Practical tips from inspirational speaker, actor and interview skills tutor Philippa Hammond

‘How will I cope with nerves?’ is a real interview worry.

What they say about nerves …

“Dread .. scary … pressure .. am I ready …  people laughing at me … make a fool out of myself … red face … shame …. fumbling over my words … disaster … “

You’re not alone – everyone gets nervous, but we can be our own worst enemies, mentally playing worst case scenarios in that self-sabotaging little internal voice before we’ve even begun to prepare.

Think about them

Fear of ridicule and losing face can be strong, and of course your reputation and the outcome matter.

But do remember that most people are nice. They’re interested in what you have to say. So do your homework, think about your audience and speak to their needs throughout. If you can answer their ‘what’s in it for me’ question, they’re interested.

Think positive

Did you know the same things are happening inside when we’re excited as when we’re nervous? We just learn to label them differently.

So let those negative thoughts and words go, and replace them with positive encouragement instead.

You’re there to inspire them, so you need to inspire yourself first. Keep inspirational photos and quotations in your phone to look at when you’re feeling unsure.

You’re excited, energised and eager to take this great opportunity, and you’re going to plan and prepare to succeed. Start thinking ‘I’m really excited’ instead of ‘I’m so nervous’, and remember you’ve been invited perhaps because you’ve done something extraordinary, you know something they need to know, you have something to give them because of your experience and achievement, and you’re there because they want to meet you.

Plan, prepare and practice

Rehearsing answers to possible questions out loud helps you get familiar with it all. Hearing your own voice may then inspire you to improve your answers – always go for clear, plain conversational English, and they’ll stay interested.

No alcohol! You may think you’ll feel and perform better after a drink, but no – you won’t. Coffee and sugar can give you the shakes, and milky drinks can affect your voice. So keep it simple with plenty of water instead, plus a good night’s sleep and some breakfast for energy and calm.

Think checklists. Have you got your glasses, memory stick, notes, instructions, map, business cards … ? Check and check again …and relax.

Aim to get there early and find the place first. Then sit somewhere nice and re-read your CV, cover letter, Linked In, job description, their website .. familiarity builds confidence.

Warm up and step up

Nerves can interfere with clear thinking and speaking. All actors and athletes know that practice and warm-ups are essential for a good performance. Warming up your voice with a few tongue twisters (in private!) will help keep your speech fluent and clear.

Controlling your breathing will help you feel calm, slow you down if you tend to gabble, and give you the energy you need to speak. Relax your shoulders, sit up comfortably straight and breathe slowly and deeply from your diaphragm, at the base of your ribcage.

Make eye contact with them – an interview’s a social interaction, and eye contact helps us like each other. Natural unforced smiles and poised, relaxed posture look and feel good, and help them warm to you.

Yes, you’ll feel nervous while you’re waiting and as you start, but it will get better once you get going. All this preparation will help you feel more confident and improve your personal impact.

If you’ve planned and prepared with care, practised your answers to possible questions, and learned a few techniques for developing your professional voice, you’ll get your message across with style.

Good luck!

Philippa Hammond