Job-hunting for young people - 8: "Interviews make me sick with nerves so I never show my best side."

Nicola Morgan understands teenage stress as well as anyone - she's even written a book about it. Now she turns her understanding towards helping them relax at job interviews

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Actually, you shouldn't relax completely: stress is designed to make us perform well. When we're feeling nervous, blood rushes to where it's needed and our focus improves. BUT, the trouble is that sometimes our nerves can stop us performing at our best, too, especially when we're juggling all the feelings and thoughts.

Here are my tips for controlling nerves in an interview and performing your best:

  1. Experience and practice make a big difference - this means that your first interview is likely to be a tough one, as everything feels new. SO, see if you can line up a practice interview with an adult who can pretend to be an employer. If you can arrange for a friend to video it, that would be brilliant.
  2. Understand that everyone gets nervous before an interview. The people interviewing you know this. Sometimes, I'm afraid, they will try to make you more nervous; usually, they will try to make you relaxed. But every experience will make you better the next time.
  3. Realise what your bodies does when stressed: you may get a dry mouth (drink water before you go in); you will probably speak faster (tell yourself to slow down); your mind may go blank (if this happens, just take some deep breaths and, if necessary, say that your mind has gone blank and you'd like to come back to that question); you may find your tongue gets tangled round words (slow down!)
  4. Plan what you're going to wear so that you feel confident and comfortable. Get advice on this and think about what sort of job/company you're applying to. Looking clean and tidy is more important than anything, so make sure you have a chance to check in the mirror before you go into the room.
  5. Arrive in plenty of time. Better to go and get a coffee to kill time than to arrive out of breath and sweaty.
  6. Before you go in, tell yourself that when you get into the room, you will walk confidently, smile and put out your hand to shake hands. Tell yourself that you will sit comfortably in the chair, neither lounging nor perched on the corner. Practice this at home in front of a mirror.
  7. During the interview, try to take a mental step back and look at yourself. Are you fidgeting with your fingers or hair? Are you doing anything annoying or odd at all? Biting your lip? Tapping your foot? That moment of looking at yourself can be really useful.
  8. Be prepared with at least one question to ask at the end. If they have already answered all your questions by then, say, "I did have several questions but actually you've answered everything so clearly - thank you very much."
  9. Always say thank you at the end of the interview.
  10. And email afterwards to thank them for seeing you. Perhaps you remembered something you wished you'd said - well, you can say it now.
  11. If it goes badly, just chalk it up to experience. Perhaps it wasn't the job for you anyway and you'd have been unhappy there.

I remember when I was really nervous about my first public-speaking engagement and loads of people said "Good luck" during the day; then a good friend said "Enjoy yourself" and so that's what I'll say to you: enjoy yourself!

Got any questions? Come and ask me on Twitter tomorrow (Weds 16th July) at 1pm - @PsychologiesMag

Nicola Morgan

Author and speaker about adolescence, -

Nicola Morgan is a multi-award-winning author for and about teenagers and an renowned speaker at conferences and schools around the world. Her classic book on the teenage brain, BLAME MY BRAIN – THE TEENAGE BRAIN REVEALED, was followed by THE TEENAGE GUIDE TO STRESS and THE TEENAGE GUIDE TO FRIENDS and innovative multimedia teaching resources on the brain and mental health, BRAIN STICKS™, STRESS WELL FOR SCHOOLS and EXAM ATTACK. Her next books are POSITIVELY TEENAGE (May) and LIFE ONLINE (June). She writes articles at