Tips for Appearing Confident During a Job Interview (Even When You Aren’t)

According to Rebecca Temsen; author, entrepreneur, and cofounder of the motivational blog site, “Self Development Secrets”; “One of the most important ingredients of a well-lived, enjoyable life is self-confidence”. She continues that while “[confident people] encounter the same problems as everyone else… they routinely rise above them, taking life in stride”.

As we know, confidence is something that we can all sense in others; and likewise, if we are lacking self assurance, it’s to be expected that other people will also take notice. Of course, this particular circumstance applies heavily in the job market, especially when it comes to job interviews.

Business woman passes job interview

We are really the ones who get to determine how we are perceived, although many may disregard this reality. Temsen points out in her article, “53 Confidence Boosting Actions You Can Take Today”, “[Confidence] is a closed feedback loop. You project confidence, other people treat you as if you’re confident, and you accept that feedback and feel confident. Make this an intentional habit, and it becomes automatic very quickly”.

However, when faced with a high stakes job interview, even the most confident candidates can become unnerved or overwhelmed. Therefore, while you are working on building true self-assuredness, it’s also good idea to develop a few strategies that will help you appear less nervous than you actually are.

Elizabeth Loman is a Forbes and Huffington Post contributor as well as an advocate for young professionals, and she has provided some useful tactics to ensure that anxious job candidates don’t allow their nerves to get the best of them during an important job interview.

Maintain steady breathing.

While this may sound blatantly literal, our breathing is usually the first physical aspect to be affected by our nerves. When our breathing becomes rapid, our breaths actually become shorter, causing a slight reduction in our oxygen levels which can negatively contribute to our anxiety. The good news is that if we are aware and tuned in to our breathing habits, we can actually control how we breathe from the get-go. Loman advises that those in tense situations start by breathing in deeply through their nose, and then release by slowly breathing out through their mouths. She suggests repeating this practice three times while focusing on centering (or even decelerating) your thoughts. Loman continues, “The best thing about this technique is that you can do it anywhere (and quite unnoticeably), so if you feel your nerves start to swell during the interview, simply take another breath”.

Avoid fidgeting.

Loman reminds readers “…fidgeting is one of the most telltale signs that you’re nervous, so this is an incredibly important skill to master”. She recommends keeping hands “clasped together” either on a table in or your lap to prevent any “subconscious table tapping, hair twirling, or otherwise noticeable squirming”.  Those who have a habit of shaking their leg(s) might want to consider keeping their hands in their lap, as a reminder to keep the tendency to a minimum.

Establish eye contact.

While you may be feeling anxious during your job interview, one way to trick your interviewer into assuming you’re keeping your cool is by making eye contact. Loman cites Mary Griffin, Director of HR for a nationwide healthcare company: “A key giveaway of a ‘nervous Nellie’ is a lack of direct eye contact; looking down, looking away, and not looking the interviewer directly in the eyes”. Loman suggests candidates focus on one area between the interviewer’s eyes to prevent themselves from wandering off visually. However, be sure to take natural and periodic breaks, so as not to accidently set off a disturbing vibe. Just remember that when it comes to eye contact, balance is crucial.

Pause when you speak.

Nervous rambling is so very common, yet also a dangerous habit during a job interview. Not only do we risk digressing too far from the topic, but we may accidentally venture into inappropriate territory.  Loman offers some valuable advice for job candidates who may have a tendency to ramble nervously on an interview: “…try to answer each question with only one thought or idea at time”. She continues, “The key to mastering this technique is to keep your tone sincere, so that even if your responses are brief, they don’t come off as curt or dismissive”. If elaborations are necessary, the interviewer will surely ask.

Practice positive thinking.

This may be one for the ages, but part of appearing confident is to know that you deserve to be where you are. If your interviewer didn’t consider you a viable candidate for the job, you wouldn’t be sitting in his or her office. Loman advises nervous interviewees to “[use] this knowledge to your advantage to mentally pump yourself up before the interview. It can take the edge off enough to allow you to approach the situation with a burst of self-assurance and poise”. She also notes that it is important for job candidates to consciously remember that although they must remain “calm, cool, and collected” in order to land the job, hiring managers are only human too; and most will be understanding of a “few minor nervous blips”.

Portrait of mature businessman looking at his secretary while speaking to her


What many often don’t realize about self confidence is that you don’t necessarily need to be born with it. In fact, it is a skill like any other which can be achieved over time. This means that for every job interview you complete, you have essentially learned, practiced, and even mastered new confidence-building strategies for the future.

To revisit Temson’s commentary, “It’s truly a great feeling when you feel empowered. Being confident has a lot to do with empowering ourselves [to] help make you the best you can be”.

Related:  The Best Way to Practice for Your Next Job Interview

Further reading:  Interview Strategies and Tactics


Fred Coon, CEO 

At SC&C we offer Career Analysis to help senior decision-makers from all walks of life identify strategies and tactics to increase their value-add employment potential.