Is It Ok To Admit You Are Nervous At An Interview?

It can be beneficial to admit that you are nervous in an interview. 

When done in such a way that you are allowed to recollect yourself and offer more thoughtful responses, admitting your nerves can not only signal your humanity, but also decrease the nerves themselves during the interview process.

When is it okay to admit you’re nervous in an interview? Below is what you need to know, as well as a few tips for overcoming those nerves.

Tip: Settle into any interview by taking a few moments to rehearse how you will, and should act when first entering an interview room.

Why you should admit when you are feeling nervous during an interview

Experienced interviewers are expecting some degree of nervousness, and are easily able to spot overcompensation during an interview.

Blustering brags with nothing to back them up may seem like a good way to fake confidence, but they can make you seem unapproachable and untrustworthy.

On the opposite end of the scale stumbling, stuttering answers might make your interviewer believe that you simply don’t know what you’re talking about.

On top of this, suppressing your nerves can also make you more nervous in the long run. According to a Harvard study from 2013, hiding your nerves from an observer can increase your feelings of anxiety, spiking your heart rate and continue to activate your nervous system.

If you’re instead sincere and admit your nerves, only to  then carry on and power through regardless, this can display your humanity and character to the interviewer.

By doing this, you’re showing that you’re capable of getting through difficult situations calmly and confidently despite their unfamiliar or uncomfortable circumstances. A valuable trait in many positions.

The key here is to display that you are capable of powering through the nerves. In many situations, it’s just fine to admit that you are nervous after a fumbled or stuttering answer. Use this admission to collect your thoughts and rephrase your answer, and to give more thoughtful, cohesive answers in the rest of the meeting.

Image by fizkes on Canva Pro.

When is the wrong time to admit you’re nervous during an interview?

Of course, there are situations in which you shouldn’t admit that you’re nervous during an interview.

Confidence is a key trait that interviewers look for – so immediately admitting to your nerves at the beginning of an interview can show a lack of confidence in yourself and your qualifications.

Additionally, stating that you’re nervous might cause you to focus on your nerves or your interviewer’s reaction rather than on the answers you’re giving. This can cause you to come across as distracted or disinterested in the position, which is the last thing that you need in the moment.

Instead of immediately saying that you’re nervous, you might express your excitement for the position. This reframes any stumbles or stuttering as enthusiasm, which can do a lot to give an interviewer confidence that you want to work for them.

As with admitting your nerves, the key is to move past any fumbles with grace and keep your composure for the remainder of the interview.

Tip: If you think nerves might stifle your true character from being on show, a smart move would be to start strong by having your initial greeting with the panel all planned out.

Tips for handling interview nerves

If you’re nervous, whether you admit it or not, you need to be able to handle yourself properly in the interview room. Here are some tips to help you do so.

Understand your situation, and theirs

It’s common advice to tell a potential interviewee that “everyone gets nervous for an interview!” This is true, but it’s only half the picture; the interviewer is often just as nervous as the interviewee.

They have to meet swaths of new people in one day, and decide whether or not these people are going to become their regular co-workers or are going to receive a disheartening “we’re going with another candidate” phone call.

Understanding that both of you are nervous can help you forgive yourself for small stumbles. Know that the interviewer is not there to judge all of your negative qualities; they’re there to assess your qualifications and the benefits you bring to the table. As long as you’re letting those benefits shine, you’re doing well.

Practice makes perfect

Rehearsing your elevator pitch and introduction in the mirror feels silly in the moment, but is an essential part of overcoming interview nerves. Sit down and review potential questions that your interviewer may ask you; there are many lists available online of the most common interview questions, as well as guides for asking good questions at the end of the interview.

If possible, you might ask a friend to sit with you and perform a mock interview. Rehearse the entire process, from entering the room to leaving. Then, ask your friend if they would consider you a good candidate and get honest feedback about where you can improve.

Going through the motions, even without knowing the exact questions you will be asked, can make the real thing feel routine.

Fake your confidence

When you actually get to the interview room, you may find yourself nervous regardless.

So, how do you proceed?  Fake it. Seriously.

Though not a long-term solution, research suggests that putting on a show of being confident in the short term, even when we feel insecure or nervous, can help improve our actual confidence over time.

To fake confidence convincingly, you need to aim for genuine, not perfect. It’s okay to admit that you don’t know something, but say it as if you’re certain you can find the answer. Be sure of your accomplishments; state all of your accomplishments in certain terms that play into their importance.

You can also become familiar with your own speaking and behavior patterns, learning to recognize and correct ones that promote insecurity. By offering a façade of calm and assertiveness, you can train your brain to react in that way in future situations.

Closing notes

Interviews are difficult no matter who you are. Being judged for your credentials can feel like being put under a microscope and examined. At some point or another, you are likely to feel uncomfortable and to stumble. This shouldn’t stop you. Being interviewed doesn’t have to be such a grueling process.

As long as you are authentic, well-prepared, and project a level of confidence, you can make it through the interview process just fine whether you’re nervous or not, and whether you express that nervousness or choose to tactfully reframe it.

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