Pre-Interview Jitters Messing Up Your Job Search?

Top 10 Tips for the Last 15 Minutes Before the Interview

By Janice Burch, Co-owner, Pro Resume Center, LLC

Earlier in my career, the hardest part of an interview was the last 15 minutes before the interview began. There were so many things racing through my head – trying to remember everything I knew about the company and the position, my strengths, the anecdotal stories I wanted to share, and the list goes on. I was, for the most part, a nervous and ridiculous wreck as I had not yet learned the benefits of complete preparedness ahead of the big day and the value of relaxation before a big interview or speaking engagement.

After working though career and interview coaching with many clients, I realize that many experience those pre-interview jitters that can really mess up game day success. From college students applying for their first “adult” job to CEOs – we all get the jitters. 

The key to remain in control pre-interview is to remember to do all the other things you need to do BEFORE the big day (like research the company, have a grip on position responsibilities, your top three value points, printed resumes in the briefcase, travel time ato intend available parking, what you are wearing). If you have done these things ahead of time, the below will work wonderfully. For help preparing for your next big interview, see here.

Here are 10 little things you can do in the 15 minutes prior to your job interview to be ready to knock it out of the park:

1) R-E-L-A-X.  I understand that you may NEED this job NOW. But you know what? If you don’t stay relaxed during those last 15 minutes before the interview starts, you will only hurt your chances of getting the job. When overly stressed about with anticipation, your body releases epinephrine (which doctors use to kick start a heart) and cortisol. This makes it hard to have a clear head for your interview. Once nerves set in you can lose focus, are easily distracted, forget the most salient points you wanted to make and will start talking too fast. See #6 for a specific tip on HOW to relax while waiting.

2) Take a look in a mirror. While still in your vehicle, check the mirror and make sure you don’t still have a poppy seed in your teeth from your morning bagel and ensure your tie is straight. You can also make a quick stop in the restroom when you arrive for a full body check. Even if you looked like you stepped out of a GQ or Vogue shoot when you left home, a lot can happen in the drive there, especially if you applied last minute make-up, or sipped your to-go latte and are now unaware of the frothy mustache you are sporting.

3) Arrive early, but not too early. Running late is one of the best ways to put you on tilt before an interview. ARRIVE EARLY – but don’t impose. Be sure to be in the parking lot at least 15 minutes before the interview starts, just don’t go inside. Why should you arrive so early without going inside? See #1 You can wait outside in your car or across the street in the coffee shop. If you walk in too early, you may put the hiring manager in a position where they have to either choose to make you wait, or not finish what they were working on.  This just starts things off on the wrong foot. I advise to never walk in more than 10 minutes early.

4) Be friendly to everyone you meet. When you walk into the lobby, you’re already under the microscope. You may not realize it at first, but everyone you run into is already judging you, trying to decide if they would like to work with you or not. In fact, articles have been written highlighting the value the front desk staff often provides to HR who solicit their feedback on what the candidate did while waiting and if he/she be a good fit for the company. These first impressions, generally formed while the applicant is waiting in the lobby, become relevant to the hiring decision, especially for competitive positions when there are dozens of on-paper qualified applicants. Be aware of how you greet and treat others, and what you do while waiting. Read below for more on this.

5) Show good posture. Not only will having great posture make you look more professional, but it also helps improve your mood and memory, as well as improves confidence. Sit straight. I know – I sound like your mother but these tiny things give off an air of confidence and if not done, can make you appear uncertain, nervous, lacking confidence, tired or worse – that you simply don’t care enough to sit up straight for this very important meeting.

6) Breathe. My favorite breathing technique to relax is the 4-7-8 Method. With this, you breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds, and then breathe out through your mouth for 8 seconds. I think this is the best method to relax for a very simple reason:  your body has NO OPTION but to slow down and relax. If you are doing this correctly, there is much less oxygen for your body to use than with normal breathing. Because of that, your heart rate and other body functions slow down. The focus on your breathing helps you take your mind off the nerves. Also, no one knows you are doing it but you.

7) Stop rehearsing. There is such a thing as over preparation. Not only will this prevent you from really relaxing before you go in, but you will start “getting into your head” and could end up sounding rehearsed. You want to sound natural, conveying your thoughts with a flow of preparedness, not rehearsed lines. You’ve already prepared ahead of time, or, at least I hope you have. So you don’t need to rehearse anymore. RELAX. Pick up the company brochure and give it a read while waiting.

8) Remember  – you are interviewing them, too.  Remind yourself that you also are interviewing THEM, to determine if this IS the right place and position to meet your needs. Walking into an interview with that mentality also puts you in more of a confident frame of mind –this is not just about impressing them. You also want to be sure this is where you want to spend the next few years of your life, so come prepared with questions to help you with your decision. This will also illustrate to the interviewer that you did your homework.

9) Do not check your phone while you are waiting for the interview.  Just imagine how annoying it is to be the hiring manager, waiting for the job candidate to back out of his phone screen and turn it off while you are waiting to shake his hand – and yes, a few told me this happens fairly often and it annoys the heck out of them. Turn it off BEFORE walking in, or just leave it in the car.

10) Keep in mind what you want to be remembered for. One of the best ways to approach an interview is to go in with the goal of being remembered for two to three things. Ideally, these should be skills or traits that relate to the needs of the position and what makes you unique among the other candidates.

If you take one thing from this article, please let it be that confidence stems from preparation. Going into an interview prepared is the best way to be relaxed and will ensure you use those last 15 minutes beforehand to be ready and on top of your game. So do your homework before the big day and you’ll be ready to shine on the big day. Remember – You’ve got this!

I’d love to hear any other tips you think could play a role in those final moments before the big interview. Comment below! Also, don’t forget to SHARE this article if you believe others will find it helpful.

Other Posts from Janice:
Top 5 Tips to Strengthen Your Resume
Lose Your Job? Blueprint For a Quick Recovery and Rebound
Understand the Power of Storytelling in the Job Interview
Resume Pitfalls: Addressing Unemployment Gaps, Several Jobs and more…

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