Is it OK to Say You Are Nervous During An Interview? Tips for the Nervous Candidate - Workplace Questions (2023)

Most of us who’ve gone through the experience of being interviewed, especially for the very first time, know what it’s like to be in the hot seat: Your palms start to get sweaty, your mouth dry. You might even be fidgeting more than usual, and talking too fast.

All these are signs of anxiety or nervousness, and they are very obvious to the person interviewing you.

Do I tell the interviewer that I’m extremely nervous? Will this cost me the job? Is there anything I can do to lessen my nervousness during interviews?

Let me share with you some questions and answers on how to handle being nervous during an interview.

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Is being nervous in an interview normal and expected?

Having interviewed hundreds, if not thousands of applicants in my 30 plus years with HR, I can safely say that a vast majority of applicants always feel some anxiety or nervousness, especially at the start of the interview. It’s a normal human reaction, and you shouldn’t see it as a fault or shortcoming. In fact, it’s almost always expected.

I’d be very surprised (and not a bit hesitant) when a candidate comes across as not having the slightest bit of nervousness at all.

So don’t sweat it if you’re feeling a bit jittery at the start. Accept it and do your best to stay calm and relaxed.

As an HR person, it’s my job to establish rapport with candidates before I interview them, and to try and calm them down. If it’s obvious that the candidate is really feeling stressed, I usually give them my best smile and ask them to just sit down for a few minutes while I check his resume.

Tips: If you’re given some time like this, use it as an opportunity to regroup. Breathe slowly and try to center yourself. Remind yourself why you’re there, and visualize yourself succeeding. Think that you’re only having a conversation, and try to not focus on yourself or what you’re feeling too much.

Instead, focus on the interviewer and do your best to establish a connection or rapport the best way you can.

Is it OK to tell the interviewer you are nervous?

If, after everything else, you still feel nervous, is it okay to say that you’re feeling nervous during your interview? In my experience as a long-time HR head, you should avoid saying that you’re nervous or anxious during an interview. If you verbalize what you’re feeling, the more you’ll feel that way. It’s OK to be nervous, but it’s just better if you just don’t say it.

Tip: Use positive words and visualization. When you start feeling nervous, try saying that you are delighted or thrilled to be here and that you’re looking forward to the interview.

Trainers use this tip about focusing on the task at hand all the time when they’re in front of an audience or stage:

You might be nervous too, but as long as you don’t outwardly show it, no one in the audience will ever know. Eventually, if you focus on the task at hand, instead of your own feelings of nervousness, you’ll start warming up and the initial nervousness soon goes away. Imagine the interviewer is your “audience” in this case, and that you have a “performance” to do.

How do interviewers perceive a nervous candidate?

It’s quite obvious when a candidate is feeling nervous. Aside from the limp handshake and eyes darting left and right, you sense an overall feeling of anxiety. Shoulders slumped, head slightly bowed down, and talking too fast in a voice only slightly louder than a whisper. You get the feeling that the candidate is going to stand up and run away at the first opportunity.

The initial impression, especially made by more junior HR recruiters, is that this person has no self-confidence at all and is not cut out for the job. They tend to think that this is not “their” problem and go on to the next candidate.

However, more experienced recruiters know that nervousness might be due to a variety of reasons and make efforts to neutralize a candidate’s nervousness by establishing rapport, giving enough time for the candidate to relax and calm down, and making the interview less formal or intimidating to the candidate.

In any case, if you start feeling nervous during your interview, you should do your best to calm your nerves and not show it. Not all interviewers understand that even a person with the right skills and competencies might feel and act nervous at times, and this could ruin your chances at getting hired.

Tips: Always be a little early for the interview so that you can familiarize yourself with the place. Be prepared by doing research on the company. Familiarize yourself with your resume so that you don’t have to keep glancing at it looking for specific details when the recruiter asks. Practice being friendly and greeting people to “break the ice”. Dress and look the part so that you’ll exude confidence. Remember that you are qualified because of your education, skills, and abilitiesand that nervousness has nothing to do with it.

“I get so nervous during interviews. Does this mean I’m not qualified?”

Being nervous during interviews does not mean you are unqualified. Companies usually hire people according to their education, work experience, past behavior, and competencies. Nervousness, though, might be perceived as a lack of confidence, and this could jeopardize your chance at getting hired.

If you have the right education and skills to do the job, and you still get nervous each time you’re interviewed, don’t despair. This doesn’t mean you’re unqualified. You have to practice staying calm to convince the interviewer that you can handle stress and that you’re qualified for the job.

If the first few interviews don’t work out due to interview anxiety, take a step back and analyze: what when right and what went wrong. And try to vary your approach (getting there earlier, using an icebreaker question, rehearsing more, etc.) so that you can maybe do better next time.

Tips: To reduce your nervousness during the interview, make sure you prepare, prepare, and prepare in advance of your interview.

By this I mean prepare extra copies of your resume, research the company and its industry, find out the best route to the interview venue.

If it’s a virtual interview, make sure you have the link to the online meeting room, and the exact schedule of your interview.

Choose your wardrobe and shoes so that they’ll make you feel confident when you’re ushered into the interview room. Remember to look and dress the part. Lastly, practice introducing yourself and greeting people around the officeremember, this might be your next workplace.

Do this again and again until you can do this in a natural manner where you don’t even have to think about it.

The less you worry about these things, the more time you have to focus on the interview itself.

Can you be nervous in an interview and still get the job?

Being overly nervous can keep you from getting the job: You might forget what you put down in your resume and because of this, your answers might contradict what’s actually written there. Fidgeting a lotlike bouncing your leg or tapping on the tablecould be interpreted by the interviewer as signs that you can’t handle stress on the job, or that you could be hiding something.

In any case, you can still get the job if your interviewer perceives that your nervousness during the interview won’t affect your actual work performance.

But this happens only rarely, and you should do all you can to try and manage your nerves, whether it’s through distracting yourself, or just getting used to interviews.

Tips: There is no one best way to overcome nervousness. It varies from person to person. Some people find it calming to take a short walk before the interview, while others find that a short nap works wonders. Nothing beats being prepared, of course, as mentioned above. Practice and rehearse everything.

If you know you’ve prepared well, you will feel less anxious that you’ve forgotten something or neglected to put in some important information in your resume.

Lastly, remember that this isn’t the only job out there. If you don’t get the job, like always, think of it as a learning experience. Learn to accept the fact that mistakes can and do happen, and try to do better next time by analyzing your approach and trying to change or improve things one way or another. Good luck!

Featured photo by Mikhail Nilov on Pexels.

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