It is very important to prepare a lot for an interview. I mentioned the initial preparation earlier in this book already. While you may think that you have it all under control, it cannot hurt to put some extra effort into if you really want that job.
Rehearse the interview questions I listed above several times. I highly recommend standing in front of a mirror, and reading the questions out loud and answering them. For example, say to yourself, “Tell me about yourself” several times, and take note of how each version of your reply will probably be quite different. Repeat, repeat, repeat. The more you rehearse interview questions and answers, the better you will get. You will become more secure in answering questions, which will translate into a much better interview experience.
The more you practice in front of a mirror, the easier it gets to answer the questions. If you can, ask friends and family to interview you by choosing random questions from this guide. Repeat the overall process several times.
Here is another great tip that you might have never heard before. This involves self-motivation in a very special way. Stand in front of the mirror and “program yourself” by telling yourself in a loud but distinct voice, “I will make it. I can do it. I know my stuff. This job is going to be mine.” Do this often, and look at yourself in the eyes when you do it. Don’t sound like a wimp—sound strong and tough. You know you can master the interview, so why not remind yourself of it? This is especially helpful doing while driving to the interview. Why? Because it keeps you busy. It keeps any sudden doubts or fear of failure out of your mind. Remember what sports teams do before the game? They huddle. You can do the same thing – strategize and motivate yourself! If top athletes visualize the outcome of a big race and it works for them, then it can work for you, too. The last 10 to 15 minutes before you walk into the building are a great time to mentally program yourself for success. I have also used the drive to the interview location to program myself. I am sure that other drivers on the highway thought I was crazy if they saw me yelling and shouting. Yes, shouting!
I already pointed out a few things in the “Do you have any questions for us?” section. It is very important to be prepared, and part of that is to research the company, along with the potential interview partners, if you know their names. Employers use LinkedIn and Facebook to research employees—and so can you. Knowing what people look like is the least reason to do so, but oftentimes you can prepare for certain situations much better by knowing little details about the interview partner. Let’s say you find the interviewing manager on LinkedIn. DO NOT connect to him or her! Instead, check out his or her education and (eventually) personal interests. Perhaps you went to the same college. You would not mention this during the interview, but you could say something special about how much you enjoyed studying at Texas A&M, for example.
The Day of the Interview
Usually you do not have much lead time for an interview. Two, maybe three days of lead time is the average time to prepare for an interview. I usually try to schedule any interview for as soon as possible – meaning, if I can come in for an interview tomorrow, let’s do it! I see this as an important strategic step. If I can come in as the first or second candidate and deliver a great interview, every other candidate will have to measure his or her performance against mine. So, if you can go in “early” and raise the bar very high, your chances of winning this round of interviews increase quite a bit.
You can probably tell right here that I see interviewing as a competition—a competition that I want to win. I am not going to leave much room for failure. If there is a major failure, it is more likely to be something unusual that happens with the interview itself (remember my story about my first group interview?). My thinking is, the more that I can control about an interview process, the better. However, it is very important to do it in a way that still makes the hiring manager think he or she is in control at all times.
So, schedule an interview for the next possible date – don’t wait and put it off.
What time of the day is best for an interview? Again, the earlier the better, I would say. You as well as the interviewer have just started the day – without having had any major crises just yet. You do not want to have to deal with a stressed-out manager in the late afternoon. You also do not want to get caught in a situation at your own work (or personal life) that gives you grief and causes stress.
An early morning start is best accordingly. I usually try to schedule my interview appointments for either 9:00 a.m., 10:00 a.m., or 11:00 a.m.
Here is a sample schedule for “my perfect interview day.”
6:30 a.m. – Get up, have a light breakfast with my family, shave, shower, etc.
7:30 a.m. – Work a little bit, catch up on emails, read the news, last minute review of my interview notes
8:15 a.m. – Get dressed in suit and tie, get some water bottles for on the way, eat a banana, brush my teeth
8:30 a.m. – Leave for my 9.15 AM interview to have enough time to make it through traffic
8:55 a.m. – Arrive near office building for interview. Stop somewhere near, relax, last-minute motivation, TURN OFF my CELL PHONE!
9:07 a.m. – Arrive at receptionist, sign in, wait for interview partner
9:15 a.m. – Let’s do it
The perfect breakfast for an early–morning Interview
Again, leave no room for failure and prepare correctly for your interview. Having a good breakfast is important, but please avoid common mistakes. As an example, if coffee makes you go to the bathroom more or less frequently, skip the cup of joe (instead, have an ice-cold shower to wake up) and switch to water (or juice). If you decide to drink juice, make sure you know that your stomach can handle it. I know of people where the wrong kind of juice makes for acid reflux or frequent trips to the bathroom for whatever reason. Play it safe.
When thinking about breakfast options on the day of the interview, think like a marathon runner. You want to eat the right stuff to have lots of energy, but you also want to eat so that you don’t get tired because your stomach is having a hard time getting the food broken down and digested. Here are some breakfast recommendations that have worked great for me when going out for an early morning run as well as when having an interview in the morning:
Breakfast Suggestion #1
One small cup of coffee and one to two large cinnamon raisiagels with cream cheese. If I have more than 2 hours between breakfast and the interview I am going for the 2 bagel option, not one. I might also eat a banana within 30 minutes of the interview, but it depends a bit on how full I feel from my breakfast.
Breakfast Suggestion #2
One glass of orange juice and one Bagel with peanut butter followed by a granola bar and/or a small Greek yogurt. And again, I would have a banana within 30 minutes of the interview.
Breakfast Suggestion #3
I am a big fan of healthy, green shakes – be it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or in between. Mixing a shake or smoothie can be a great alternative if you have problems swallowing anything down (because of interview stress, that is). Take a banana, blueberries, and strawberries into a blender. Now add some Kellogg’s Special K “protein” and then add milk and let it blend. I usually start with less milk and then slowly add more until the shake reaches a consistency level that you like.
Stay away from eggs, bacon, potatoes, and other more “heavy” breakfast foods. It takes a long time for your stomach to break down the food and to digest it. The return of energy from such a breakfast is very low and it is just not what you want when interviewing.
30 Minutes before “liftoff”
The last 30 minutes before an interview can be cruel for some people. Time is pretty much up—not much you can do now. Well, wrong—remember the self-motivation steps I mentioned earlier. “Huddle,” push yourself, and program yourself. Do anything that keeps you away from becoming insecure or even depressed. If you know that you freak-out easily under this type of stress, consider meditation but stay away from taking any kind of medicine that eventually slows down your blood pressure, heart rate, etc.—you need to be alert.
I probably do not have to mention that you need to arrive a few minutes early for your interview (see above how I usually plan it out), but I will say talk about it again. Why? You would be amazed how many people manage to arrive late for an interview. I do not know how they do it. Unless you really truly get stuck in traffic due to an immediate traffic accident or stuff like that, but for those situations you should a) arrive early and b) have the interviewers contact information hand to reach out.
Simply said, don’t be one of those people who arrive late.
So, leave your home early and rather plan for a quick pit stop along the way or use the approximate waiting time to motivate yourself. For one, it gives you enough time to make it through traffic, but it also gives you some extra time for last-minute preparation. Some people get really nervous, and visiting the bathroom one more time can be a good thing to do.
A final check on your rehearsed questions and answers might do some good, as well. However, I personally think that arriving early gives you a great opportunity to relax and calm yourself. Take a deep breath. Visualize the outcome you want from this interview. Also, keep in mind that there is no right or wrong way of doing this—find something that works for you and that makes feel comfortable doing it. Learn from every interview and how you get through the extra time before the interview.