Practical Tips for Managing Interview Nerves

Interview nerves? No problem!

There's no getting away from the fact that you do need to have some control over nerves in an interview to give it your best shot but it's OK and completely normal to be nervous.

Expect to be nervous and go with it. Some of the greatest performers of stage and screen (Benedict Cumberbatch, Barbra Streisand, Johnny Depp, Adele) are incredibly nervous before each performance. In fact, some of them say it helps them do a great job.

 You can be sure that everyone on that interview panel has sat where you're sitting (otherwise they wouldn't have a job!) They will understand and sympathise but they'll also be interested to see whether you are able to give sensible responses and conduct yourself well despite being nervous.

So, I hear you ask, how am I supposed to do that?

1. Prepare!

One of the best antidotes to nerves is to prepare for the interview. This is a simple three-step process of: 1. Thinking up likely questions. 2. Writing down answers which use examples from work, study, school or voluntary work and giving these answers a simple structure. 3. Practising these answers with another person or even in front of the mirror.

2. Take your time.

There's no need to rush into answering the question straight away. Take a few seconds to think how you'll start the answer or to glance at your notes, if you've brought some into the room.

You might think this makes you look hesitant and unsure of yourself. It actually conveys the opposite message: that you're calm and confident enough not to rush in and you have enough self possession to collect your thoughts.

3. Sound logical.

A little bit of logic goes a long way in an interview. There are a few simple ways to sound logical and composed even if your thoughts are in a whirl! Start your answer with a phrase which suggests there'll be some structure to your response.

Great phrases for this are:

'My first point in relation to this is ….'

'There are two examples from my current role where I've demonstrated this skill...'

'The first thing that comes to mind in answer to this question is...'

'As a result of my experience with X, I have learnt Y'

'My previous job taught me how important it is to...'

These phrases don't say anything in themselves but they suggest a logical thought process behind your answer.

4. Buy Time

Even a few seconds can steady those nerves and, more often than not, an idea will pop into your head about how to answer the question.

Useful 'buying time' phrases are:

'I’d like to use an example from my previous position….'

'My success in my studies shows that I can stick with a task when it’s difficult/meet deadlines/organise my time very well: a specific example is….'

'In my current position at X, I’ve had responsibility for… and this shows that I can…'

'I’d like to make two points in relation to this question……. firstly, in my previous job I…. and secondly, in this current role I have……'

5. Remember that you are so much more than this job...

If you don't get the job, there will be other opportunities. In relation to interview preparation, I can help you:

Prepare for the interview so you are as confident as you can be.

Coach you so you do a great job in your interview.



5 Steps to get started on an APS job application

Hi there! So why the APS?

You are considering a job, a promotion or even a whole career in the Australian Public Service (APS). There a many great reasons to join the APS. These include:

  • decent pay and conditions, including 15.4% superannuation.

  • a great chance of promotion within a system with a defined path for career progression.

  • a high degree of job security.

  • the opportunities to use and develop skills and have a varied and interesting career.

No more procrastination.

Here are 5 Steps to get you started:

1. Find the jobs

You may already know exactly which job or jobs you want to apply for but, if not, you’ll need to go to the APSjobs website and search for suitable jobs for your skill level and experience.

2. Pick a level

Be realistic about this: don’t aim too high or too low.

  • if you are a school-leaver having completed Year 12, look at APS1-2 roles or traineeships;
  • if you are a graduate, look for Grad Programs or APS 3-4 roles (don't worry about this being too low a level, opportunities for promotion will come along!)
  • if you are a schoolteacher with some years under your belt, look for APS 4-5 roles (don't worry, teachers have awesome skills and soon get promoted!);
  • if you’ve been a Head of Department, a Pastoral Coordinator in a school or an Assistant Principal look for APS6 and Executive Level 1 (EL1) roles.

3. Make sense of selection criteria

Once you’ve found a job or jobs, you’ll need to take a close look at the selection documentation. If you're not already in the APS, this could be off-putting because the selection criteria are a language all their own. I suggest you read them over a few times and try to re-write them into simpler language.

For example:

  • Cultivates Productive Working Relationships could be re-written as Doing my fair share of the work in a team, being pleasant and helpful.
  • Communicates With Influence could be re-written as Speaking and writing clearly and in a way which matches my audience. Being a good listener and able to put forward my point of view.

4. Match before you hatch

Once you have a basic understanding of what the selection criteria mean (note, I didn’t write ‘what you’ll be doing in the job’: that’s a whole other mystery to be explored) you need to start a matching exercise. Do a brainstorm of tasks you’ve completed and skills you’ve developed at school or uni or in your work life or as a volunteer. List the job selection criteria and have a go at placing your tasks and skills under the relevant criterion.

5. Now bake the cake

This is the raw material of your application and now it needs to be written up, expanded upon and refined: 'cooked' into an appetising whole and 'seasoned' with just the right amount of 'APS' language and jargon.

This can be tricky. If you'd like some friendly, individualised help, send me an email (it's free) and we can chat about how we can make your application fabulous!