize the job
Visualize the job

Remember, you are interviewing them as well.

List the reasons you want this job and why it would be good to have. Take the time to write it out and not just think about it.

As you review the job description, can you imagine yourself working there and liking it? Does it seem like a good fit for you?

Try your best and let it go
Try your best, and let it go

With interviews you improve as you go, and so you can practice with a friend.

Focus on the lesson of each interview, but do not torture yourself by replaying what you think you mishandled.

Dwelling on the negative only hurts your mindset for the next interview.


21 Ways to Avoid Job Interview Anxiety

By Karen Burns

Find out about counseling options on-campus:

Student Counseling Services at 213/740-7711