I have written many a post about how to prepare for a job interview by preparing your resume, doing research about the company, etc. Today’s post is taking a slightly different approach to preparing for an interview. For the last two interviews I’ve had, I felt like I was prepared in terms of the information I had about the company and understanding how to leverage my qualifications, but I was anxious. As I’ve gotten older, my anxiety has begun to manifest itself in a much more intense way than I’m accustomed to – hives, nausea and migraines. In an effort to calm my nerves, I have found a few things that make me feel better. After doing these things, I feel more at ease and ready to take on the interview and I hope you feel the same.
The Week Of
A week before the scheduled interview, I cut back on caffeine and try to eat as cleanly as possible. I don’t go completely without my morning coffee, I make my normal amount, divide my normal cup into two and save one half for the next day. Then as I go throughout my week, I make a distinct effort to eat lots of fresh fruit and veggies. My go-to foods are: raw and sautéed spinach, vegetable soup and strawberries. Other than making sure my body is getting extra, good vitamins and whole foods, I eat more frequently than I normally would. By making myself a healthy snack or meal every three to four hours, I am also productively distracting myself and focusing on the food rather than the stress of the interview.
For some this may seem tedious, but the kitchen is my happy place. If you don’t share the same happy place, that’s totally fine. I encourage you to spend as much time in your happy place as possible. Note that your happy place may not be a specific place; it may be a feeling or an activity. If you love reading a new book, head to the library and pick up a few new reads. If your happy place is near a pond or hiking, grab some friends and some water and hit the trails.
During the week leading up to the interview, I seem to have no issue going to bed early. This is not the case the night before the interview, which I will talk about later on in this post. The days leading up to the interview, I let myself go to bed as early as I want (within reason) and try not to set an absurdly early alarm. I try to give my body as much sleep as it needs to help restore as much balance to it despite any stress and anxiety from the anticipation of the interview.
The Day Before
Historically, this is the day that my anxiety is the worst. In the morning, I have maybe a shot of coffee or espresso and eat a lot of fruit and light food for breakfast. Carbs like toast or waffles sit too heavy for me so I opt for fruit and am a happy camper. As I go throughout the day, I drink water like it’s going out of style. I also have a light soda like Sprite or Ginger Ale at meal times to give my stomach a soothing little belly rub.
Like earlier in the week, I distract myself. However, the day before it’s more about staying active and getting myself tired so I will sleep well. This typically means completing a lot of household chores like laundry and dishes. It can also mean beginning a handful of small organizational projects like my kitchen cabinets or underneath the bathroom sink. Again, I’m trying to strike a balance between tiring out my body physically and mentally and also distracting myself mentally so I don’t think about the interview.
It never seems to fail that no matter what physically exhausting things I’ve done that day I don’t fall asleep easily. To tell my body its time to get ready for bed, I shower, turn on my favorite show (Friends, of course), get in my pajamas and toss on a facemask. As the facemask is doing its thing, this is when I take out my company notes, read them over and jot down any questions I want to ask my interviewer. Why do I choose to do this now? Because I give myself until it’s time to wash off the facemask – I do not allow myself time to dilly-dally through this mini-process. I have a mini conversation with myself:
Okay Kristine. You have 15 minutes until you need to wash off your facemask. You have 15 minutes to get your questions together and then it’s time for bed.
Whether or not I actually go to bed after that allotted time is beside the point. The main takeaway is that I only give myself a short amount of time to focus entirely on the interview that lies ahead.
The Morning Of
I do not have coffee and I typically do not eat much of a breakfast. If fruit is available, I may have some fruit so I have something in my belly. That being said, if you wake up feeling weak, have some toast or oatmeal. If you wake up feeling nauseous, have a cup of tea and see how you feel before you decide on a food item.
Once the breakfast period is over, if I have time before the interview, I chug as much water as I can. Chug seems like an aggressive word to use in this circumstance, but I load up on water. I don’t think it’s particularly professional to take a beverage into an interview so I get my water intake before I head in. Along those lines, GO TO THE BATHROOM. Maybe even twice. After you’ve had all of this water, you will need to go to the bathroom. This may feel weird having me talk to you about going to the bathroom, but I need you to trust me. Five minutes after you have your last chug of water, go to the bathroom. Then ten minutes before your interview, find the closest bathroom and go. There is no feeling that is quite as uncomfortable as feeling like you need to pee in the middle of an interview. Trust me.
After the Interview
Don’t think about the interview – the situation is now out of your hands. Whether you think it went great or poorly, do something that makes you happy. After my last interview, I went to Wendy’s and had a ‘Baconator’ – it was amazing. Make yourself happy. Overtime, rewarding yourself with a positive stimulus will help your body learn that the interview experience isn’t a negative experience and your anxiety may lessen over time.
If You’re Travelling For the Interview
Since we’re moving to Nashville, I’ve needed to travel for my interviews since most companies prefer a face-to-face interview. How does this process translate to traveling for an interview? I make it as seamless of a transition as possible. I have light breakfasts if I’m eating out. I drink water like a fish (Do fish drink water?). I stay as busy as possible.
If you have any questions about anything I’ve written here or would like more information or posts covering a related topic, let me know! I’d love to chat either down in the comments, on Twitter or you can shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How do you keep yourself calm before an interview?