[10.06.09]
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INTERVIEW WEEK: How To Stay “Up” During A Long Interview Day

interview week, interview topics, job search, job interviews

Interviewing is hard work. And often takes the better part of a day.

There is a lot of very focused preparation involved and, let’s face it, you begin to feel the pressure of interview day weeks or days prior to the actual event.  And that can drain you.  So not only do you need to stay engaged in your preparation effort, but you need to be especially energized and ready on the big day.

Having been through a number of 8-10 hour interview days in my job search history, I thought I would share a few of my secrets to staying “up” and engaged during the long day.

But the first thing I’ll say is that your good preparation well in advance of interview day has a lot to do with your ability to be on your game.  Because if you are cramming the night before trying to learn company history and trying to memorize your resume, you will experience the type of stress that can be debilitating.  The type of stress that makes it hard to sleep and hard to concentrate when you need it most.

For other tips on interviewing strategy, see the interview week intro post here.

You can also read What To Look And Listen For On Interview Day

So before we get started, I’d like to explain what I mean by “UP”.  “Up” is not bouncing off the walls like a spider monkey.  And it is not displaying uncommon exuberance.  People will see through any attempt on your part to over-deliver your personality.  Or to make up a new one.  So don’t do that.

To me, “up” means that your value is easy to see.  You have an energy about you that shows a positive engagement.  You are genuinely interested in learning about the people, products and culture offered at the company.  You are smiling and enjoying the opportunity to sell yourself.  There is a confident ease about you because your are (apparently) in your element.

Imagine walking up to the front door of the building on the big day and pausing before you open the front door.  You then reach down to your side and gently pull up on your dimmer switch.  As you do, your head clears, your smile appears, your heart rate slows and you say one thing to yourself:  “I’m ready”.

Being “up” also means you have a strong handshake, a strong voice and an interest in others.

So now you say.  That’s great, Tim.  You got me in the door.  Appreciate that.  But how do I do it all day?

Thanks for asking.  Here are my ideas:

  1. Separate out and plan for each interview independently.  Instead of one long day (meeting with 5-8 people) planning for them individually allows you to have a micro plan for each discussion.  If you are given an interview schedule in advance, you should vet each one of your interviewers.  How long have they been there?  Where did they come from?  What have they accomplished there?
  2. Have a light but high energy breakfast (try the runner’s breakfast – a toasted bagel with peanut butter).
  3. Drink lots of water during the day.  Water helps with energy and, importantly, allows you to talk for long periods without experiencing dry mouth (or other maladies caused by water deprivation).
  4. See if you can avoid coffee that day or consider decaf.  I think a more natural energy is better on interview days.
  5. If not offered, ask for a restroom break every few hours.  While you may not need the break, your body does. It also allows you a few minutes to re-tuck your shirt, splash cold water on your face, stretch your legs and generally recalibrate. Just don’t get caught doing “downward dog” in the stall.  That’s yoga, folks.
  6. If you get a break in between interviews – even if only 5 minutes sitting in the last interviewer’s office – write down a few notes about the experience so far.  Pay attention to how you are feeling about the people and the culture of this company.  Give yourself a quick review.  How are your answers so far?  Are you staying on message? Are you meandering into long, overly detailed explanations?  Don’t beat yourself up, but pay attention to your content and tempo.
  7. Think about each interview as a chance to meet someone new.  A new connection.  Whether you get the job or not.  By finding a way to be interested in the person and their life or work experiences, you are now adding another layer to the day.
  8. Consider that once you have been given an offer, the 30-60 minutes you have with each person now represents their first impression of you.  So while you need them to feel good about your candidacy, you are also potentially beginning your long term business relationship.  And whether they will report to you, you to them or you will be influencing each other as peers, this interview has real long term value.  Make it count!
  9. Have a great list of questions that can be asked throughout the day.  Not just at the end of each interview.  The more conversational each interview gets, the more interesting it will be for you.  Less of a grilling and more of a sharing of ideas.  Yes, it happens.
  10. After the day is done, find a place to debrief.  On your own.  Grab a beverage somewhere, take off your jacket and put your feet up.  No matter the result, you need to learn something from the day’s experience.   Even if an offer does not come, you will be better as a result of putting yourself out there.

Oh yes, and one more idea.  Don’t forget the power of music during job search.  On the way there and on the way home, let music help.

We’ll call it debriefing with Buddy Holly.


Written by: Tim Tyrell-Smith
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Categories: Job Interview Tips

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