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What makes you nervous during an interview?

Job interviews can be nerve-wracking experiences. From worrying about what to wear to thinking about how to best answer difficult questions, it’s normal to feel some anxiety before an important interview.

Common Causes of Interview Nerves

There are many potential causes of pre-interview jitters:

  • Fear of the unknown – Not knowing what to expect or the types of questions you’ll be asked can create a lot of uncertainty.
  • Feeling unprepared – Not spending enough time researching the role, company, and industry can leave you feeling unprepared.
  • Imposter syndrome – Feeling like you don’t deserve the job or aren’t qualified enough is common.
  • Fear of failure – Worrying about messing up answers or not getting the job can cause major stress.
  • Social anxiety – Discomfort with meeting new people or being evaluated can heighten nerves.

Physical Symptoms of Interview Anxiety

Interview nerves can manifest in various physical ways, including:

  • Sweaty palms
  • Shaking hands or voice
  • Blushing
  • Upset stomach
  • Increased heart rate
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia

These symptoms are caused by the “fight or flight” response triggered by a stressful situation like an interview. The flood of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline prepares the body to deal with perceived threat.

Mental Effects of Interview Stress

In addition to physical symptoms, interview anxiety can also manifest in your thought patterns and mental state:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Going blank
  • Racing thoughts
  • Overthinking answers
  • Self-doubt
  • Forgetting important points
  • Feeling tongue-tied
  • Worrying about impressions

These effects occur because anxiety redirects focus and mental resources to worrying instead of thinking clearly and logically.

How to Calm Pre-Interview Nerves

While it’s normal to feel some nervousness, there are things you can do to manage anxiety before an interview:

  • Prepare thoroughly – Being well-researched can boost confidence.
  • Practice your answers – Rehearse your responses to common questions.
  • Review your resume – Refresh yourself on your qualifications.
  • Get a good night’s sleep – Being well-rested helps reduce stress.
  • Exercise before the interview – This releases tension and relieves anxiety.
  • Listen to relaxing music – Meditative tunes can calm the mind.
  • Visualize success – Picture yourself acing the interview.
  • Arrive early – Allow extra time so you’re not rushed.
  • Take deep breaths – Inhale and exhale slowly to dissipate nervous energy.

Remember, being a little nervous means you care about making a good impression. With the right preparation, mindset and relaxation techniques, you can channel those jitters into positive interview performance.

Most Common Interview Questions

Here are some of the most frequently asked interview questions that often make candidates nervous about how to best respond:

“Tell me about yourself”

This open-ended question causes anxiety because it’s so broad. Focus your answer on highlighting your qualifications and experience most relevant to the role and company.

“What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?”

Pick strengths that align with the position’s requirements and follow weaknesses with examples of how you work to improve them.

“Why do you want this job?”

Do your research so you can speak sincerely about what excites you about the company and position.

“Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

Tie your answer into the role you’re applying for and the company’s goals and trajectory.

“Why should we hire you?”

Connect your skills, achievements and values directly to the company’s needs and motivations for hiring.

“What salary are you seeking?”

Give a reasonable range based on research of the role’s market value and your personal needs.

Dressing for an Interview

Deciding what to wear to an interview can also cause anxiety. Follow these tips to choose interview attire that will boost your confidence:

  • Opt for professional, conservative clothing like a suit or blazer.
  • Pick neutral colors like black, navy, gray, tan, or dark blue.
  • Make sure clothes are clean, wrinkle-free, and fit properly.
  • Limit accessories and jewelry to avoid distractions.
  • Wear polished dress shoes that match your outfit.
  • Neatly style your hair off your face.
  • Keep makeup and fragrance simple and subtle.
  • Clean and trim your nails.

Dressing the part can make you feel more self-assured. Remember to wear something comfortable too so you aren’t adjusting your clothes constantly.

Nonverbal Signals to Avoid

Your body language and other nonverbal signals during an interview can also betray nervousness. Be conscious of these behaviors:

Behavior What It Communicates
Slouching posture Disinterest, low confidence
Looking down/away Dishonesty, anxiety
Fidgeting Anxiety, boredom
Crossed arms Defensiveness, close-mindedness
Minimal eye contact Discomfort, insincerity
Speaking too fast Nervousness

Maintaining open, upright posture, nodding and smiling at appropriate times, and keeping your movements and tone relaxed will convey confidence.

What Interviews Assess

Understanding what interviewers aim to evaluate can help manage anxiety about the process. Interviews generally assess:

  • Hard skills – Your qualifications and technical abilities.
  • Soft skills – Your interpersonal abilities and emotional intelligence.
  • Culture fit – How well your workstyle and values match the company.
  • Critical thinking – How you analyze problems and think logically.
  • Motivation – Your enthusiasm for the role and company.

If you prepare responses demonstrating these capacities, you can feel assured you are putting your best foot forward.

What Not to Do

Some behaviors during interviews only make nervousness worse. Avoid:

  • Acting desperate – Frame yourself as interested but not dependent on the role.
  • Badmouthing others – Speaking negatively reflects poorly on you.
  • Interrupting – Let the interviewer finish questions and thoughts.
  • Oversharing – Keep responses relevant and professional.
  • Making excuses – Take responsibility for any shortcomings.
  • Getting defensive – Stay calm and thoughtful in your responses.

With practice and preparation, you can learn to manage the impulse to engage in these nervous habits.

What to Do If You Go Blank

It’s normal to go blank for a moment during a high-pressure interview. If your mind suddenly stalls, try these recovery tactics:

  • Take a sip of water to buy time.
  • Ask for a moment or two to gather your thoughts.
  • Repeat the question back to confirm what you’re being asked.
  • Be honest you’re drawing a blank momentarily.
  • Ask for clarification on any vague or complex questions.

With a short pause to collect yourself, you can often overcome temporary mental blocks without obvious difficulty.

Remember Your Strengths

One of the main causes of interview anxiety is feeling unqualified. Combat this by reminding yourself of your skills and value:

  • Recall past successes and accomplishments.
  • Review positive feedback from your references.
  • Remember times you’ve overcome challenges.
  • Read over your accomplishments and qualifications.
  • Visualize yourself excelling in the role.

Boosting your confidence will help minimize worrying thoughts during an interview.

Come With Questions

Having smart questions for your interviewers serves several helpful purposes:

  • Demonstrates your interest and preparation.
  • Gives you time to collect yourself between answering questions.
  • Allows you to assess if the role and company are a fit.
  • Lets you clarify and get more details.
  • Shapes the discussion to your strengths.

Coming prepared with thoughtful queries shows your engagement and strategic thinking.

Practice Relaxation Techniques

Here are some relaxation techniques you can practice before interviews to manage nerves:

Deep Breathing

Inhale slowly through your nose, feeling your breath move into your abdomen. Exhale gently through pursed lips. Repeat several times.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Systematically tense and relax each muscle group in your body to release stress.

Guided Imagery

Picture yourself in a calm, peaceful place. Notice the sensory details to feel immersed and relaxed.

Mindfulness Meditation

Observe your thoughts and emotions without judgment to gain distance from anxiety.

These techniques can activate the parasympathetic nervous system to counter the stress response of interview nerves.

Facts to Boost Confidence

Here are some helpful facts to remember to ease interview anxiety:

  • Many candidates feel nervous, not just you.
  • Interviewers want you to succeed as hiring is expensive.
  • Many questions have no single “right” answer.
  • Minor mistakes won’t ruin your chances if the rest goes well.
  • Your skills and passion matter more than nerves.
  • Thorough preparation is the best confidence booster.
  • You are more qualified than you give yourself credit for.
  • The interview is a conversation, not an inquisition.

Keeping perspective can prevent pre-interview anxiety from spiraling out of control.

Focus on Your Accomplishments

A major cause of interview nerves is low self-confidence. Counteract by focusing on your achievements:

  • Academic degrees and honors
  • Special training and certifications
  • Awards and recognition
  • Successful projects you led or participated in
  • Key metrics and deliverables you hit
  • Problems you helped solve
  • Ways you added value in past roles

Recalling past success will nurture self-assurance about your competence and qualifications.

Be Authentic

Trying too hard to say the “right” thing often backfires by coming across as disingenuous. Instead:

  • Speak simply and frankly when answering questions.
  • Present your genuine interests and personality.
  • Be honest about weaknesses – but focus on strengths.
  • Ask questions you truly want answers to.
  • Listen sincerely instead of just thinking about responding.

Authenticity builds trust and rapport to help calm nerves.

Sending Thank You Notes

Sending follow-up thank you notes shows professionalism and interest. Include:

  • Appreciation for the interviewer’s time.
  • Specific aspects of the conversation you enjoyed.
  • Key reasons you are a great match for the role.
  • Any helpful information you forgot to mention.
  • Your continued enthusiasm and curiosity about the opportunity.

Thank you notes remind the interviewer of your strengths so you stand out.

Turn Nerves into Excitement

With practice, you can reframe pre-interview anxiety as excited energy:

  • View it as adrenaline to fuel your focus and performance.
  • Embrace the thrill of pursuing a new opportunity.
  • Channel nervous ticks into thoughtful mannerisms.
  • Use stress as motivation to prepare thoroughly.
  • Know the discomfort is temporary but worth it.

Harnessing anxiety productively will make interviews more enjoyable experiences.


It’s perfectly normal to feel anxious before a big interview. Managing nerves takes diligent preparation, practicing responses, learning relaxation techniques, and focusing on your qualifications and goals. With the right attitude, pre-interview jitters can give you the boost to put your best foot forward and ace the interview.