In-person job interviews are stressful, and the fear that something will go wrong increases that stress. But with a little planning, you can handle some of those issues with ease so they don’t take you off-track.
1. Try on your interview clothes the week before the interview.
If you are just embarking on a job search after many years, you want to be sure that your outfit still fits well and is still in style. Even if you have been in interview mode recently, checking out your interview clothing is critical because you don’t know if a hole has developed in your shirt or your dry cleaner missed a small stain on your collar from the lunch interview you had two weeks before. If anything is amiss and you find out now, you still have time to line up different clothes.
2. Get your hair cut 5-7 days before the interview.
I know that’s not always possible (e.g. your stylist is booked out until three days before your interview), but waiting until the day before to get a haircut can be a recipe for disaster. Even your regular stylist can make mistakes, and if your interview is the very next day, you don’t have much time to work with the mess that is sitting on top of your head. Giving some lead time to allow your hair to grow out a little also ensures it doesn’t have that “fresh cut” look.
3. If it’s not too far, visit the location of your interview a day or so before your big day.
Familiarizing yourself with the route gives you the opportunity to identify in advance any factors that could slow you down, such as road construction.
4. Top off your gas tank the night before.
This is an easy one to do, so just make sure it gets done. If you have to call a prospective employer to tell them that will be delayed because you forgot to fill up your car with gas, you have put one strike against you before they have even met you. It’s never good to give off the impression that you don’t pay attention to details.
5. Practice your responses.
I’ve talked about the importance of interview prep before. It doesn’t matter how well you know your responses or how much of a shoo-in you think you are, practicing locks in your responses and helps you avoid stumbling around your words during the actual interview.
6. Get enough sleep!
I know you are nervous and you may have insomnia as a result, but going to the interview sleep-deprived is going to negatively impact your ability to think on your feet.
One thing I do that helps put me to sleep is slowly counting backward from 100. If I lose track of where I am in my counting, I have to start back at 100. Because it forces my brain to focus on that one boring activity, it slows it down enough that I fall asleep. Occasionally, I have gotten through to 1, so I start over again. That does the trick for me.
If you have other methods that put you to bed, by all means, use them. You want to be as refreshed as possible for the interview.
7. Have a back-up plan to your main alarm.
If your interview is first thing in the morning, you want to be sure that you get there on time. While your alarm may usually be reliable, it’s not a fail-safe piece of technology (especially since you can hit snooze). Maybe you can have a second alarm across the room, or have someone call you at a designated time to make sure that you are awake.
Just make sure the secondary source is something different than your main alarm. For example, if you use your cell phone as your alarm and set two different times on it for alarms to signal, neither one will help if your cell phone malfunctions (don’t say it can’t happen; it can, and these kinds of things often occur at the most inconvenient times).
8. Leave earlier than what you anticipate it will take to get to your destination.
Even if you have driven the route and know how long it takes, unexpected traffic jams and bad weather can wreak havoc on a timeline. How much earlier you should leave depends on how far you have to go. If you only have a 15-minute drive ahead of you, taking off 35 or so minutes before your interview should be fine. If you would be traveling 1.5 hours in good conditions, leave about 2.5 hours prior to your interview. Then, with any extra time, do some last-minute prep to ensure you know how to answer those tough questions!
9. Make sure you leave the house with a fully charged cell phone, a charger, and a cigarette lighter adapter.
In today’s world, the expectation is that everyone is connected. If you are delayed because you get a flat tire or because a truck carrying a house broke down and is blocking the entire road*, calling your interviewer to explain your predicament is oftentimes met with understanding. But if you aren’t able to call because your cell phone died, it reflects badly on you that a) you weren’t courteous enough to call them with the details, and b) you weren’t prepared for the unexpected and you didn’t have the equipment you needed.
10. Bring along some dental floss.
If you end up grabbing a bite to eat before your interview or you are going to be taking part in a lunch interview, you don’t want to show off any remnants of your tasty meal in your teeth.
And a bonus tip for women: bring along an extra pair of pantyhose. Don’t let a snag drag you down!
*This really happened to me once. I had a business meeting in a nearby town, and the quickest route was on some narrow back roads. Partway into my travels, I came upon a semi-truck that was carrying a house; it had broken down such that the truck and house made it impossible to pass on either lane. Fortunately, I was able to call the person I was meeting to explain the delay and find a new route.
What other suggestions do you have for minimizing stress before an interview?
Image courtesy of Oliver Tacke
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