The 15 minutes before a job interview can be harrowing. Job seekers are never quite sure what to do with that time — but experts suggest that you look in a mirror, take deep breaths, and do whatever else it takes to get focused and stay calm.
"Those 15 minutes are your opportunity to get yourself into the right frame of mind, and set your energy and focus on who you'll be meeting with, what you want them to remember about you, and what you want to ask them," says Deborah Shane, a career author, speaker, and media and marketing consultant.
Here are 11 things you should do in the 15 minutes before a job interview:
1. Stay calm. When you become stressed, your body releases stress hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine. Depending on the level of your stress, these can slightly or greatly inhibit your ability to think clearly, says David Parnell, a legal consultant, communication coach, and author. “Ensuring that you remain calm, collected, and cool in the minutes leading up to the interview is necessary to avoid this hormonal elixir, and keep your mind clear.”
Career coach Anita Attridge agrees. She says staying calm before and during an interview allows you to listen better and to stay focused on how to best respond to questions. “In addition, you are better able to think how you can best present your accomplishments in alignment with what is important to the interviewer — and being calm also demonstrates your ability to deal with stressful situations."
2. Arrive early, but don’t go inside. Few things can shake you more than running late to an interview, so always arrive early. However, be sure to wait in your car or a nearby café, as being too early can place unnecessary pressure on your interviewer and start the meeting off on the wrong foot, Parnell explains.
Rita Friedman, a Philadelphia-based career coach, says you shouldn’t walk into the office building more than 10 minutes early. “It can come across as an imposition, as if you are expecting the interviewer to drop whatever he or she is doing to attend to you.”
3. Be friendly to all receptionists and security guards. When you do walk into the office's waiting room (which should be about 10 minutes before your scheduled interview time), remember to be nice to the receptionist, security guards, or whoever greets you. “It's very likely that he or she will be reporting back to the hiring manager about how you behaved,” Friedman says.
4. Decide on one or two things you want to be remembered for. Is it your communications skills? Project management skills? Knowledge? “Keying in on a few things that will impact your memorability and likeability is a smart way to approach the interview," Shane says.
5. Stop rehearsing. You don’t want to use this time to over-prepare or rehearse responses, which can make your conversation seem scripted and not authentic. “You want to know your stuff, but remember your interview is a conversation. Trust that you know what you know, and that the interview will take on a flow of its own,” Shane says.
6. Breathe. This will help with the first tip, which is to remain calm. “Counting your breath is one of the most immediate and impactful techniques for calming your nerves,” Parnell says. “Simply focus on your breaths, counting each until you reach 10, and repeat.”
7. Focus on your posture. Sit in a power pose while waiting to go in for your job interview. “You'll come across as looking more confident and poised,” Friedman says.
8. Don't check your voicemail, email, or social media accounts. You may hear or read something that will get you all worked up, Shane says. It will distract you and throw you off your game, which is one of the worst things that can happen.
9. Briefly review your notes, but don’t do any additional research. You should be done researching, preparing, and rehearsing. But if you made any notes for yourself, this is a good time to briefly look them over. “This is not the time to be using your phone to look up the company's recent achievements or earnings report. Giving big numbers of projects a glance at the last second is a good way to misinterpret key information,” Friedman says.
10. Look in a mirror. Duck into a nearby restroom or clothing store to check yourself out in the mirror, Friedman suggests. “You may have left the house looking like a million dollars, but you could still arrive looking like a vagabond.” This is also a great time to wash your hands and make sure your fingernails are clean and your palms are dry. If you wore comfortable shoes and plan on changing into dress shoes, be sure not to do this in the office.
11. Think happy thoughts. This may sound cliché – but thinking of pleasant things that make you smile and feel good will help put you in the right state of mind going in to the interview.
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