From the moment you get the call or email requesting an interview, your mind probably runs a million miles a minute. The interview is your first chance to prove you’re the right person for the job—and then the nerves start. No matter how qualified you are, you’ll probably always feel antsy before a job interview. But you can fortify yourself with the right mental strategies to seem confident and create a positive first impression, even if the stakes are high.
How to Boost Your Confidence Before a Job Interview
1. Prepare Your Responses
We get nervous before job interviews because we don’t know what to expect. The interviewer could ask anything, present a surprise test, or bring up the one thing we most don’t want to talk about. That’s why you need to do your best to prepare as much as possible. The more you prepare, the better off you’ll be.
Before the interview, you need to:
- Research the company and person who will be interviewing you. Use this information to guide your responses and anticipate what qualities the hiring manager wants to see.
- Memorize your accolades and be ready to discuss one or two challenges you overcame at work. Recruiters are increasingly interested in evaluating a candidate’s emotional intelligence, which often means demonstrating self-awareness about their strengths and areas that still need development.
- Write down your answers for predictable questions such as, “Why do you want this job?” and “Why are you leaving your current role?”
- Create a list of questions to ask during a job interview. This demonstrates that you’re interested in learning more about the company and want to ensure that you’re a good fit for the position.
2. Do a Dress Rehearsal
The best rehearsal is both mental and physical. Ask a friend, family member, or mentor to practice common interview questions with you. If possible, you should perform the exercise with the outfit you’ll wear during the interview—and make sure it fits well, is comfortable, and presents the image you want.
When choosing your interview attire, you’ll need to consider:
- The company’s dress code.
- The weather on the day of the interview.
3. Plan for Worst-Case Scenarios
It might sound like the opposite of what you should do to remain calm, but you need to face your fears and expect the worst if you’re going to get a handle on them. Before your interview, take a moment to ask yourself which questions would be difficult to answer during the interview. Then, think about how you’ll handle that scenario.
4. Create a Checklist
Nothing is more nerve-wracking than wondering, “Do I have everything I need?” It’s the most stressful part of packing for a vacation, and it can be just as distracting when you’re preparing for a job interview. That’s why you should create a checklist that includes:
- Multiple copies of your résumé and cover letter, stashed in your briefcase and car.
- A printed portfolio of your work.
- Printed directions, in case you lose cell reception or drop your phone.
- A pen and paper for taking notes.
5. Arrive Early
You have complete control over when you arrive at the interview, so don’t leave it to the last minute. Before the day of your appointment, travel to the office and time your commute. Factor in possible road detours, traffic patterns, and the weather forecast. Then, fill your gas tank or renew your commuter card so you won’t need to waste any time getting to the office.
Plan to arrive at least 30 minutes early to the interview; more time might be needed depending on how far you’ll need to travel. Once you’ve arrived, wait in your car or get a drink at a nearby café. Listen to calming music, practice mindful breathing, and review your notes.
Then, 10 to 15 minutes before your interview starts, you can walk into the building and check in for your interview. This demonstrates you’re punctual and respect other people’s time—you don’t want to arrive too early, though, which could interrupt the interviewer’s schedule.
6. Do Something Relaxing
Before the interview, let yourself have fun and take your mind off your job search for a little bit. The key is to choose an activity that you can throw yourself into.
You might want to read, listen to music, exercise at the gym, or watch a funny movie.
7. Keep Your Job Search in Perspective
Finally, try to keep the interview in perspective. This job interview isn’t the only opportunity you’ll receive, so even if everything goes wrong, you can keep working toward something better. Recognize that one bad interview won’t keep you from pursuing your dreams, and this perspective will help keep your nerves in check.
Looking for more interview tips? Learn how to tilt an interview in your favor.