I overcame my nerves by walking around the block

Adem on how he used pep talks, cue cards and a brisk walk to beat interview nerves.

Adems approach to interview prep

I’d done job interviews before, but only for part-time jobs whilst I was studying. This was my first ‘proper’ job interview, for a role that sounded perfect, in a company I was really keen on.

So as you can imagine, I was very nervous. I only had three days between being invited to attend, and the day of the interview. It seemed like a short amount of time, but actually, it was good, as it made me really focus.

The cheat sheet

I did lots of prep: wrote out questions I thought they might ask, got my mate to do a mock interview with me… I kept reading over the job description and person spec, but after a while it was like the words became a blur; nothing was going in.

So, on my mate’s advice, I decided to make a cheat sheet. I wrote out bullet points of things I wanted to mention, the ways I fulfilled what they were looking for… I also wrote out some questions I wanted to ask them. Plus, the address of the place I was going, and the name of the person I had to ask for when I arrived at reception.

Making the cheat sheet helped me feel like I was in control, and I managed to sleep ok that night.

The early bird

When I headed to the interview the next day, I left loads of time to travel across the city, in case of traffic, but I ended up arriving 40 minutes early. As I reached the building, I could already feel myself sweating, my heart pounding, and that nervous adrenaline coursing round my body! I knew if I sat there for 40 minutes obsessively reading my cheat sheet and watching the other candidates go in, it would only get worse, so I decided to go for a walk round the block. I popped in my headphones, put on a playlist, folded my suit jacket over my arm and walked for 20 minutes. This totally worked for me – I’m a runner so I’m really used to getting into the zone, with music in my ears, and I found it really calmed me down.

Then I went into reception, checked in at the desk, took them up on the offer of a glass of water, and sat down to read through my notes. I tried to keep my breathing calm and slow, and said to myself, ‘you’ve got this’ – cheesy, I know, but hey – it worked!

Facing the panel

When I went into the interview itself, the panel immediately made me feel at ease; they were all welcoming and friendly. This was a big relief. They seemed genuinely interested to hear about my experiences and interest in the role. It actually ended up feeling more like a conversation than an interview because I’d planned what to talk about, that gave me stories to fall back on, but I ended up talking about a whole range of other things too. I think being in that calm headspace allowed me to open up and be myself. I’m really grateful for that opportunity.

How’d it go?

You're probably wondering if I got the job? Well, no — I didn’t. I made it down to the last few candidates but wasn’t offered the job. I was disappointed but got some good feedback and felt proud that I’d done my best, even if it hadn’t led to a job this time. A couple of months later I interviewed for another dream job, and this time I was successful — it’s where I work now. That first interview was great practice and I’m so glad that I did it.

Louise on how Adem shone at interview

I’ve done quite a bit of interviewing over the years. I think the interview process is improving. We are looking for ways to attract a diverse workforce, and create equity of opportunity, so we are trying to ensure that interviews are a good experience for everyone who attends. It’s great to hear that Adem found it so positive despite his nerves!

Ultimately, we want to see the best that people have to offer, so it makes sense to try and make it as relaxed and welcoming as possible for the candidates. We want to put people at ease. Everyone on the panel has been on the other side of the table at some point, so we try to be empathetic and remember what it was like. I always offer them a drink, smile, and let them know who everyone on the panel is, and how the interview will work. That way they know what to expect.

Adem’s interview

When Adem came for interview, we could see straight away how passionate he was about the role, which was great. His enthusiasm really came through, and he answered lots of questions really strongly. I got the impression he was a very dedicated and hard-working young man, but also friendly and easy to talk to.

In the end, it was down to him and just two other candidates, so he did really well.

Unfortunately, one of the others had just a bit more experience, which put them ahead. We were able to give Adem some feedback, which if I remember rightly was that we encouraged him to build up his portfolio of work some more. But overall it was really positive — we felt glad that we’d attracted such strong candidates to a starting role.

Show (as well as tell)

So-called soft skills, such as being a good communicator, are actually really important when joining a company like ours. It's a fast-paced environment with some major clients, so we need to make sure people can be clear, concise and effective communicators in every aspect of their work. So it’s good when people are able to demonstrate those soft skills, not just in what they say, but the way they present in an interview. We could see that Adem was a good communicator – he listened carefully to the questions, sometimes clarifying what he was being asked, and gave really articulate answers with great examples.

Beat those nerves

If I hadn’t read Adem’s blog post, I would have had no idea how nervous he was! He came across as calm and confident in the interview. It’s great that he was able to find things that worked for him. Clearly he’d channeled his nerves into excitement, and that’s a really key thing to be able to do. It’s important to remember that an interview is a two-way process – we are in need of a great candidate, and we are hoping it’s you. Ask questions, remember that you have a lot to offer. And good luck!