Ten Tips to Beat Interview Nerves

Working your way through the career ladder in tough economic times is never easy, especially in an ultra-competitive field such as conservation. This means that the pressure to perform in an interview can adversely affect performance. However, with a bit of luck and by using the following advice, you’ll be calm, focused and ready to impress!

Flickr / usfbps

Flickr / usfbps

How do athletes stay calm?

How does Usain Bolt stay calm before a sprint? How did Muhammad Ali stay focused before a fight? There are some parallels between an interview situation and elite level sports, so I thought it would be interesting to see how top athletes deal with nerves to see if it can help conservation job seekers. The top technique is deep breathing, best explained as a step by step process.

  • Count each timing in your head as you go through the process.
  • Inhale for two seconds.
  • Hold the breath for one second.
  • Exhale for four seconds.
  • Make sure you breathe in and out as deeply as possible within the time allowed.
  • You can extend the times if it feels necessary; just remember the key is to exhale for double the amount of time you inhale.
  • Repeat for several minutes – focusing on maintaining a consistent breathing pattern will calm your nerves ahead of the interview.

Here are the ‘best of the rest’:

  • Visualisation. Imagine the interview going well, giving amazing answers to the questions and your confidence will be boosted.
  • Self –talk. Tell yourself how hard you have worked to be where you are, all the days in the field in bad weather, and how hard you have prepared for the interview.
  • Routine. As far as is possible, develop a routine before interviews, although travel and other factors can make this difficult.

Don’t Add Pressure

When the letter or email to say you have been selected for interview arrives, in the midst of excitement, I would recommend you resist the urge to post the news on social media sites, even if it is more interesting than the enormous never-ending quantities of irrelevant nonsense on them! Being selected for interview shows that your application forms are good and on paper your skills match those needed for the role, but actually getting the job is something of a solo mission, and excluding close friends and family, announcing publicly will only add a huge amount of unnecessary pressure and could play on your mind negatively.

Preparation, Preparation, Preparation!

A significant step in reducing interview nerves is to prepare properly. It is logical that the more thoroughly you have researched the organisation, requirements of the job, the species and equipment you may be working with and the health and safety aspects of the work you will be more confident going in to the interview. Think of questions you may be asked specific to the role as well as general interview questions and get a friend or family member to conduct a mock interview. Gaining familiarity with the situation you will face in the interview to some extent will help you feel more comfortable on the day.

Know Your Interview Panel

In most cases the information provided prior to an interview will detail who will sit on the interview panel and their job titles. It can be intimidating, especially if they rank quite highly in the organisation. Look through the organisation’s website and social media accounts, as many profile staff members and have blogs written by them. You may also find their personal Twitter or LinkedIn pages. Researching the panel members and giving them a ‘human face’ in your mind will provide a mental edge when you step into the interview.

Be Punctual

Always arrive in good time, whatever method of transport you have organised. If you arrive early, you can’t panic about making it on time or be late to the interview; it’s as simple as that.

The Final Countdown!

When you get to an interview, you are sometimes left alone before being called in and nerves can become a problem. Deep breathing is useful and switching your thoughts away from the interview is paramount. When someone arrives to take you in, saying “I’m ready for this!” in your head will switch your focus back to the right areas.

Engage in Small Talk

Normally at least one member of the interview panel will engage in a minute or two of small talk before the formal questions begin. It is very important for you to make the most of this informal conversation. Firstly, it will put you at ease with the interview panel and lead on to a better overall performance. Secondly, it is a chance to be personable, a factor taken into consideration when choosing a candidate.

Are you ready for the test?

With roles which involve a large amount of fieldwork, it is only natural that an organisation will want to assess your knowledge, and therefore many integrate a test into the interview process. The difficulty of a test is unpredictable; I’ve heard wildly different accounts, as well as variations in my own experience. It is important to clarify the test content before the interview, especially when this concerns sound clips, you will be much happier if you know about them in advance

Presentation Time!

Some interviews require you to give a presentation to the panel, which can be nerve-wracking. Putting time and effort into the presentation content, as well as at least one rehearsal, are crucial in getting it right on the day. Email the presentation to yourself, take it on a memory stick and bring paper copies so that all possibilities and disasters are covered, it will also leave an impression on the interviewers that you are organised and plan ahead. When presenting, talk calmly, slowly, vary the tone of your voice and remember the best rehearsal you did to try and emulate that performance.

Learn From the Past

It’s inevitable that you won’t succeed in every job interview even if it goes well, but that doesn’t mean all is lost. Ask for feedback and analyse the interview from memory. What did you do well? What could you do better next time? Integrate the thoughts and ideas you gain from this process into the preparation for your next interview. Remember that all experience is good experience and, as long as you learn something from each one, it will pay off further down the line.


About the author – James Walker

James WalkerAfter gaining a degree in Wildlife and Practical Conservation from the University of Salford, James has worked in forestry, been an intern with the RSPB in Wales and conducted bird surveys for Manx BirdLife. He will shortly begin a new job as a countryside ranger for the Greensand Trust. His future ambitions are to develop the skills to manage important conservation projects and build a profile as a wildlife writer.

Careers Advice, Top Tips