Dealing with interview/assessment nerves

We all get nervous. Even the most high-powered CEOs feel nervous at times. It's completely natural and can actually be a useful tool helping us focus and work hard to feel prepared.

Sometimes, however, nerves can make us feel overwhelmed and even panic. Below are some tips to deal with nervousness and anxiety around attending interviews and assessment centres.

1. Prepare and practice

Make sure you leave enough time to prepare. Research the company, ask family or friends to do practice questions and scenarios with you and make sure you read all the information you receive about the day thoroughly as soon as you get it. The night before might be too late. We have lots of useful tips about interviews, preparing for assessment centres and presentations, so take some time to read these too.

Key points:

  • If you are asked to prepare something in advance, e.g. a presentation, make sure you read the guidance carefully and spend enough time preparing for this. Make sure you allow time to practice - even in front of a mirror, and time yourself.
  • Don’t forget to research the company/institution and look at their online presence so you can reflect their values and be accurate in your content.
  • Look at the job description to get ideas of the kinds of questions they might ask you. For example, if the person specification says they want someone with leadership skills, they may ask you to give an example of a time where you have shown leadership. Practising using the STARS framework for interview questions will help you to answer these questions fully.

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2. Relax and breathe

Try to get an early night before your interview. Stop any preparation you are doing and try to do something that relaxes you before you go to bed, e.g. go for a walk, listen to some music, read a book etc.

On the day, try to have a healthy breakfast and allow yourself plenty of time to get to the interview/assessment location. If it’s a telephone or video interview/assessment, allow yourself time to set up the room. See our guidance on video interviews to assist with this.

Meditation and mindfulness techniques can also be useful if you are finding the prospect of an upcoming interview or assessment centre particularly overwhelming. This is a way of pausing for a moment and refocusing on the present. Mindfulness breathing techniques can also be useful to calm nerves or anxiety on the day.

The University's webpages on mindfulness contain resources for further information and guidance related to mindfulness. The Mindfulness for Students website also contains some useful techniques and exercises that you can try to help you manage your nerves.

3. Think about what you want from them

Remember that you are also interviewing them. Although it can be disappointing if you don’t get that job you had your heart set on, the fact is different jobs suit different people. If a company feels like you may not be the right fit and don’t offer you the job, it is much better than you starting a job which you might not enjoy or feel comfortable in.

You should also try and get a sense of if you want to work for that company at the interview. It’s a good idea to have some questions prepared, but you should also think about what matters to you in a potential workplace and see if the company interviewing you fits that.

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