Careers advice

How to calm your interview nerves

Let’s get those butterflies under control.

Last updated: 12 June 2023

No matter what they might say, everyone, and we mean everyone, gets nervous before job interviews.

What might differ between individuals is how prevalent these nerves are, and the extent to which they affect your preparation. For some, it might be a few butterflies in the stomach immediately before heading into the interview, for others it could be a much more unpleasant experience.

If you fall into the second category, you may have entered a negative spiral, where you worry about the interview to the extent that your preparation suffers, and then you worry that will impact your performance. Job interview anxiety sucks, but we hope it will help to learn that, by doing the following, you might be able to bring it under some level of control.

5 ways to calm your pre-interview nerves

1. Prepare for the interview

As well as, of course, being helpful for the interview itself, you’ll probably find the act of preparing will help to ease some of those nerves. This is because you’re taking a proactive step towards confronting the thing that’s making you anxious, and you’ll probably find that some of the mental barriers you’re throwing up around this process will start crumbling down once you get into the swing of it.

The single most important thing you can do when preparing for a job interview is to rehearse some answers to the most common job interview questions. Doing this will mean you are far less likely to be caught off guard by a question during the interview, and will allow you to present your relevant skills and experience confidently to the interviewer. When you do this preparation, we highly recommend setting up a mock interview with a family member, or at the very least practising your answers out loud.

Other important preparation for a job interview includes learning a bit about the organisation in terms of its objectives, values and past successes and also re-reading the job description from the Trade Me Jobs listing, so it’s fresh in your mind.

Preparation is key.

2. Remember, they’re also trying to impress

One of the things that makes job interviews particularly anxiety inducing is the thought that you’re constantly trying to impress. One way to counter this is to remember that the business, through the people interviewing you, is also trying to impress. Yes, there is a slightly lopsided power dynamic in a job interview, but it’s an entirely one-way street.

Particularly in recent months, New Zealand businesses have been fighting over the top talent, and often going above and beyond to attract candidates, hence the recent rise in average wages.

Remember, the hiring panel wants you to succeed. The quicker they find the right candidate, the quicker they can get back to their jobs, and the less money the business spends on recruitment. All of this should empower you to go in there and be confident in what you put across.

3. Keep things in perspective

We know this might be the job interview equivalent of being told to ‘calm down’ during an argument, but it’s a point worth making.

Yes, our careers are important, and, if you’re going for a dream job, it can totally feel like everything is on the line. But think about it. What’s the worst thing that can happen? You don’t get the job. Is that going to feel rubbish for a bit? You betcha. Is it going to ruin your life? Nope. Being rejected from a job will be painful for a while, but you’ll soon find another job you’re keen to have a crack at, and you can actually learn a lot from the process of being turned down.

4. Visualise success

When you’ve got job interview nerves, you typically picture yourself going in there, and everything goes wrong. If you’re finding yourself being drawn into these patterns, try flipping the situation on its head. What happens if you go in there, greet the interviewers with confidence and proceed to answer every question as well as you can?

As long as you prepare well, this scenario is far more likely to play out than the one where you crash and burn. While they might seem scary, job interviews are actually no way near as hard people make them out to be, and total trainwrecks are a real rarity.

So, rather than mentally preparing for failure, mentally prepare to nail it.

5. Plan the ‘little things’

There are few things you should aim to get done at least the night before the interview, as they could add to your anxiety if you leave them until the day itself. These include:

  • Picking out your job interview outfit.your job interview outfit
  • Planning the route you’ll take to get to the job interview.
  • Working out when you need to leave the house to get there on time (remember, you want to be there 15 minutes early).


Al Hall
Al Hall

Al Hall is a regular contributor at Trade Me Jobs and Trade Me Property. He’s dedicated to helping people succeed in their aspirations to find their dream job and place to live.