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Nervous about a job interview? 5 tips for projecting confidence

By Sarah Owens on 03.08.17 in Your Job Search

Interviews are a rather polarising experience. A lot of us raise our game and discover a level of confidence we were previously unaware of, while some succumb to feelings of dread and anxiety; able only to project a fraction of their full capability. A portion of us even go in feeling supremely able, only to come undone by a particularly incisive question we weren't expecting.

The guide to a successful interview starts with seeing the process as an opportunity rather than an obstacle. It's a chance to bring your CV to life and build a real relationship with your potential employer, not something to be feared.

However, this doesn't mean nerves are necessarily a bad thing. In fact, being able to harness them and use them to make you more alert and lucid is a skill which should see you ace the interview process every single time. I've outlined five steps below to help you do so:

1. Feign confidence

The first thing you must remember is that none of us are born confident. It's not so much a character trait as a state of mind which can be altered immediately. Confidence is a choice.

Try acting self-assured and you'll soon find that, in response to other people treating you as though you are, you'll be confident all the same. Think positive and you will soon feel positive.

2. Power pose

The easiest way to feign confidence is to power pose. Amy Cuddy talks about this extensively in her TED talk, ' Your body language may shape who you are'.

Amy encourages the audience to consider the poses animals adopt. When looking to appear strong and warn off potential aggressors, many will open up their body as much as they can, projecting strength and confidence and thus discouraging the rival from challenging their authority. You can adopt a similar technique to convey self-assuredness during interview, although perhaps forego the baring your teeth part. Try it now if you're sat at your desk: plant your feet firmly on the ground, arch your back, keep your head high and pronounce your chest.

Do you not already feel more poised, more able and more confident? Not only will this help the chemistry within your own brain - as Amy evidenced in her talk - but it will also lead the interviewer to regard you as someone who is sure of themselves, thus reaffirming your own poise.

3. Breathe

Regulated breathing is a good way of distracting yourself from negative thoughts and regaining your composure. Adopting a power pose, such as that described above, can help ensure your breathing is steadier and thus more conducive to a feeling of confidence.

To help counter-act feelings of anxiety, inhale slowly through your nose - focusing on the air filling your lungs - before counting to three and then exhaling just as carefully through pursed lips. Make sure you're not hunched over or in another uncomfortable position when performing this breathing technique as this can stunt the positive effects. 

Remember to breathe properly when answering the interviewer's questions. Nerves can make us want to rush through saying everything as quickly as possible so we can hand the onus of the conversation back to the other person, but it reflects very badly on you as a candidate and will only beget feelings of greater anxiety. Being confident is more about what the other person hears, rather than what you say - so make sure you're speaking at a steady, comprehensible pace.

4. Use humour

A cheap method to overcome nerves during interview is to insert humour into the process. The stress of being in a tight-fitting suit in an unknown and most likely sterile office environment, conversing with a stranger who's asking you probing questions can of course be slightly disconcerting - so try disarming them with a bit of quick wit or a gentle pun.

Help expunge nerves early by making a wisecrack straight after introducing yourself, even if it's a banality about how poor the British weather is. Talking with your interviewer first about a non-business related matter can help you feel a greater sense of familiarity when you get onto more serious topics, thus giving you a greater sense of confidence. Come prepared with a few canned lines but don't overstep the mark with anything too risky!

5.   Prepare

Talking of coming prepared, ultimately the best way to overcome nerves and project confidence is to know your stuff. Make sure you've done your research on the company, the interviewer, the role and any questions they may ask.

There are so many tools available to you to help you with this task, whether it's researching the employer on LinkedIn or looking up recent successes on the company's website. Knowing what you're talking about is the surest way to answering questions with pose and purpose. It's also important that you prepare by wearing the correct attire - showing up to an interview whereby your interviewer is wearing a suit and you're sporting jeans is not going to help any job interview anxiety.

Cool as a cucumber

The office environment favours those who are bold and brave, willing to take on new tasks and engage with unknown personnel. Therefore, expect the interviewer to be assessing your level of confidence from the moment you walk in the door. Don't let this put you off, however, confidence isn't the big, scary, unachievable characteristic that some make it out to be. Try combining the above five tips to see which work best for you and then go out there and secure that dream job.

You can also watch my short video on this topic at https://youtu.be/I9Cbm-_b0HA