Interviews can be nerve wracking for inexperienced candidates, and even some people who have reached senior positions in marketing or events might not relish the prospect of being interviewed. Programmes like The Apprentice, in which aggressive interview tactics seem to be the norm, can create a sense of fear around the process which, we believe, is counterproductive.

If, like us, you believe the objective of an interview is to get the best out of every candidate, and identify the best possible candidate for your role, you won’t want to miss out on a star because of a few short term nerves. If you’ve already been impressed by their CV, the chances are he or she can do the job and the interview presents an opportunity to understand the person.

Over nearly 30 years of interviewing, the consultants in Regan & Dean have a lot of experience of bringing out the best in nervous interviewees so that our clients have the best choice possible.

Here are 5 ideas that work for us.  

Small talk

A short preamble chat about the candidate’s journey or the offer of a glass of water might sometimes feel like time wasting, but it will allow the candidate to relax into the environment and give their best. Stick to neutral questions, avoiding politics for instance, otherwise the candidate may think they are being tested and become even more stressed. 

The general interests section of their CV might be a good place to look for inspiration for small talk. Another great opener can be asking if they have experienced many interviews to date - this has the added benefit of giving them a brilliant opportunity to share their sense of nerves if they are suffering (particularly if they are new to interviews), and set it to rest at the outset of the interview with a little empathy and encouragement from the interviewer.

Start slowly and build

The interview should be a gradual process which starts with some simple questions and then you can work towards the more complex, detailed areas. This will allow the interviewee to get comfortable and find their voice early on in the simple things - so you’ll get more useful information from them in the long run being more relaxed and confident when you get to the finer detail.

Open questions

Nerves can be expressed in many different ways and some candidates will seem withdrawn. If you’re struggling to get a response from your interviewee, try slowing down the pace of your questions and make sure they are open ended. For example, ‘what do you enjoy most about working as part of a busy marketing team?’, rather than ‘have you ever worked in a team?’ 

Always give the interviewee time to consider their answer, and use probing or examples to get to the detail.

Ask about their portfolio

You will often find that even the most nervous marketing or events candidate will come into their own when you start talking about their creative or events work. Events and Marketing people are always proud of their work and are passionate when they start discussing it, so this is a great way to break the ice and help the interviewee relax.

There’s little more disappointing than taking a portfolio to an interview and not having the chance to show it off. So do ask to see it unless you are very pressed for time. 

Be straight

Sometimes talking very directly can get interviewees back in the zone. If, despite all your best efforts, you cannot get the responses you need from the candidate due to their nerves, you might say, “I can see you are very nervous and that’s fine. But I’m keen to see the best side of you. Are you OK, and happy to continue?”.  Showing empathy, and a keenness to give them the best chance possible can go a long way to relaxing a candidate.  Allowing them a moment to take a breathe and refocus, can really help get them, and the interview, back on track.

If you have been recruiting via a reputable events and marketing recruitment specialist like Regan & Dean, we will always have taken the candidate through initial interview and helped them prepare for their conversation with you. We cannot promise there will be no nerves, but the odds are greatly reduced. 

And finally …. 

Your feedback is really valuable ...

If you do feel the candidate’s nerves did get the better of them, then do share that with us as their Consultants as part of the interview feedback - and we can work with them to give them strategies and support to help them manage it better next time.  

And, most usefully, if you noticed they were nervous, but saw how they managed to control it and were impressed by that, that is brilliant feedback to get back for a candidate - they’ll value it, and it will most likely help them be much more confident in themselves for future interviews.  And finally put those nerves to rest.