5 Simple Strategies to Create a Stress-Free Interview Environment

By Roxanne Abercrombie

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5-simple-strategiesWatching a candidate’s nerves take over in a job interview is never a pleasant experience. You’ve seen their CV and been impressed by their skills and experience, but when it comes to the pressurised environment, they just flounder. As a result, you miss out.

A candidate who is a great fit for the role isn’t necessarily a candidate who is great in interviews. Let’s say you’re recruiting for developer jobs. Interview jitters don’t mean that your skilled candidates can no longer code exceptionally well. For finance jobs, a degree of interview inhibition is no reflection of commercial acumen. Does being nervous mean that candidates for data analysis jobs couldn’t perform exceptionally well within the position?

Of course not. And as much as confident presentation skills are an important element for many jobs, there’s no denying how stressful interviews can be. Any experienced recruiter will have conducted an interview which went wrong purely because the candidate fell victim to the tension of the situation.

It’s in everyone’s best interest to create an atmosphere which is relaxed, welcoming and conducive to a flowing conversation. So, here’s 5 simple strategies that recruiters can adopt to achieve a stress-free interview environment.


1. Prep the candidate pre-interview

If a candidate feels calm and composed during a job interview, they’ll inevitably reveal more of their true personality. To help foster this sense of calmness prior to the interview, be clear on what is to be expected.

This means prepping the candidate thoroughly during the pre-interview stage, providing them with details on who, what, where and when. As you write your formal invitation to interview, you should:

  • Share details on who will be conducting the interview so that the candidate can remember names and do some background research
  • Talk about the format that the interview will take and outline the steps of the hiring process
  • Emphasise the discussion topics you’d particularly like to cover
  • Offer tips on dress code and company culture
  • Provide an address, relevant parking information and details on the procedure to enter the building
  • Be clear on dates, times and expected time frames

A major component of interview fear is the element of facing the unknown. By offering this level of practical information before the interview takes place, you will eliminate many of these unknowns and help put the candidate at ease. In return, you’ll get prepared candidates who (theoretically!) perform well.


2. Make first impressions count

As soon as a candidate steps foot in the building, their nerves are automatically going to go on overdrive. They’re at the location, they’re waiting for you to appear and they’re mentally rehearsing their opening greeting and handshake. If you can make the candidate feel at home within those first few fraught moments, you’ll pave the way for a much smoother interview.

It’s surprisingly easy to achieve that feeling of comfort. When the candidate arrives, greet them by name with a friendly smile and a firm handshake. Offer them a quick tour of the building, say a few words about the company, make a little small talk and try a few ice breakers to get the conversation flowing. Be sure to offer the candidate a drink and ask them about their first impressions.

It’s basic stuff, but it will ease the candidate into the interview nicely and help calm any tensions before the questions begin in earnest.


3. Start as you mean to go on

Up to now, the candidate has been given all the information they need to fully prepare. Upon their arrival, they’ve been welcomed warmly and made to feel as comfortable as possible within a formal interview situation. Pleasantries have been exchanged, conversation initiated and tours given. Now, it’s time to get the ball rolling with the actual interview. And you need to start it as you mean to go on: stress-free and with fluidity.

So, try to avoid seating arrangements which make the candidate feel interrogated (i.e. an intimidating panel style boardroom interview with a table for 20 when there are only 3 people present.) By sitting around a smaller round table instead, you will create a collaborative, relaxed atmosphere which puts everyone present on more equal footing and encourages a flowing conversation.

When you’re seated, ensure that each interviewer makes a quick introduction. Not only is this good business etiquette, it buys the candidate precious time to familiarise themselves with their surroundings and settle into the formal part of the interview.

Finally, quickly run through the agenda of the interview before you begin your questions. Again, you’ll buy the candidate more time to compose themselves, and you’ll also give them a useful (and reassuring) restatement of what to expect.


4. Get your questions in order

For a successful interview, you need to get your candidate’s responsive juices flowing. And to achieve this, you need to begin by asking questions that are easy to answer.

Start by asking the candidate to give you an introduction on themselves. This isn’t anything too pressing and warms the candidate up nicely. Next, move on to asking them questions around their CV and work experiences. Again, this is something which most candidates can talk fairly fluidly about. Follow by asking about the candidate’s skills and professional interests.

By opening with simple questions which the candidate can answer comfortably, you’ll get the interview off to a strong start. The candidate will be more relaxed and therefore better placed to tackle the complex questions that follow.


5. Don’t rush!

Any candidate will start to feel pressured if their interviewer rushes them. You need to give the candidate plenty of time to answer each question, without cutting across them, hurrying them along or being pointed with your glances to the clock.

When the candidate is talking, provide them with subtle signs of your engagement. During an interview, candidates are constantly looking for any indicators of the impression they’re making on the recruiter. It’s a simple matter of paying attention to your body language and using your expressions and gestures to convey interest. After all, candidates are constantly advised to pay attention to their body language in interview contexts, and it’s no different on the other side.

You also need to allow time for the candidate to ask questions at the end of the interview. The interview should feel like it is sliding progressively from stage to stage, not sprinting to the finish line. If you hurry your candidate, you’ll also harry them.


By creating a stress-free interview environment, you encourage candidates to be themselves. In turn, you build a clearer picture of the candidate and make smarter, better informed hires. Everybody wins!


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