By Vickie Elmer
Your big interview is just ahead, just hours away. You feel your stress levels rising, your thoughts scurrying around your brain fast and furious. Then, you stop yourself and ask: What should I be doing now?
If your big interview is scheduled for 2:00 p.m., you need a plan to make the most of the hours beforehand. Spend the time so you are calm, confident and prepared when you show up for the interview. In an ideal world you might take the day off work or a half day, so you can focus on interview preparation and self-care. But even if you can only take an extra hour or so, use the time beforehand carefully.
What should you do? I asked two career experts this question – Donna Schilder, a leadership and career coach from Long Beach, Calif., and Kainne Hansbury, a technology recruiter/principal with Winter Wyman.
They shared plenty of suggestions, which I've synthesized into these five big ideas:
1. Review your resume.
Make sure you have a few copies printed and ready to take along. Then read it over and match it up against the job description. Consider how to sell yourself smoothly. Come up with great answers to show how you fill in any skills that may be in short supply or aren't well developed yet, said Hansbury.
2. Self care starts now.
Eat some protein about 90 minutes before the interview. Carbohydrates are not as good because they may cause a spike, then drop in your blood sugar, which could affect your concentration and thinking. "Feed your brain," said Schilder. When she does public speaking, "I plan my meals an hour or an hour and a half before, so that I'm fully energized." If you can manage a short nap, that will refresh you too. Just be sure to set an alarm so you don't sleep too long.
3. Arrive 30 to 60 minutes early.
This will allow two things to happen -- no worries if there are transportation troubles or a traffic tie-up. But more importantly, you can spend a half hour or so visualizing success. Picture the interview the way you'd see a short film, going smoothly and happily, said Schilder.
4. Consider the conversation and connection.
Think of the interviewer as a person, someone who may be busy or nervous like you, said Hansbury. Come up with a few questions that will engage them; ask their opinion on the corporate culture or the people who thrive there. Think of subjects where they will feel comfortable and be eager to share.
5. Clear your head and let go of stress.
Take a short walk and say an affirmation, suggests Schilder. Meditate. Read a book. Try some deep breathing, she said, adding: It's so important to put yourself in a really good mental place."
If your schedule on the day of the interview is tight, you could take some time the night before for some of these steps. It also pays to plan ahead on your route to the interview and what you want to wear. All that can be done a day or two ahead so you can focus on creating a positive mindset and clear head just before you head in to ace the interview.
Vickie Elmer regularly contributes articles on careers and small business to the Washington Post. She has collected a slew of journalism awards, large and small. Her career and workplace articles also have appeared in Fortune, Parents, Kiplinger's Personal Finance, the Financial Times, the Chicago Tribune, Newsday and many more. An active volunteer, she encourages kindness and creativity and embracing change, and she blogs and tweets under the moniker WorkingKind.
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