Coping with Interview Stress

The goal of an interview is to effectively convey that you are the one for a job.

Interviews are often seen as "high stakes" environments that cause many to experience nerves and anxiety before or during their interviews. Sweaty palms, elevated heart rate, racing thoughts, and the inability to focus are common symptoms of interview stress and anxiety. For those who have limited or no interviewing experience, preparing for an interview may be a nerve-racking experience. Even seasoned professionals with years of interview practice can feel anxious or overwhelmed while preparing for or during an interview. Below are strategies for reducing your interviewing nerves and anxiety so you can increase your chances of a successful outcome.

Signs of Interview Stress and Anxiety

Feeling nervous before the big interview? Below is a short list of common symptoms of interview stress. Remember, stress affects each person differently, and the list below is by no means exhaustive. You may experience one, several, or none of these symptoms. What is most important is to know how interview stress impacts you and how to proactively respond through routine practice and preparation.

  • Racing heartbeat
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Blushing
  • Fear that the anxiety will spiral out of control
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Dizziness
  • Cracking voice
  • Racing thoughts
  • Irrational thoughts

Strategies for Managing Stress and Anxiety

Practice Beforehand

  • Practice your responses in front of a mirror. Take notice of your body language, facial expressions, and hand gestures.
  • Schedule a mock interview with a Steinbright professional staff member before the interview. Treat this like a real interview from your preparation to your attire. For some, simply being in interview attire can incite feelings of nervousness or anxiety because the clothing is often formal and less familiar. It's best to get comfortable with being in the attire that you will wear during interviews.
  • Rehearse your 30-second pitch [DOC]. For many, this is the most nerve-racking part of an interview, but mastering this introductory pitch can set the tone for a smoother interview. Rehearse your pitch in the mirror while focusing on positive facial expressions (i.e., genuine smile).

Plan Ahead

  • Write down questions you want to ask at the end of the interview and practice asking them out loud in advance.
  • Spend time researching the company to increase your talking points.
  • Map your route to the interview location and allow yourself plenty of travel time.
  • Consider limiting or avoiding caffeine the day of your interview.

Mentally Prepare

  • Get physical exercise to relax the body. Wake up and go for a walk or a run, go to the gym, or do any physically exerting activity.
  • Meditate or listen to relaxing music.
  • Try positive self-talk (i.e., "I can and I will do this.", "I am good enough.", "I am qualified for this job.").
  • Visualize positive outcomes (such as "This interview will go well, and it will end with me confidently shaking hands and gathering business cards.").
  • Get excited! Try to relate to your feelings of anticipation in a new way by turning your nervous energy into excitement. Say to yourself "I am excited for this interview" rather than "I am nervous for this interview."

There is nothing worse than being anxious and trying to pretend that you aren't. For many, the biggest contributor to interview stress and anxiety is the fear that you are going to be visibly nervous and that you might embarrass yourself. A tool for managing this is to be honest about your nerves and anxiety on an interview and recognize that you are not alone. If you stumble over your words or your voice cracks, rather than trying to pretend that it didn't happen, frame it in a positive manner. For example, "Interviewing can cause me be to be a little nervous. Sometimes that means I might not convey my best thoughts in an interview. However, a positive trait of mine is that I'm very committed to my work and I'm confident I can bring this to your company and this position."

Most people will not fault you for your nerves. In fact, many will appreciate and respect your honesty and may even be able to relate to you. Consider that they too may be nervous as both an interviewer and interviewee, it may be their first time conducting an interview, or they may also get nervous each time they interview. Regardless, most will appreciate your bringing your full self to the situation.

  • Bring a notebook with you and write down the questions you want to ask the employer. This may help you if you get nervous and forget the important questions you want to communicate. You can also take notes as they are speaking to demonstrate your interest in the information they are providing.
  • Repeat the question that is asked to you. Nerves may cause you to quickly jump into your response without thinking. Step back, slow down, take a deep breath, and repeat the question while you allow yourself time to formulate your response.
  • Breathe. Remember to stay present, be engaged in the conversation, and focus on full, deep breaths if you feel nervous throughout the interview.
  • Laugh. Try to cultivate a lighthearted approach. If you falter or misspeak, show that you can laugh at yourself rather than feel like it's the end of the world.
  • Consider that you too are trying to evaluate if the job is a good fit for you. This may take some of the "spotlight" pressure off you and allow you to ask questions to evaluate your interest in the job and company.

Need More Guidance?

Drexel Resources

  • Steinbright Career Development Center – Steinbright co-op advisors and career services team members are available for mock interview practice. Before the big interview, call 215.895.2185 to meet with a Steinbright professional staff member who can assist you with interview preparation.

  • Counseling Center – If you need additional support with stress or anxiety, Drexel's Counseling Center offers free, confidential services to full-time Drexel students (undergraduate and graduate). To make an appointment for services on the University City campus, you may visit Suite 201 of the Creese Student Center, call 215.895.1415 or email

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