How to Relax Before a Job Interview

Job interviews don't have to be terrible experiences.

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Interview anxiety is very common (even if you know you are well-qualified for a job). Meeting strangers in a position of authority; talking about yourself; being evaluated and judged on your appearance, demeanor, and ability to sell yourself—these are all triggers for nerves and stress. However, there are strategies you can use to help alleviate anxiety before an interview. And they work for both in-person and video-call interviews.

How to Relax Before an Interview

In the days and hours leading up to an interview, take proactive steps to prepare yourself and manage stress. While it may be difficult to achieve a real state of calm, you will feel better if you are making an effort to cope with your anxious feelings.

Practice Self-Care

Taking care of your body can go a long way toward alleviating nervous energy and helping you feel more calm. Avoid caffeine, get enough sleep and exercise regularly. Keeping yourself in good health is paramount when facing potentially stressful situations.

Visualize Success

Find a quiet space where you won't be disturbed, close your eyes and visualize yourself being successful in your interview. Visualizing success is more than just positive thinking. When done correctly, it prepares your brain to behave in a certain way. This technique is used by elite athletes before competitions to improve performance.

In the future, virtual reality might help you prepare for an interview. A small study investigated the effectiveness of using virtual reality (VR) to improve job interview skills, reduce fears, and increase confidence about job interviews. The results showed that the VR program lessened anxiety. Features such as ongoing feedback and being able to review a transcript of the interview were cited as helpful. 

Do Your Research

Research is a good anxiety-reliever. Before the interview, learn as much as you can about the potential employer and prepare answers to common interview questions. Every bit of preparation that you can do will help to increase your comfort level and make you feel more confident and capable in the interview.

Reduce stressors unrelated to your actual performance in the interview, such as uncomfortable clothing, getting lost, or showing up late. Well in advance, choose an outfit that is comfortable and that looks good on you. If you aren't familiar with the location of the interview, give yourself plenty of time to find it or do a trial run a day or two before, making sure to factor in traffic conditions at the time you'll be traveling and where to park.

If your interview will be on a video platform, make sure you have installed any apps you'll need. Test out tech like your webcam, microphone, and headphones in advance to confirm that everything is in working order.

Be Prepared

A well-prepared interviewee has an immediate advantage in an interview. In addition, feeling prepared will build confidence and reduce interview anxiety. Bring everything that you think you might need for an in-person interview:

  • Resume
  • Cover letter
  • Business cards
  • References
  • Licenses
  • Certifications
  • Pen and notepad

How to Stay Calm During an Interview

No matter how much advance prep you do, it's normal to feel nervous during an interview. Try these tactics if you feel anxiety mounting during your discussion with a prospective employer.

Don't Succumb to Pressure

Once in a while, you may be interviewed by someone who grills you to see how you handle stress. It may be tempting to spiral into negative automatic thinking, such as "They know I can't handle this job; I should never have applied" or "They don't really like me; I'll never get the job."

Stop. If you find yourself in this situation, realize what the interviewer is trying to accomplish and don't let them upset you. Know that the other candidates have been treated the same way and that it is not a reflection of you or your capabilities.

Interview the Interviewer

Interviews are also a chance for you to evaluate a potential employer. You are deciding whether you want to work for them just as much as they are deciding whether they want you to work for them. Try putting yourself in this mindset and see if it changes your focus. Ask questions that show you are curious as to how the organization might fit with your goals and ambitions for your career.

Release Anxious Energy

Anxiety has a way of leaking out even when you think that you have it well-hidden. If you find yourself fidgeting, do something to release anxious energy that will be less noticeable, such as wiggling your toes or some subtle progressive muscle relaxation. You might also try a few deep breaths (either before the interview, or during the interview when you are not speaking but instead listening to the interviewer).

Accepting Your Anxiety Helps

Research has found that strategies involving reappraisal and acceptance were more effective than suppression to regulate anxiety during a simulated job interview. This indicates that learning to accept that you will be anxious, and reframing anxiety in your mind, will be more helpful than trying to ignore your anxiety.

Take Your Time

You don't have to answer questions immediately. Pause before answering and collect your thoughts. If you worry about drawing a blank during interviews, take notes as your interviewer talks. This takes the focus off of you and allows you to refer to your notes after a question has been asked. If you draw a blank, keep making notes and say that you want to collect your thoughts before responding.

How to Relax After an Interview

Regardless of how you felt that the interview went, congratulate yourself afterward for taking the chance. Avoid ruminating about how the interview went or what could have gone better. Do something that you enjoy as a reward, whether that's taking a walk in the park, curling up with a book, or meeting a friend for coffee.

While it's important to take note of what went well and how you could improve, dwelling on negative parts of the interview will only sap your confidence.

A Word From Verywell

Feeling nervous before and during a job interview is very common. It happens to almost everyone. But these strategies can help you manage that anxiety.

If anxiety is interfering with your ability to get through a job interview, or cope with other social interactions, it could be that you require more than self-help. This might mean treatment in the form of anti-anxiety medication and/or therapy. Meet with your doctor to discuss your symptoms and devise a plan based on your situation.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why do I get nervous during an interview?

    Job interviews are intimidating, so feeling nervous about them is understandable. Interviews can mean meeting new people, having to talk about yourself, and feeling like an impostor who isn't really qualified for the job. And feeling pressure to improve or change your employment situation, whether for financial reasons or because you are dissatisfied with your current job, adds another layer of anxiety and stress.

  • How can I answer questions calmly during an interview?

    The best way to answer questions calmly during an interview is to take your time. Reflect the question back to the interviewer to make sure you understood it and to give you some extra time to compose your reply: "A time I overcame a challenge at work was..." Speak slowly. And don't be afraid to say something like, "Let me think about that for a moment" before answering.

    It also helps to prepare some answers to commonly asked interview questions in advance. While you don't want to memorize an answer word-for-word, having some examples in mind will help you feel more relaxed when you hear the question.

  • How does anxiety affect a job interview?

    Anxiety can affect a job interview by causing distracting, uncomfortable physical sensations (such as a racing heartbeat or sweating). Anxiety and nervousness may also make it difficult for you to answer questions thoughtfully. Preparing in advance and taking steps to manage your anxiety can help.

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Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Arlin Cuncic
Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of "Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder" and "7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety."