According to research for SEEK, 1 in 2 hirers feel nervous about interviews at least sometimes. So, if you’ve got the jitters about conducting a job interview, you’re certainly not alone.
“We tend to only associate nerves with candidates,” SEEK’s Resident Psychologist Sabina Read explains. “However, those doing the interviewing can also experience stress or overwhelm for a range of reasons.
“Some would-be employers may have little experience in interviewing, others may feel ill-prepared or unclear about what they are seeking in a well-suited employee. It’s OK to recognise that just because you're a successful business owner or manager doesn't necessarily mean you're well-equipped to interview without appropriate preparation or guidance.”
Thomas Wigglesworth, Talent Acquisition National Manager at Allens, echoes this sentiment.
"Interviewing isn't always a natural thing for either party so it's perfectly normal to feel out of your comfort zone when being part of one, regardless of which side you're on,” he says. “Acknowledging and embracing those nerves is the first step to conquering them.”
How to tackle your nerves when conducting job interviews:
1. Approach it like a conversation, not an interview
Job interviews can feel like a formal and unfamiliar process, which can add to that sense of nervousness. To ease some of this pressure, Wigglesworth suggests setting the tone with some casual conversation at the beginning of the interview.
“Don't be afraid to start with small talk; ask about their day and their interests, and talk a bit about yourself,” he says. “The more comfortable you both feel, the easier it will be. As the interviewer you're responsible for driving the interview, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should jump straight into formal questioning.”
Read says that reminding yourself about the purpose of an interview can also help you keep things conversational.
“Interviews are all about getting to know one another,” she says. “They’re essentially a two-way exchange where each party is learning and sharing what they can bring to the table, and how their skills, needs, styles, and values align.”
2. Prepare well so you feel more confident
Heading into an interview well-equipped can help you ease your nerves ahead of time, and ensure you feel more confident and prepared throughout the conversation. Wigglesworth advises that your preparation covers a few things:
Make sure you're familiar with the candidate's CV.
Prepare some questions you'd like to ask about their experience, and also about them as a person – for example, their interests and hobbies.
Prepare some answers to questions they may ask you about the role and your company, for example, what you enjoy about working there.
Preparation can also mean stripping back the role and requirements and thinking about the core criteria you’re looking for in an ideal candidate. As Read explains, “your first step before an interview should be to clarify what you’re seeking in both a job position and the individual who will be filling it.
“Sometimes we become too attached to a rigid list of job specifications, and we overlook more subtle factors that can result in job success.”
3. Let the conversation flow
Rather than sticking to a rigid interview structure, letting the conversation flow will feel more natural. Plus, it can even help to uncover key information about your candidates’ experience, personality, and skillset.
“While preparation of questions is essential, if the conversation naturally drifts towards questions that you had planned to ask later on, go with the flow,” Wigglesworth says. “You can always round back to questions you may have skipped over later on.”
If you’re worried deviating from your interview script will make you more nervous or overlook relevant questions, Read notes that “a simple follow up email to thank the candidate for coming and to fill in any gaps is more than appropriate.”
“Even a follow up phone call can be useful for both parties who are assessing whether it feels like a good match,” she says.
4. Above all, be yourself
You don’t necessarily need to present a perfect, buttoned-up version of yourself to hold an effective interview. Instead, try your best to relax and just be yourself.
“Successful job interviews result in a great person accepting a great role,” Wigglesworth explains. “The interviewee’s impression of both the interviewer and the organisation will be much more positive where an interviewer was genuine and honest.”
The same goes for if you find yourself getting caught up by nerves at any point during the interview, Read says.
“If you lose your way in the middle of an interview, just be yourself!
“It’s fine to acknowledge you’re feeling some stress, take a few deep breaths, inject some humour, then get back in the saddle.”
Leading a job interview doesn’t come naturally to everyone. But having these techniques and reminders in your back pocket can help ease your nerves before and during an interview, and re-align with your main focus – finding the best possible person to join your team.
Source: Independent research conducted by Nature of behalf of SEEK, interviewing 4800 Australians annually. Published May 2023.