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Interviews – dealing with nerves and the unexpected

Interviews – dealing with nerves and the unexpected

Chantal Elian


Having faced few interviews before application season during my final year at university, the excitement and nerves of being invited to an interview was quite a new experience.

An interview is an opportunity for a firm to really get to know you – so the only thing that you need to be is yourself. Sadly, there is no real solution to interview nerves. However, there are a few techniques which I found useful for building my confidence and helping me in interviews when I felt the panic begin to set in (especially when a more difficult question popped up).

Refresh your memory of your application

It can be helpful to read back over your firm application before your interview. Refreshing your memory enables you to be aware of what the interviewers already know and what else you might want them to know.

An interview is another opportunity to sell yourself and mention anything that you weren’t able to include in your application. Equally, you may have achieved something new or developed your skills further since submitting your application, and an interview is the perfect time to add this to image that the firm has of you.

You could be asked about certain things that you mentioned in your application, and some interviews may even heavily revolve around your application. Refreshing your memory of what you were trying to get across on paper can be helpful to reiterate and build on these points in this next stage of the process. Remembering what you have achieved and what you have to offer can also help to build your confidence.

Prepare and practice

Interview questions can take many different forms and preparing for every eventuality is impossible. However, it can be helpful to look into the types of question that you might be asked and consider how you might answer them.

Practising answering questions on the spot can be a helpful way to try and become familiar with thinking on your feet. It can also be helpful to consider how you might start to answer questions on certain topics and see how you can adapt your skills and experiences to different types of question.

It can be handy to jot down important attributes that the firm is looking for and link them to your own experiences in case the opportunity to discuss these comes up. There is no way that you can rehearse answers for every possible question and as you want to provide a natural and true reflection of who you are, adapting to the questions and situation during the interview can take away the panic of trying to recall answers and facts. 

If you don’t know an answer, don’t panic – be creative 

While thinking ahead and taking time to prepare can help you to feel ready to face an interview, once you are in the interview don’t panic if a question catches you off guard.

Sometimes a question can be asked that takes a little more thought and an answer might not immediately pop into your head. You might be asked to talk about a time where you displayed a certain skill which you don’t think you have or handled a certain situation which you don’t think you’ve come across.

If you are faced with a question you aren’t sure how to tackle, take a moment to collect your thoughts and be creative. You may have experienced something similar to the situation you are being asked about which you could discuss to show how you have similar, valuable skills. Equally, you could consider talking about how you might face that challenge and how previous experiences have helped you to develop valuable skills and knowledge that could be applied.

Your answers will be unique to you and rather than not give an answer at all, it is helpful to think of different ways in which you could approach a question and go with your instincts. Don’t forget that interviews are focused on getting to know you, so anything that you have to say about your experiences, skills, and attributes is valuable. There are no wrong answers.