Interviews can be stressful for people under the best of circumstances. But with fewer jobs out there, the perception that no one is hiring, and the very real possibility of going months before getting even one interview, many interviewees are putting added stress on themselves. Ironically this added stress is likely to undercut their performance at interviews, even for people who used to sail through the interview process in the past.
So if this sounds like you, what can you do about it? Actually, there are plenty of things you can do.
In this post we’ll look at what you can do before the interview to set yourself up to walk in feeling ready for anything they throw at you.
In my next post we’ll go over some tools you can use during the interview if you find yourself rattled, losing your focus, or just not at your best.
1. Before the day of the interview: Start with the basic nuts and bolts of interview prep.
I’m not going to spend a lot of time telling you to “do your homework” but here’s a quick reminder anyway. Before the interview, you need to do things like:
- Do your research into the company, the interviewer(s), and the job itself. Use the internet, and LinkedIn especially.
- Get copies of your resume and a list of references ready to bring with you.
- Practice your answers to the obvious questions like “What were you doing during this gap between your second and third jobs?” and the canned questions like “What is your biggest weakness?”.
- Iron your shirt.
These are things you already know you need to do. The only thing I will say about these that might be new to you is to get them done before the day of the interview. If you are cramming for your interview on the day itself, you won’t have time to get yourself in the right frame of mind to present yourself in the best light. Other candidates who got everything done the night before will have an advantage over you because their stress level will be lower.
So what do you do on the day of the interview?
2. On the Day Of: Eat right!
That means don’t skip a meal. If you are going into the interview in the middle of the morning or afternoon, also have a snack beforehand. Make sure to include some protein in the meal or snack. When you do that, you won’t have your blood sugar spiking then crashing right in the middle of the interview, adding stress and distracting you.
3. Be sure you schedule more than enough time to get to the interview.
No, I don’t mean a couple of minutes. If you’re not planning to get there at least thirty minutes early, you are setting yourself up for additional stress. Hey, traffic happens. So do road construction delays, bus and train snafus, and parking problems. And for those of you who are typically ten minutes late to everything (you know who you are), you better plan to get to the interview forty-five minutes early. Being late for an interview can cost you the job all by itself.
By the way, don’t actually go into the interview that early. Just get to the building. The experts in the field suggest you walk into the company’s lobby and introduce yourself to the receptionist about ten minutes early. Trust them. They’re experts. Look forward to a few minutes of chill time in the car, the building lobby, or a nearby coffee place.
4. Getting focused and energized.
Now we get to the less obvious steps to take. Here you will have to think about what works best for you. Your end goal is to be calm, cool and collected in your interview. People have different ways of describing that state—focused, centered, energized. Figure out what you call it. Got it? Now, think of ways that you have gotten there in the past. I’ll give you some examples I’ve heard from clients:
- listening to relaxation CDs on the way to the interview;
- listening to heavy metal CDs on the way to the interview;
- doing meditation (not while you’re driving!);
- going for a walk;
- belting out showtunes;
- meeting with a friend;
- talking to your mother(!);
- working up a sweat (preferably before your shower).
Take some time to get this one right. What works for you may be on this list, or it may be something else. Try one method. Notice how you feel; how easy it is to do challenging things after you’ve done it; how long your focus lasts. Try another. Some, like meditation, may take practice so that they are easy to do when the interview actually arrives.
Now schedule your method of getting to your focused, energized state into the day of your interview. For instance, plan to go for a fifteen minute walk in the park before the interview. Or arrange a phone pep talk with your best friend for half an hour before the taxi picks you up. Heck, go ahead and schedule more than one activity. Go running before breakfast. Plug your favorite Beethoven symphony into the car stereo. Do a spot of meditation after you’ve parked in the building’s parking garage. Do whatever it takes to get that focus you need to listen to the interviewers’ questions and show them what you are capable of.
5. Don’t try to be “perfect”.
Finally, if you find yourself second-guessing your track record of past interviews, or expecting perfection from yourself in the coming interview, stop! Remember this: you cannot make someone hire you. They may have already decided to hire the CEO’s nephew, or to promote from within, and they’re only interviewing other people to make it look like they are being thorough. There will never be a set of perfect answers that get you hired. If you focus on preparing to give perfect answers you will build up your stress and erode your performance.
Instead, realize that the purpose of the interview is to see if there is a fit between you and them, not to get the job. You need to get answers about them as much as they need answers from you. To accomplish this you want to get your spoken and unspoken questions answered (“What is the path for growth in this position?” “Do I have a good feeling about working with this potential boss?”) and show them what you can do for them by giving them clear, thoughtful answers to their questions. Then, if there is a good fit, they will offer you the job. If not, they won’t. Either way, you will both be better off.
So, to recap:
- Get done all that you can before the day of the interview so you can spend your time that day getting focused.
- Don’t skip any meals, and eat something with protein in it before going to the interview.
- Plan to arrive for the interview at least thirty minutes early. Get to the company’s lobby ten minutes before the interview.
- Figure out what gets you focused and energized, then schedule it into the day of the interview.
- Remember that your goal is to figure out if there is a fit between you and the company, not to be perfect.
If you do all these things and you still find yourself stressed out, you might want to take additional steps to figure out what is blocking you and root it out. This is something I may be able to help you with. Please email me to set up a get-acquainted call to see if we might work together to unblock your interview stress so you can shine in your interviews.