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Leadership Today - Practical Tips For Leaders

Feb 16, 2024


Interviewers place a strong emphasis on perceptions of nervousness. But there are practical steps we can take to appear less nervous in meetings and interviews.



Hello and welcome to episode 219 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we share practical tips to improve your leadership. This week we work through ways to appear less nervous in meetings and interviews.

Research demonstrates that anxious candidates perform worse at job interviews, even when their skills and experience align well with the role. Interviewers place an oversized importance to the appearance of anxiety when making judgements. And this tendency can extend to other important meetings.

To avoid this, we might consider visible signs of nervousness such as shaky hands or nervous laughter. We might then focus on the use of our hands, slowing our speech or avoiding fidgeting. We can risk becoming overly sensitive to how our behaviours are coming across.

However, In the research, the only consistent behavioural indicator of nervousness that the interviewers focused on was long pauses before responding to questions. This was potentially seen as the candidate being less prepared and less assertive than if they answered questions directly. Negative perceptions of anxiety in meetings and interviews was less about nervous signs, and more to do with perceptions of assertiveness and warmth as traits. Those who were perceived as less warm and less assertive were also rated as more anxious. Those who came across as friendly and assertive were seen as less anxious. It appears the overall impression we leave is far more important than any nervous tics that we might show.

So what can we do to appear less nervous in meetings and interviews? To increase others’ perceptions of our warmth and assertiveness, you can try these techniques:

  1. Plan for first impressions. We want to demonstrate warmth from the very start of the meeting or interview. Research who will be there. Prepare and practice what you will do and say when you first arrive.
  2. Listen to others. When we’re nervous we can focus too much on ourselves and not enough on others. Demonstrate you’re listening by taking notes, restating their perspectives, and clarifying their views.
  3. Be prepared. There’s no substitute for preparation. It will help you to avoid lengthy pauses before responding.
  4. Remember to smile. When we’re nervous we can forget about our facial expressions, but they’re an important indicator of our confidence and friendliness.
  5. Video yourself. Have someone ask you some practice questions, and video your responses. This can help you to uncover unconscious signs of nervousness.
  6. Seek feedback. After the meeting or interview, explore how you came across. Ask about anything you could have done to appear more confident and engaged.

We often feel more nervous than we appear. Focus on the overall impression of warmth and assertiveness that you give to others. Apply these tips in your next meeting or interview.



Feiler, A.R., Powell, D.M. Behavioral Expression of Job Interview Anxiety. J Bus Psychol 31, 155–171 (2016).


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