From interview nerves to confidence in 5 steps

Confident woman at interview

Everyone gets nervous before an interview. Nerves can be an advantage as the adrenaline you feel can help you to perform better, however you don't want to be so nervous that you can't answer the questions, or become so self conscious that you prevent your own success. With a bit of practice and some useful techniques you can overcome nerves and start demonstrating confidence.  

Employers are attracted to people who are confident and understand their strengths and ability. Let’s start by exploring how the words you use in the interview demonstrate confidence.

Step 1: Using the right words

It is important to appear confident in an interview without seeming too modest or too arrogant. This can be a difficult balance.
You are being too modest if you are:

•         Not talking about your strengths.
•         Denying your strengths ‘oh, it was nothing’

e.g. “Oh, it was nothing. All the students thought it was easy. The others students completed their projects too.”
You would be considered arrogant if you,

•         imply that you are the only one with these skills
•         say that you are the best
•         don’t give credit for other people’s input
•         consider yourself perfect
•         think you have nothing to learn

e.g. "The only reason the team succeeded was because of my input. My interpersonal skills and organisational ability changed this from being a disaster into a success."

 To show an appropriate level of confidence,

•         acknowledge your strengths using the correct language.
•         acknowledge other’s input into your projects.
•         explain what you still need to learn.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the Project Management Course. It gave me the opportunity to put my learning into practice. I designed a knowledge-based system for a book store. I was pleased to receive a high distinction for the project. My tutor’s business knowledge had inspired me and I enjoyed working on a ‘real’ problem.”


Step 2: Displaying the right body language

A confident interviewee will provide a firm handshake, smile and have the confidence to have eye contact for most of the interview.
If you haven’t had much experience in the world of work it is good to practise your introduction so that you feel confident on the day.

When you are in the interview room you need to ensure that you don’t have any repetitive movements that may distract the interviewer and indicate that you are nervous. After eliminating nervous behaviours change your concentration from your own body to the people interviewing your; listening carefully to the questions they ask and watch their body language. You may be able to tell from their glances and body language whether they need more or less information in your answer, or whether you need to show more enthusiasm.  

Step 3: Calming your body and mind

To excel at interview you need to ensure you are at your physical and mental best. 

Meditation is beneficial even if you only do a few minutes per day in the days/weeks leading up to the interview. The benefit comes from the calming effect and the increased clarify of thought. You should notice the positive effect whilst you are meditating and when you have practiced for a while you will notice it improving your quality of mind in every aspect of your day – including at interview. If you are unfamiliar with meditation you can still use this technique; ensure there are no interruptions and become aware of your breath – be aware of the movement of your chest and stomach as you breathe, feel the sensation of air entering and leaving your nose.You will do much better at interview if your body is given the chance to perform by being healthy and refreshed. To achieve this you will have to concentrate on eating healthy food and getting exercise in the run up to the interview. If you can’t avoid comfort eating then ensure the snacks you choose will boost your energy rather than consuming high sugar foods that are counter-productive.

Doing something relaxing the day/evening before can take your mind off the interview and ensure you feel refreshed; this could be reading, having a bath, playing with your family, going for a walk on the beach or a stroll in a National Park.

The night before the interview it is best to go to bed early. It is possible to perform well in an interview if you haven’t slept at all, however most people have improved thought processes if they have had a good night sleep.

Immediately before the interview you can become calmer by concentrating on your breathing. Be aware whether you are breathing fast or slow, deep or shallow. To control your breathing (which will decrease your anxiety) breathe out slowly. Then take a slow breath in and become aware of your lungs expanding. Each time you breathe out let your shoulders sink down.   

Step 4: Ensuring you are fully prepared

Make sure that you have prepared so much that you know there is nothing else you can do to improve your chances of success. Living Career provides booklets with exercises you can do to predict interview questions, prepare answers, understand your interviewers and feel ready.

Ensure you know the route you will take to the interview, where to park and how to enter the building. If you have time you may wish to travel there in advance. Alternatively you can research the directions online.  

You may feel more confident when you have several applications in the pipeline; you can relax a bit when you know that more opportunities for job offers are possible.

Step 5: Boosting your chances through your imagination

Use the creative power of imagination to improve your chances of success. The power of the imagination has been proven to have an impact on actual performance and this is why it's so important to picture your success.

Imagine your perfect interview. It's a perfect performance. You look great. You are full of energy and confidence. The answers flow naturally. The interviewers' expressions clearly demonstrate that they are impressed with you.Take this one step further - write down the most likely interview questions and practice answering these whilst you are imagining your ideal interview.

Once you can really imagine oozing confidence at interview you are in a position to recreate this success at the actual interview.


I hope this has provided some practical techniques to improve your interview performance. Do contact me if you would like to practise real interview questions with me. I can provide you with detailed feedback on the confidence shown through your body language and answers to questions.