Tips for graduates: how to deal with job interview nerves
The foundation for graduate interview confidence is preparation. It begins with researching the organisation in question and ends with laying out your attire (smart, professional but comfortable) and polishing your shoes the night before.
Know the company's products, mission statement, culture and locations. Scrutinise the job description or graduate recruitment literature for clues as to what they are looking for.
Researching the person who is interviewing you is also a good trick to have up your sleeve. It’ll make them more human and therefore less daunting on the day. It might help you to know that some recruiters get nervous before interviews too.
You can practise interviews using the resources available from our partners Shortlist.Me.
Arrange a morning interview
If you have a choice of interview times, opting for a morning meeting means that you won’t be able to dwell on it all day.
Use your careers service
Your careers service has all sorts of resources to help you prepare for graduate interviews and therefore calm your jitters. Sign up for interview clinics or workshops. Ask your careers adviser whether they have any insider knowledge on how that particular employer recruits graduates and whether fellow students have given feedback from their own experiences.
Know your CV like the back of your hand
Your CV (or application form) has served you well so far: it’s got you an interview. Try to predict the questions your CV may prompt and have confident answers to those questions. If you've had any poor exam results, be prepared to defend those ‘blips’.
Taking a copy of your job application along is always a good idea. At most, a quick glance at it may help you answer a tricky question; at least, holding a document will stop you biting your nails or fidgeting with your hands.
Phone a friend
Insider knowledge is priceless. Ask yourself who do you know who works in the industry that you’re targeting. Quiz them about what they like about their role, what skills are needed and what sorts of questions are likely to crop up at interview.
Do you have a trusted friend, roommate or careers adviser who could give you a practice interview a few days before (practising the night before or on the morning of the interview may do nothing more than heighten your anxiety)? Practice interviews are ideal opportunities to try out your answers to common or likely interview questions.
Although some stress is good – you need to get that adrenalin pumping in order to perform at your peak – the secret to acing an interview is to come across as relaxed and confident rather than anxious. Techniques for staying calm start the night before, such as taking a warm bath, going to the gym (let those natural endorphins put you in a better frame of mind) and getting a good night’s sleep.
On the day, have a healthy breakfast, take a walk and get some fresh air. Before you go into the interview, don’t forget to take some slow, deep breaths (in for five; out for five), and loosen your jaw and shoulders by having a good shake to release tension. Starting with your feet and moving up, tighten each part of your body then relax it.
If you know relaxation isn't your strong point, start looking for ways to deal with it early. There are various techniques to help. Many focus on breathing: take a look online to see what tips you can find.
Have time to spare
Work out, in plenty of time, your route from home to the interview and prepare your schedule for the day. Doing a trial run beforehand to see how long it takes is useful. Build into your plan time for public transport delays or bad traffic, then use that spare time to relax once you’re at your destination.
Rationalise your fears
Put your graduate job interview in perspective: this isn’t the only job out there. They wouldn’t be interviewing you if they thought you lacked potential for the position. Replace negative thoughts with positive ones: ‘I could get the job’ rather than ‘I might not get the job’.
Sometimes thinking of it as a meeting rather than an interview can help you get over irrational fears: it reinforces the idea that an interview is a two-way process.
Think of something you’ve achieved that you’re proud of and use it to build your confidence. Tell yourself: ‘I’ve climbed Ben Nevis/organised a summer ball/lived abroad on my own/run a half-marathon, I can do this!’
Enter and exit confidently
A smile and a strong handshake are simple techniques for creating an impression of self-confidence. Asking the interviewers some strong questions before you finish can leave a positive lasting impression, such as ‘What do you like about working here?’
Finally, don’t worry, relax and remember that this ‘meeting’ is as much for you as it is for your interviewers. Coming across well in interviews is largely a case of mind over matter. If all else fails, smile, take a slow deep breath and tell yourself: ‘Win or lose, this will all be over in a hour’.
Quick tips for graduate interview confidence
- Relax and remember that this ‘meeting’ is as much for you as it is for your interviewers.
- Replace negative thoughts with positive ones: ‘I could get the job’ rather than ‘I might not get the job’.
- A smile and a strong handshake are simple techniques for creating an impression of self-confidence.