By Kristen Wakulchuk


Virtually every candidate is nervous at a job interview. Nerves typically signify that a person really wants the position – and they don’t accurately reflect their personality, skills, or strengths. But if those jitters become unmanageable, the candidate won’t perform well or feel confident in conveying their qualifications to you. When all is said and done, they’ll leave with a negative experience, which isn’t good for either of you.

What steps can you take to gauge an applicant’s level of nervousness and put them at ease? Here are some tips from Susie Timlin, COO of UK Government Investments:

Starting the Interview

You can get an idea of a candidate’s level of nervousness even before they arrive for their in-person interview. You may want to schedule a preliminary phone conversation to introduce yourself and talk a little bit about the opportunity, as well as the applicant and their goals.

  • Give your recruiter some useful information to pass along to a candidate before you meet them. For starters, include links to interviewers’ LinkedIn profiles.
  • Create a comfortable interview environment. If possible, book a room free of distractions, such as phones ringing or people walking by. If there are multiple interviewers, don’t plan to seat everyone facing the candidate. Instead, space people out around a table or seating area so the applicant has someone on their side.
  • Start with easy questions. Then, go on to those that may be more challenging or tricky. Ask questions one at a time and keep them as open-ended as possible. Encourage candidates by nodding and smiling as they speak.

During the Interview

Some signs of nervousness during an interview will be very pronounced. Others may be extremely subtle.

  • Glaring signs of nerves are a person shifting in their seat, tapping their feet or bouncing their knees, avoiding eye contact, stumbling on their words, giggling a lot, or even trembling. If this happens, reassure the person by saying something like, “Don’t worry about it. It’s understandable to be nervous. Just take a breath.” Help them relax and prepare to get started.
  • Sometimes candidates conceal their nervousness, leading you to believe everything is fine. Pay attention to their body language. They may touch their face often, which has a calming effect or yawn quite a bit. (Stress tends to make a person feel warmer, and yawning cools the body off.) Or, a candidate may come across as aloof, distant, or disinterested, when in fact, the opposite is true.


Finishing the Interview

Conclude the interview on a positive note. The candidate may still be nervous, in which case they may not be able to remember the questions they wanted to ask. Reassure them that they can follow up with those questions afterward.

  • Ask how they feel about the opportunity. This question puts the ball in their court, which can be a real confidence booster. At this point, they may relish the chance to admit they’re nervous because they want the job. And you can both end the meeting on a high note.

As you assess and evaluate job candidates, turn to Chane Solutions for expert advice at every stage in your hiring process. With specialization in employment screening and drug testing, we offer decades of expertise and customized solutions to help you make every new hire a success.


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