Career Advice, Interviews, Jobs

Everything You Need to Know About Interview Preparation

Creative young man meditating in the office.

The term “interview” makes many job seekers cringe — especially knowing that most interviewers make up their mind within five minutes of meeting you. The Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology published a study that found 52 percent of 166 interviewers surveyed make their decision about a candidate within the first five to 15 minutes of the interview.

However, with a shift in mindset and attitude, you can approach interviews in entirely new, meaningful ways.

Here are the five essential steps for preparing for your interview:

1. Find stories you can tell.

The worst thing you can do is go into an interview with a head full of scripted responses to stereotypical questions—it’s easy to tell the interviewer about your greatest weakness or your goals down the road. Instead, identify a few stories that demonstrate these things. They’re easier to remember and much more compelling than a memorized answer because they show you overcoming an obstacle.

You don’t have to be the next J.K. Rowling to craft a good story. Simply go through your resume and identify which work experiences highlight your skills and connect to the position.

Your interviewer will forget the person who says they’re a perfectionist, but they’ll remember how you overcame your sense of being overwhelmed by breaking your large sales presentation into smaller tasks.

[Related: Your Ultimate Interview Prep Checklist]

2. Develop confidence.

We can’t just tell ourselves to stop our self-doubt, just like those magical words “calm down” never guide us out of panic and into a state of peace. So how can we gain confidence prior to the big interview?

All these “instant confidence” how-tos and self-help books are about as good as instant coffee—the confidence they sell seems like it’s real, but we know it’s just a fleeting feeling that barely resembles the true form of authentic confidence.

Instead, practice daily habits that help you develop a true sense of confidence. For example, regular exercise routines and practicing mindfulness through techniques like meditation or yoga help improve self-awareness, focus, and concentration.

Confident people tend to enjoy the feeling of achievement on a regular basis. You can make this a regular occurrence by writing down small goals and achieving them. Structuring your day around a simple checklist can make you feel more productive and help you feel good about yourself. That confidence and the association you develop with feeling successful will undoubtedly carry into your interview.

3. Plan your day.

Create an action plan leading up to the big day. Schedule yourself time to prepare by researching the company and interviewer, but also consider the overall presence you want to create.

What does your interview day look like to you? How do you want to dress? How will you act? What will you bring?

Select an appropriate outfit that best resembles who you are. Buy Tshirts Online conducted a survey where 56 percent of the 1000 participants agreed that black exudes confidence the most, with red and blue following close behind. Focus on selecting colors that have positive connotations.

Another part of your research should include noting what nonverbal communication practices you want to develop. Direct eye contact, smiling and good posture are all great for showing a level of confidence, engagement, and enthusiasm.

Finally, you need to make a list of what you want to bring. This may include copies of your resume or a portfolio of your work.

[Related: The Best Places to Work]

4. Clear your head.

Too much of even a good thing—like interview prep—can be a bad thing. If you dedicate every moment to conducting your research and crafting your stories, you’ll be left feeling overworked and overwhelmed.

To make the most of your “study time,” find some room for fun. Don’t cram and close yourself out from the world. Take breaks and fill those breaks with something you enjoy, because making time to unplug can actually improve your quality of work.

Go for nature walks, meet a friend for coffee, catch a movie, or tour an art museum. Setting up fun rewards like these helps you combat procrastination and stay productive in learning and preparing.

5. Prioritize rest, and eat well.

To combat interview day jitters, you need a good night’s rest. Schedule your sleep patterns the week of the interview, and establish a regular time for bed each night.

Overall, consider adopting good habits for better sleep. Don’t use electronics an hour before bed, keep your room cooler and dark, and write down anything that’s bothering you before you get into bed. Progressive muscle relaxation, where you tense then relax your muscles while taking deep breaths, also helps you ease into a restful night.

The morning of, consider some light exercise to improve your mood, boost confidence, and make yourself more alert. Eat a healthy breakfast, get dressed, and grab your resume and portfolio. It’s time to nail your interview!

TELL US: What are your go-to tips for preparing for a job interview?