Nervous during interviews and doesn’t “convey confidence”

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Q: I have been a runner-up for several positions.  I have the qualifications, including an advanced degree.  I get nervous during interviews.  How can I calm my nerves?  One hiring manager was very honest with me.  He said I was the most qualified but I did not “convey confidence.”  How does one (me) “convey confidence” when I get very anxious during interviews?

A: Congratulations on being a finalist for several positions.  Based on what you have shared, your resume is probably strong and your work history is likely stable. Further, it sounds like you are realistic and well-qualified for roles well-suited to your background and professional capabilities.

You raise an important consideration though.  Often times employers have several strong and well-qualified candidates.  However, the final decision can be based on the smallest details.  Who would have the most reasonable commute?  Who has the best professional references?  Whose LinkedIn profile most closely matches their resume?  Who interviews the best and inspires confidence?  Every hire is a risk.  Our clients hate to hear that message, but it is the truth.  Employers are trying to hire the best candidates, at the most reasonable compensation package, who can deliver the most value.  If you seem nervous or anxious during the interview, it may signal that you cannot handle the job.  I have heard managers share feedback after interviewing a nervous candidate.  Comments include: “maybe this role is too senior for him” or “seems like she might not able to handle this role.”

How does a candidate inspire confidence?

  • Submit a well-constructed and error-free resume
  • Arrive early and build in extra time for travel snafus
  • Provide professional references which are listed in an organized format (with the same format, font, etc. as the resume)
  • Offer a firm handshake and maintain appropriate eye contact during the interview
  • Engage during the interview, which means using active listening skills and offering examples (as opposed to one-word answers)
  • Send a post-interview thank-you note/email (within 24 hours!)

Interviewing skills can be practiced and improved.  With each interview, reflect back on what you did well and what you could improve upon.  How would you interview differently next time?  Sometimes videotaping a mock interview is humbling but can yield positive results because you can “see” your missteps.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.