From the Northeastern Section of the ACS, focusing on career management and development

December 2021
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Nervousness in Interviews
Filed under: Interviewing, Networking, Mature professionals
Posted by: site admin @ 7:05 pm

This could be a long blog entry.  Perhaps it will
apply to you and your situations right away.  Or,
it might be something that does not happen often.
When it does happen, it can be paralyzing,
embarrassing and even leave a mental scar that
lasts for a long time.

Met this fine person, VT, at the career services
program of the ACS San Diego meeting this week.
In fact, she sent a nice note about her experience
today.  In the interview, VT seemed to lose her
self control in the interview situation.  She
admitted she was very nervous and did not
know what to do.

I encountered this with at least four professionals. 
Each person presented different behaviors
that originated from different personal causes.
It is definitely one of the BIG things the ACS
does in the mock Interviewing sessions by
exposing every member who wishes an experience
of what an interview situation is like.  Then, good
career consultants recognize the behaviors and
coach how each individual’s nervousness case
itself, explore possible root causes, and
behaviors to manage the nervousness. 
In fact, we never lose the anticipation, the pressure
of the situation, we only learn its manifestations
for us and how we can best ‘keep a lid on it.

Having a little pressure can, in fact, be helpful.
It keeps us from being too laid back or not
showing enough concern or interest.

The feeling of anxiety and unpreparedness can be
a normal response to intimidating, stressful or
unexpected circumstances.  Our bodies are
reflecting increases in hormones that are released
into our blood stream in anxiety presenting

Typical situations can be
    when there is one or more people scrutinizing
or judging us, especially when a lot is riding on
our performance or our understanding of what
someone’s expectations of us are.
    when we feel inadequate to respond well to
a circumstance
     when we observe someone else being exposed
just before our turn, or we have been exposed in
a previous or similar situation
     when it seems there is only one shot and high

People react physically in different ways
when they
are feeling nervous. The following
are some of the physical changes that may
when you are nervous.

       blushing and hot or cold flushes
       perspiring and sweaty hands
       breath odors and shallow breathing
       rapid heart beat and cold hands
       loss of focus or concentration
       distorted reality
       lightheaded and dizziness
       muscle tension
It seems our bodies reveal more of what is going
on inside our heads than what we verbalize.

We can also speak more rapidly, and many times
too softly.  We speak too quickly without giving
deliberate thought.  We can be prone to quickly
forgetting what was asked or said.  We do not
have “our head in the game.”

Consider implementing some of the following in
combination to improve your interviewing (and
presentation) performance:

A. Mental preparation and control
Know what you are up against.  Have some idea
what you will face and how you will face it. 
Visualize your success.  Anticipate both your
strong points and your weaknesses.

A. 1.  Be aware of the ‘true stakes’.  Some
nervousness can be attributed to “must ” do well,
caring too much and not being at your best in a
“one time only circumstance.”
If I do not do well now, it is all over and I am a
failure or let others down.

A suggestion is to perform an “attention switch”
where the emphasis is less on a rejection and more
on doing my “level best.”  Other opportunities will
come up in the meantime.

A. 2.  Many often underestimate themselves versus
the competition or the “representative person.” 
Avoid your perceptions of factors and extrapolations
to yourself and your competition.

A.  3.  Most people are unaccustomed to being judged
and evaluated on the spot by their thoughts, words,
actions and behaviors.  It is an intimidating situation.

Being smart and being aware and alert to nonverbal
signals can be quite different.  In situations like
interviews and presentations there is no replacement
for preparation and practice.
If you start early and have time on your side, find
many opportunities to develop interpersonal skills
to improve listening, audience analysis, observing
and building trust in others and having them trust

Mentally orient your thinking so that you behave
the way you desire and you visualize your success
then perform successfully.

Preparation reduces nervousness by increasing your
comfort level and building confidence that you
understand how you might respond to questions by
knowing typical questions, writing out answers after
researching the company and delivering your lines.

Think before you speak.  Clarify questions so you
understand what is expected, rather than having
to back track and correct or expand after an
inadequate beginning.

Consider pausing before speaking, thinking and
taking notes while others are speaking to gather
your thoughts.

Know your material well.

B.  Tips on physical elements to reduce
nervousness  Watch yourself.  Know that what
you do, you control, although that seems obvious. 
The nontrivial thing is self observation.

Often, we do things instinctively.  It is noteworthy
that a trusted mentor is a person who can observe
and point out foibles that we can monitor and

Things that we do that present nervous behavior
patterns are physically based, including talking
quickly, abrupt speech patterns, starting one new
sentence before the last one is finished, a higher
than normal pitch.  Nervous twitches or mannerisms
clicking of pens, helicoptering of pens on finger,
It is possible to manage these outward signs, even
if the internal feeling is on high alert.  In this,
forget trying to be relaxed and focus on not
appearing nervous.

B.  1.  Expand your abdomen and breathe more
deeply.  Erect body posture alone is good.  The
added benefit of providing more oxygen for your
brain helps when you are on ‘high alert.’

Be in good physical shape.  Get a good cardio
workout to train your body to deal with the higher
demand when under pressure.
Wear comfortable outfits that do not put pressure
on posture, breathing or diaphragm.

Another benefit of taking deeper breaths is
moderation in your speaking speed and pitch.

ACS mock interviews allow you to record yourself
in interview scenarios.  In combination with a
career consultant’s comments mock interviews
simulates your actual performance.

B.  2.  Plan to arrive in advance of the scheduled
time.  Run a trial run the day before, have cell phone
on and call if you feel you will be delayed.

B.  3.  If the interviewer pointedly asks
questions, don’t take things personally.  She or
he may be assessing you on just that ability.
That may be one of the qualities being evaluated.
Chin up and ask for more.  Have the physical
aspect under control, again.

B. .4.  Be in a relaxed yet alert state.  Do a
body and mind tuning workout and raise your

B.  5.  Related to this is ensure you get enough rest
and eat well, since you want to have a store of
neurotransmitters read to release. Avoid caffeine
just before the interview.  Keep your throat

Carbohydrates and proteins provide in turn
serotonin and eliminate B vitamins.  Chocolate and
sunflower seeds are often favored.

Case studies 1.L-CH
He began his interview speaking fast in stachatto rhythm
knowing his stuff but breathing rapidly and shallow.
He gradually showed improvement throughout the
mock interview.

Case study-YJ
She began the interview after displaying nervous
behaviors arriving a couple of minutes late and
seemingly in a distracted way running for water.
She quickly lost control in the mock interview
and appeared not focused nor ready for an interview.

We carefully articulated the nonverbal signals
she displayed and asked her to find ways for
her to gain self control in the interview situation.
Interact with the admin, comment on situations
reduce the tension she feels at the beginning with
her initiating appropriate small talk.

Case study-JG
He was an in control guy who had strong feeling
of self awareness and confidence.  He observed
a challenging previous mock interview and more
than anything else had this influence his behavior.

We pointed out his unconscious rubbing of leg
and less confident demeanor.  It was suggested
that he put blinders on for other situations and
focus on what he needed to do .

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