How to manage your nervous habits during an interview

The good news is that you can rid yourself of unwanted mannerisms and behaviours when you are interviewing candidates. Awareness is the first step. Interview Coach Barry Drexler has some great tips, here’s what you can do:

Avoiding eye contact

The most important habit to avoid during an interview is eye roaming, or avoiding eye contact with the person to whom you’re talking. When you're feeling uncomfortable, it's common to find it difficult to sustain eye contact with the candidate being interviewed and instead let your eyes roam around the room. However, this conveys to the candidate a lack of presence and that you’re not paying attention to what he or she is saying. "People need to be engaged and present and mindful," Drexler says. "The most important thing is to be engaged and show that you're an active listener."

By making eye contact regularly, you’ll be able to establish a connection with the candidate. "When the candidate is talking or answering a question, you must look them straight in the eyes, don't look away at all, but don't stare... at their eyes in a strange glaring way; just be natural and let your face say that you're interested in what they are saying," Drexler says. "While you're 'asking questions' you should look away for a split second here and there to illustrate that you are thinking of something." To find that perfect amount of eye contact to maintain, try interviewing in front of a mirror and practicing making eye contact with your reflection.

Displaying nervous tics

Nervous tics such as playing with your hair, bouncing your leg and fidgeting are extremely distracting to a candidate and display a lack of active listening, confidence and professionalism. Unfortunately, these habits will only warrant negative attention in an interview setting.

Wear your hair up and away from your face during interviews to avoid playing with your hair. To combat leg-bouncing, plant both of your feet firmly on the floor.

Other nervous habits you could have could be not being able to sit still, drumming your hands, twisting the cap to a water bottle or not knowing where to put your hands or arms.

The key to tackling nervous habits is confidence and self-affirmation.  You're making yourself nervous so try replacing your negative thoughts with positive affirmations.

Being socially awkward

Being socially awkward is more common than you may think. Social awkwardness can come out when you're nervous, and it can manifest itself in many subtle ways, like mistiming a handshake or acting robotic or stiff during an interview.

This habit often results from sticking too much by the book. To display more of your personality during interviews, Drexler suggests not being so formal and make a connection with the candidate – especially in the beginning of the interview.  Try to find some common ground. Sharing personal interests is fine, just know when enough is enough and then move on to your first interview question.


Sometimes it’s helpful to be aggressive about addressing your nervousness. If you know that you blush or get red spots on your face or neck when your nervous, then you could address it and say, "Here we go, I'm going to go red now".

You need to shift your relationship to the blushing. At the moment you may be trying to hide it because you are embarrassed about it and that just makes it worse. Accept it, don’t fight it.  If you can work on relaxing about it, it will get better. This will be helped by you accepting it as a current part of yourself.

Projecting bad body language

What you say in an interview is as important as how you say it. Bad body language, such as slouching or crossing your arms, takes away from your words. "You have to know how to use body language effectively," Drexler says. "When you make an important point, you should lean forward and become animated."

How you carry yourself is the most important part of an interview. The candidate doesn't know you, all they know is what you say and how you say it, so the most important thing is to hold your head up high, be confident and be passionate, and that's sitting up straight, not slouching and fidgeting.

Speaking in a monotone voice

We've all listened to a speaker who read off their notes in a completely boring and flat voice. No one wants to listen to that. That's not effective communication.

Instead, show interest by pausing, raising and lowering your voice when appropriate and using body language effectively. "These are subtle nonverbal cues that are critical," Drexler says.

Another common nervous habit is rushing out interview questions. When you feel nervous, it's easy to start talking really fast. It's important to remember to take a deep breath and slow down so that the candidate understands the questions you are asking. On the same note, some people also tend to talk louder when they’re nervous. To fix this, take in a few deep breaths through your nose and loosen your jaw. Relaxing the muscles in your face and neck helps lower your speaking volume back to normal.