Oh how I used to hate interviewing. I would lay awake the night before dreading the whole thing and really not wanting to even go.
I remember there were moments where I would try and convince myself that if I didn’t go, I could take the whole morning off and do something I really wanted to do.
Read a book, lay at the beach, watch Reno 911.
Anything would be better than struggling through an interview where I wasn’t being real, scared I would say the wrong thing, or I’d be late and sweating the whole time.
I always assumed the worst.
I was experiencing all of the nervousness, grief, and worry of the interview over the course of the time leading up to it. The interview could only last for 30 minutes but I was making it last a week or more.
When the interview was over, that burden would lift off and I would be feel SO relieved. At times, I didn’t care how it went- even if I totally bombed it. I was just happy it was all over.
Except, there were those times when I really wanted to work for that company or organization. I really saw myself thriving there. I didn’t want to just be happy it was over.
It was the same feeling when finals were over but this time, it wasn’t just a grade but this single moment would determine if I got to work at the company of my dreams. No pressure, right?
Instead of feeling so much dread and anxiety over interviewing, I started developing techniques to use before I even stepped into the interviewing room.
These helped immensely because it allowed me to exclusively focus on the content of the interview itself.
I wasn’t over-thinking anymore and I was in the zone. Here are some ways that have helped me feel my best before I even walk into the room.
I break it down into three phases.
A. The week leading up to
B. The night before
C. The morning of
A. The week leading up to the interview.
If you have the time before the interview, I recommend doing your homework before your interview. It is worth the time and energy.
Now, you don’t have to be able to recite the company’s employee handbook, but you should know a little bit about the place that you are going to work at. Information to research includes,
1. Brief history of the company. Get a general sense of how the company has evolved over the years. What are some struggles they have had? How have they overcome them?
2. What is the culture like? How do they see themselves among other similar companies out there? How do they brand themselves?
3. Who are the key players in the company right now? A little info on the CEO or owner of the company. What is their vision?
4. Most importantly, how can you add value to the company. The more you know about the company, the better equipped you will be to show how you can add to it.
One specific step to take is to find out a problem that company has and how you can specifically solve that problem. It doesn’t have to be big and overwhelming. Pick something small. Let’s say the company has a high turnover.
Demonstrate how you have made employee relations a priority in the past and specific ways you have boosted employee morale and retention.
This isn’t to say that they will magically never lose another employee, but show them specific ways that you can help them improve this area.
Along with this, tell your story. Let them know how you have gotten to this point in your life. People WANT to know about you- as long as you are being authentic. The more you are aware of who you are before the interview, the easier it will be to express that in an interview.
B. The Night Before
This may be the most important part of your preparation. A good night’s sleep is so beneficial. We’ve all heard this. I love this article on the importance of sleep.
I also recommend not drinking any caffeine after lunch time. There are those that say caffeine doesn’t really affect me blah blah blah, but the fact is caffeine is a stimulant and the effects of it can be felt hours after it’s consumed.
Caffeine has a half life of 3-5 hours, meaning half of the amount you’ve consumed can still be in your system for up to 5 hours. It may take up to 10 hours for your body to completely get rid of the caffeine.
If you go to bed at 10pm and drank coffee at 1 pm, you could still have it in your system.
Along with caffeine, no alcohol the day before. Alcohol also affects sleep. You want to be clear headed.
Go to bed to ensure you get at least 8 hours. 10 if you can. Sleep. Mmmnnn sleep.
A great tip I learned from the great Tim Ferriss was to read fiction before bed- something you enjoy reading for fun. It works. It takes your mind away from the world.
Something else that has always worked for me is laying out everything you need for the morning ahead of time. That way you don’t have to make any decisions the morning of.
Lay out your clothes, your portfolio, shoes, boxers, socks, shoes, or lucky buffalo nickel you’ve had since age 6. (Ok, I don’t have this- mine is from age 8)
Even prepare part of your breakfast the night before.
The less decisions you have to make, the more you can focus on the interview ahead.
If you want to do something more, have a warm cup of herbal tea close to bedtime. This helps to relax the muscles and mind. Just sit with the tea. Enjoy it.
C. Morning of
Oh jeez, oh jeez, the big day has arrived! Not to worry. You are prepared, in good spirits, and just had a restful night of sleep. When your alarm goes off, get up. Resist the urge to hit the snooze button over and over again.
You don’t want to fall back into that deep sleep and be shaken awake again. I use Sleep Cycle, an App that awakens you at the right moment based on your specific sleep patterns.
Even if you just get up and sit on the living room couch for a while, I strongly encourage you to just get up. You will feel refreshed.
Everyone has heard this, but I will say it again EAT A GOOD BREAKFAST. Don’t go crazy here with eating the “right” food but eat something that fills you up and gives you energy.
I like a smoothie with some protein. Men’s Health is a great resource and I’ve used some of their smoothie recipes myself.
Oh and by the way, if you drink coffee, just make it one cup.
You don’t need to be jittery and supercharged (if you’re like me, your nerves are already on edge). If you don’t drink coffee, drink what you normally drink. I sometimes prefer tea myself.
You’ve probably also heard this one- arrive on time. I absolutely hate when I am late for anything. Yes, ANYTHING.
One of my biggest pet peeves is when people are late. But forget me, this is the number one way to make a bad first impression. Don’t be late.
Leave early. Check out traffic beforehand. Hang out in your car if you have to.
In fact, one of my favorite things to do is to arrive about 15 minutes before, put on my favorite jam, and picture myself flawlessly executing the interview. This helps get me in the mindset.
I like to enter the office about 7 minutes before it’s scheduled. It’s not too early but early enough to show you are punctual.
A simple trick that has been super beneficial to me- arrive with an energy of confidence and pride as soon as you walk in the door. People can pick up on this and first impressions DO matter.
Smile when you meet the receptionist, stand tall, put your phone away, don’t fidget. Simply be in that moment and know that you are going to knock it out of the park.
I also like to see myself as their ideal candidate before I ever walk into the door. After all, they wouldn’t have called me in for an interview if they weren’t interested. They are just seeing if it’s a good fit.
When you are called in, give a firm handshake, smile, and know that you are going to bring your best self to this interview. Go get ‘em.
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Author: Simple Fellow
Shawn McKibben is the founder of simplefellow.com, a website dedicated to teaching people how to navigate through some of life's biggest challenges. You can also follow him on Twitter @simple_fellow