By: Laura Bennett
With roughly 11% unemployment in June in the U.S., many Americans are finding themselves on the job hunt. Applying for a job always includes at least one interview, which for some, makes them sweat merely from the thought. With many companies still working remotely or providing a hybrid solution, the interview process is also looking a bit different – phone screens and video calls are in many cases replacing face-to-face conversations.
Regardless of how the interview takes place, it can still create stress for many job seekers. There are countless online resources with invaluable information about the nuts and bolts to preparing for an interview – questions to prepare, how to present your resume, when to follow-up afterward, etc … But preparing YOU – the human being showing up – can make a big difference.
Here are a few suggestions to help you show up your best:
Prepare … For Being Unprepared
Preparing for an interview goes without saying, but sometimes we try to keep too many things in our heads. When your nerves kick in, it can be difficult to recall necessary information in the moment. Write down what you need to remember. This might sound simple, but the process of writing something down forces your brain to process it in more detail, which helps you load that information better in your memory.
So, what should you write down? Prepare for the common interview and behavioral questions. Have a list of keywords that represent stories and past experiences. Make a list of the skills and competencies that make you the most qualified candidate. And, interview them too. Write down what is most important to you in a company – is it their values? culture? career growth? flexibility? Determine what they are and write them out so you don’t forget to ask.
It's also worth preparing for being unprepared. We can all get tripped up or stumped in an interview. What happens to you mentally and physically when you “mess up” or feel “on the spot?” Does your heart race? Does your mind draw a blank? Do you start saying “umm…?”
Regardless of what happens, plan for how you’ll keep those negative reactions from hijacking and sabotaging the rest of the interview. Maybe it’s a few deep breaths. Maybe it’s telling your interviewer “Great question, can I take a minute to think about that one?” Whatever it is, prepare for what you’ll do in those moments to get back to the clear-headed, confident, best version of yourself so you can finish the interview strong.
Know Your Audience
Every company has its own way of determining the interview sequence. Each person to interview you, however, is going to have a different lens – different interests and priorities for the candidate they are evaluating.
First and foremost, understand what role your interviewer plays – are they the hiring manager, teammate, colleague from a different team, or HR? Think about what is most important to them in your candidacy and ensure your responses reflect that. If your future team is interviewing you, think about what kind of leader you are, and anticipate questions that will matter to your team.
Tailor your questions appropriately too. What do you want to know from your potential future boss? This is a great opportunity to find out what you care about from each person’s perspective before you commit to the role.
Think About Who You Want to BE
Energy is a powerful thing. Some believe that the energy you put out into the world is the energy you receive. The same goes for an interview. The energy you bring into the conversation is critical. If you walk in a nervous wreck, your interviewer will feel it too.
So, think about who you are at your BEST. What are the qualities and strengths you want to shine that are important in this role?
To help you do this, imagine a time when you were KILLING IT at work, where you felt fulfilled and successful, and things were ‘in flow.’ What qualities did you exemplify in that situation? Imagine yourself BEING that person again and feel the energy (yes, close your eyes and do it). Take note of how it makes you stand, what sensations or feelings you notice. And, bring yourself back to that place before your interview.
Don’t have a good example? Experiment with power poses. Amy Cuddy, a leading social psychologist, published research indicating that by standing in poses of power – shoulders back, legs astride, feet up on a desk, etc – people not only reported stronger feelings of power, but also showed measurable physiological changes. Testosterone went up and cortisol levels, associated with stress, went down. She says, “Don’t fake it till you make it – fake it till you become it,” (Amy Cuddy, 2012 TED Talk). Check out her TED Talk for more. Find the pose that makes you feel the most confident, and stand or sit that way before your interview.
Check Your Perspective
How we look at something influences how we think and feel about it. Many people dread the interview process and view it as a miserable experience they must endure. If you’re in this camp, you probably feel nervous and might be afraid you’ll say the wrong thing.
Check the way you’re currently looking at the interview, and how that’s influencing your thoughts, feelings and actions. If your mindset is not serving you, what is another way you could look at it, that creates more positive or empowering thoughts? What if you looked at it as a learning experience, where you could improve your interviewing skills and gain practice, regardless of the outcome? How would that change the way you think and feel about it?
Try on a few different ways of looking at the interview – even ones that might seem strange or silly. Some examples: Something fun, as if you were playing a game; A creative perspective, like an art form (painting, dance, theater, etc); A 10,000 ft. view, like a bird. Or, take an activity or adventure you love doing like mountain biking, skiing, paddle boarding … the list goes on.
Pick a perspective that gives you ENERGY and EMPOWERS you, and practice approaching the interview with that mindset. You never know, doing an interview as if you were on skis might create an experience and outcome you never thought possible.
Clear Your Mind – and Calendar – Before and After
Many of us are juggling more things during this pandemic than ever before. Whether you’re interviewing while still employed, or in transition, it can be tempting to fit an interview into your already busy day. Running from one thing to the next though won’t give you the mental space to show up the way you want for this pivotal step in the job search process.
Leave time on both ends of the interview to prepare and decompress. Get a good night’s sleep the night before and build in time to eat, exercise, meditate, take a walk, listen to music – whatever you do to get yourself in the right head space.
Afterward, take a few moments to exhale and jot down notes about what you were most proud of, and what you might want to revisit later. Don’t dwell on all the things you want to improve. Clearing your mind immediately afterward can help you de-stress and move through the rest of your day without distraction.
Lastly, we often spend a lot of (wasted) energy beating ourselves up for things that don’t go well – but we know we can’t change the past. We can only reflect and improve for next time. Remember that completing an interview is an important step toward finding that next role, which is a moment worth celebrating. You deserve it.