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Staying Calm and Confident in Interviews

Spoiler alert! The secret is getting your breath under control.

We all know how it feels. You’ve done your research. You’ve practiced your interview answers for what seems like a thousand times. But when it comes to the actual interview itself, nerves bubble up, seemingly from nowhere.

This is totally normal, and shows you care! But it can also distract the interviewers from the great answers you’re trying to get across.

The good news?

Easy breathing techniques can help get you into the right frame of mind before an interview, and also help you regain control if you have a wobble during the interview itself.

Read on for some super-easy tips you can try out today.

Before the interview: use your belly

Researchers (external website) have found that different emotions are linked to different types of breathing, so changing the way you breathe can change how you feel.

When you experience joy, your breath is deep and steady. When you feel angry or anxious, your breath becomes faster and shallower.

Practicing different ways of breathing can help you feel happier and more confident.

One very simple evidence-backed (external website) technique you can try today is belly breathing. Have a go at this:

  • Sit with your back straight, placing one hand on your belly and one on your heart.
  • Slowly breathe in through the nose and feel your belly push out. Slowly exhale through the mouth and feel the belly draw inwards.

This can reduce your heart rate and help you relax.

You can combine this with something called box breathing (sometimes called four-square breathing). Try this:

  • Breathe out slowly, freeing all the air from your lungs.
  • Breathe in through your nose as you slowly count to four in your head.
  • Be aware of how the air fills your lungs and stomach.
  • Hold your breath count of four – Exhale for another count of four -Hold your breath again for a count of four.
  • Repeat three to four times.

This is a nice and easy way to calm your mind and improve your focus. A bit of daily practice can help you feel calmer in general, and of course it’s super-helpful to do a few rounds just before you start your interview.

During the interview: use your breathing to support your words

So, you’ve got yourself into a good place before the interview. But what can you do to help keep your cool once it starts?

If you’re nervous and your breaths are shallow, you can run out of puff before you finish even the shortest sentence. Getting your breathing right can really help you to express yourself calmly and confidently.

Have a go at the following exercise – it might make all the difference.

  • As you get ready to answer a question, take a full breath in.
  • Start your answer when you start to breath out.
  • As you speak, try to moderate your breath, letting it out slowly enough to support your words, so you can get to the end of your sentence smoothly.

Your answers will come across more clearly and your voice will sound calmer.

It might sound strange, but this technique has been compared to a piece of sushi! Your breath is the ‘rice’ layer which supports your sentence, which is the ‘fish’ layer on top. If you aren’t keen on sushi, other layered food products are available, for example, pizza, cake or lasagne.

Even though this technique is simple, it can help to practice. So, if you can, in the lead up to your interview, get your smartphone out and record yourself talking using this technique (and thinking about sushi, if it helps).

Start by exhaling while slowly counting: “1…2…3…4…5…” and then “Hello, my name is [your name]…”, before practicing some interview answers. Listen back to your recordings – you might be surprised how much changing the way you breath has improved the way you sound.

There you have it – a few ways you can inhale and exhale your way to success!

Now, take a deep breath. You’ve got this.

Check out our section on ‘making your mark in interviews’ for more great tips.

Go to next page ‘How to be your own coach’ →

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