Updated: August 2020
The job interview can be a high stress situation for even the most qualified candidate – but it doesn’t have to be. In addition to preparing your answers for potential interview questions, you will need mental preparation. Without mental preparation, you run the risk of getting in your head on the big day. This alone can sabotage the entire interview. In this post we will share tips for getting your head in the game and being mentally prepared for your job interview.
Why mental preparation for a job interview issue important
There’s a popular saying in sports that winning is “90% mental and 10% physical.” Even professional athletes at the height of their craft, they will tell you it’s the mastery of mental power, positive thinking and harnessing a vision of success, that delivers the winning formula when paired up with the physical skill.
While you may not be a professional athlete, you do face a similar championship match when competing for job openings – specifically in the job interview. When it comes to landing your dream job, the interview is where you must perform your best. The interview is also an environment that can be incredibly stressful. Therefore it’s the job interview setting where mental game is paramount.
How interview nerves can affect your chances of being hired
Interview nerves are normal. But throw on top of that the pressure of impressing your future boss, AND the fact that questions will be fired your way – and now you have the perfect storm. The reality is: even if you are the most qualified candidate for the job – entering your job interview with zero mental strategy is an almost guaranteed way to project lower confidence and produce stumbling opportunities. Therefore, you want to be prepared in every aspect of the word but especially in the mindset department. A little mental preparation for your job interview can go a long way in boosting your confidence, projecting the right brand, and winning the confidence of the hiring manager. Here are a few strategies for upping your mental game before setting foot into the interview.
Start by believing you can ace your interview
Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re probably right.” Having spent many years coaching candidates through tough job searches, I know this to be absolutely true. The job searchers who believe their career goals are attainable, achieve them. The clients who don’t believe they can do it, don’t. This brings to mind another great quote by Jim Rohn: “If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.” What does this mean for you? It’s pretty straightforward. First you have to simply “believe” that you can ace the interview. If you don’t believe this is possible, no amount of pitching will convince you OR the employer that you’re a fit.
Spend some time visualizing a successful interview
Once you believe in yourself, spend some time visualizing your interview as being successful. If you can see it you can achieve it. See yourself at the company before you set foot in the door for the interview. Spend 2 minutes each day leading up to your interview visualizing you in your new job. Who will you be interacting with? What will be on your desk? What kinds of interactions will you have? Visualization is mental goal setting and if you can see where you’re headed, you’ll be more invigorated and positive as you work to get there. Those are both vibes you’ll need to exude in the interview setting.
“I landed a job thanks to the help of you and your team!”
– Eric, Senior IT Professional | NG Career Strategy Interview Coaching Client
Practice positive body language by striking a pose
Did you know that your body language can change other peoples’ perceptions of you? Your body language can even change your body chemistry – making you feel more confident. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy reveals how striking a pose by “power posing” has proven to actually influence interviewers into selecting the power posers over other candidates. Simply by power posing in the mirror before your interview, you can increase your confidence in the actual interview. So strike a power pose every day before you practice answering those interview questions.
Work on being comfortable by practicing your answers
Interviews are awkward and uncomfortable largely due to the fact that you can’t know fully what to expect when you walk in the door. Therefore you will want to work on making your interviews more comfortable by being really well prepared for everything. If you don’t want to experience that awkward silence due to not having the right answer, then practice your answers. Have your mental memory bank full of examples that demonstrate your strength as a candidate. This means spending time getting prepared for the Q&A portion of the interview.
Give yourself a pep talk
Spend some time telling yourself that you can do it (even if this means talking to yourself in the mirror). This will be huge for making sure your mental game doesn’t falter at the last minute. Reinforce positivity and excitement around any thoughts you have about the upcoming interview – especially any positive visuals you experienced in your daily visualization time. In addition to boosting up the positive thoughts, be attentive to negative thoughts as well so you can shut them down. Negative mental creep will attack you at some point in your job search, if it hasn’t already. And when it does, you need to change your mindset. Rid yourself of any thoughts of failure or thoughts that indicate you don’t stand a chance in the interview. Adopt a mantra and say it aloud the minute you start to get down on yourself. Even something simple like: “be gone!” will help you catch negative mental creep and rid the thoughts from your mind temporarily. The more you can catch yourself going there and order it to “be gone” – the more you will start to be in control of your mental game.
Get a confidence booster from a friend, coach, or mentor
Going through the job search alone is never a good idea. This is why career coaches are so helpful for many people. If you’ve been in the job search a while you know which friends are your cheerleaders and which friends are bringing you down. During your interview prep, find some time to chat with the cheerleaders. A good mentor or friend will offer encouragement and boost you up. This is what you need now more than ever in order to feel confident heading into the interview.
Don’t forget: you earned this and they invited YOU for the interview
A common mental insecurity around feeling unqualified for the role can start to develop as the interview approaches. Don’t let it! This is a good time to shout out your mantra! Remember, you are mentally in charge here. You can feel absolutely confident knowing that something about you – your resume, phone interview, past experience – stood out to the hiring manager and he or she is invested in getting to know you better. Therefore, don’t let yourself convince anyone otherwise. Remain confident that you are indeed qualified and capable.
Don’t forget: you are interviewing the employer as much as the employer is interviewing you
In addition to knowing that the employer is interested in you, you can feel confident knowing that you are also in the position to interview the employer. Many candidates forget that this is a two-way street. The interview conversation is the equivalent of a first date. You have every right to learn as much as you can during the interview because you also want to make sure the job is a fit. Right? Even if you desperately want the job, you don’t want to fall victim to employer red flags which will most definitely create problems for you after you’re hired.
Think “conversation” vs “firing squad”
Keep in mind that the end goal of an interview is to see if you, the job, and the company are a match. This is a conversation, not an inquisition. Therefore you will want to think of your interview as a friendly chat more than anything else. Don’t be intimidated and don’t worry if the questions fly your way. You have spent ample time preparing and all you have to do was calmly and confidently answer!
Practice smiling, and then do it!
This last tip may sound silly but I encourage you to try it. Smiling is contagious and will be a great way to break the ice. Employers hire people they like. Therefore you want to be likable in your interview. The easiest way to be likable is to start your interview with a smile. It will also change your demeanor and even the tone of the conversation. If you’re someone who gets serious when your nerves kick in you will want to really practice the art of smiling each and every day. After you have prepared your interview answers, record yourself answering a few questions. In the playback pay attention to whether or not you smile while answering. Then tweak accordingly!
If you’re hoping to ace your interview, check out the Job Search Accelerator. In this budget-friendly job landing program you’ll have access to all of Noelle’s expert job interview resources including thank-you email templates, answers to the toughest questions, interview strategy tips, panel interview question prep, interview answer scripts and more – everything you need to feel confident in the interview process and put your best foot forward as an applicant.