Interview Nerves: keeping calm when you have a racing heart, dry mouth, sweaty palms. DEEP BREATH.

It’s perfectly normal to feel nervous about an interview. In fact, a survey by the American Firm JDP, says that 93% of people have felt anxious about an interview. The good news is that there are tried and tested ways to manage these worries.


This is obvious but you might be surprised to learn how often an interviewee will feel caught out because they have not prepared well enough. Look at websites, read around the school or university you’re applying to, look out for articles on topics related to it and try to speak to people who know about it for some good insider tips.

As well as the gathering all this information, make a list of the questions you think they might ask [see our blog on interview questions] and prepare some answers to them, BUT be sure to sound natural and genuine rather than well-rehearsed.


A curveball question is one that is thrown at you out of nowhere and you’re not really sure how to answer. They are the questions that usually make us feel nervous, if we weren’t already at the start of the interview. These are asked to see how you think, how you manage a tricky question and if you would fit in with the wider ethos of the school, university or company you’re applying to.

There is no right answer, but your approach is what counts: take a deep breath, pause briefly, be logical in your answer, sound confident, let your personality come through and stay calm. Examples of curveball questions are:

  • If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?
  • If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
  • How many windows are there in Manhattan?

For a bit of background knowledge, curveball questions are widely attributed to the Italian/American physicist Enrico Fermi who won a Nobel prize in 1938; he used to entertain his colleagues with them, while they were inventing the first nuclear reactor. His most well-known question is: “How many piano tuners are there in Chicago?”


We all get nervous sometimes and it’s nothing to worry about. Try not to focus on the getting nervous part, but instead on how to stay calm.

  • Firstly, taking deep breaths helps because it slows down your heart rate: when you’re worrying, your heart rate increases, sometimes making you a bit panicky, which in turn interferes with clear thinking.
  • Secondly, pause. This can be done by picking up a glass of water and having a sip for instance. Quite often, when we are put on the spot, we start talking but not necessarily at our most articulate. The mini pause will allow you extra thinking time.
  • Thirdly, convert nervous energy into excitement energy. Anxiety and excitement are both emotions that raise cortisol (known as the stress hormone) in the body and increase heart rate. Change your mindset by telling yourself you’re excited more than nervous - in part that is probably true.

Lastly, remember that interviewers are often just chatting and trying to get to know you and see how you might fit it. They’re not trying to catch you out. But, sometimes, they try to make you feel under pressure, purely to see how you would cope under pressure. Either way, breath, pause (if necessary), sound confident and be excited, NOT nervous.

Recommended reading

Interview Nerves | RCN Careers resources | Royal College of Nursing

Overcoming Interview Nerves With STAR Method & Preparation (

Employment Screening Services & Background Check Company - JDP

Interview curveball questions & how to answer them | randstad | Randstad UK