No matter how prepared or qualified an applicant is, nerves have an uncanny way of overshadowing even the best candidate’s responses. As an interviewer, consider the impact that you have on their success during the interview. Are you consciously making an effort to ease their nerves and anxiety, or have you adopted a more “sink or swim” mentality? While allowing them to “sink or swim” is effective in making swift eliminations, it may be causing you to eliminate the best from your candidate pool.

Instead of sitting back and watching as nerves cause candidates to “sink”, make every attempt to ease their anxiety and help them “swim”.


Limit wait time:

Making candidates wait more than a few minutes past their scheduled interview time can cause their anxiety to mount, setting them up to flounder before the interview has even begun. Respect their time and their nerves by adhering to the schedule.

Introduce yourself:

Although prepared candidates should easily remember the name and position of the person they are scheduled to interview with, an immediate way to settle their nerves is to introduce yourself and anyone else that will be sitting in on the interview. Remind them of your name, position, and role within the company in addition to how your position relates to the job you are hiring for.

Check your body language:

Candidates will quickly pick up and mimic your body language and nonverbal cues. If you are constantly looking at your watch, checking your phone, clicking your pen, and appearing unengaged in the interview, the candidate will likely give responses that are rushed and incomplete. On the other hand, if you greet them with a strong handshake, genuine smile, eye contact and make sure that you are leaning towards them slightly throughout the interview, they will gain confidence that you are interested in what they have to say.

Offer them a beverage:

This casual, friendly gesture not only gives the candidate a chance to settle in before you dive into your questions, but it also allows them to pause, take a sip, and collect their thoughts before responding.

Choose the location wisely:

Rather than intimidating the candidate by sitting in a place of authority, such as the head of a conference table or across a large desk, opt for a more causal seating arrangement such as across a conference table. This will create an atmosphere where candidates feel more comfortable and in control.

Develop a rapport:

Diving into difficult questions at the beginning of an interview is a quick way to shake up a candidate’s confidence. Develop a rapport with each candidate by beginning the interview with easy, non-work-related questions. Talk about how their drive was, if they are enjoying the weather etc. Follow up with a couple of straight forward, resume based questions that they will be able to easily answer. After giving their nerves a few minutes to subside, you can start asking the more in-depth questions.


The next time you are conducting interviews, make sure that you are using these techniques to help your candidates “swim” rather than watching as their nerves cause them to “sink”.