How to Make a Nervous Candidate More Comfortable

You expect candidates to exude confidence during job interviews, but most are going to be at least somewhat nervous. While you may view it as just a conversation, they see it as something to determine the trajectory of their career. It’s important to help set them at ease so that their true personality can shine through and you get the best information possible. Here are some tips you can use to help make a nervous candidate feel more comfortable.


A warm and friendly smile can immediately set a candidate at ease. Even if your day is not going well, do your best to be welcoming. Allow for a little chit chat, and if you can crack a light joke to break the tension, that helps, too.

Don’t Be Late

It’s a common practice to make candidates wait ten minutes or so for an interview to begin, but if you’re too late, it sends the message that you don’t respect them. The longer they sit, the more their nervousness can build. This can morph into full-blown anxiety if they wait too long—especially if they have taken time away from work.

Choose a Relaxing Location

It’s common to plop the candidate in the conference room for an interview, but sitting across from one or more decision-makers can feel like an interrogation. To get candidates to open up, consider sitting in a lounge area or office with more comfortable seating.

Set the Agenda

Meetings always go better when participants have an agenda. The same is true for interviews. Take the time to explain the format of the interview to the candidate so they aren’t spending the entire time anxiously wondering what is going to come next.

Make Eye Contact

You expect candidates to make good eye contact with you, so do your best to reciprocate. Don’t look at your phone or computer or spend the entire time with your head down writing notes. This type of body language shows disinterest and can make the candidate more nervous. Show you are actively listening and interested in what they have to say.

Toss Them a Softball

Softball questions can help the candidate build confidence. Start the interview off with something light and easy. If you sense that the candidate is still nervous after a few other questions, try tossing another easy question to help them regain their composure.

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