Day of the Interview - 5 Tips Before You Walk Through the Door

Your alarm goes off, and before you can hit the snooze button, you feel a slight jolt of nerves.  Today’s the day!  Your interview at that amazing company is just hours away.  With that familiar mix of excitement and butterflies, you hop in the shower, eat a power breakfast, and down a cup of coffee.  But getting ready for an interview isn’t just like any other morning, so use these five helpful day-of interview tips to get you into game-mode.

Tip #1 - Don Your Interview Attire

There was a time when, no matter what, an interview called for a power suit. (Think Harrison Ford and Sigourney Weaver in “Working Woman.”)  While it’s still advisable to wear a dark-colored suit to interviews in more conservative industries: finance, law, insurance, and government, the interview dress code for other industries has gotten, well…a little fuzzy.

A general rule of thumb is that even if the staff at your prospective employer gets to wear t-shirts and jeans everyday, you’ll want to step up your game and walk in with a professional look.   

For men that means a button-down shirt, tie (unless it’s a very casual environment), slacks and dress shoes.  Ladies should wear a simple, non-revealing blouse or sweater and either dress pants or a mid-length skirt.  One to two-inch heels or closed-toe flats are acceptable.  

Whatever you choose to wear, it should make you feel comfortable and confident.  There’s nothing worse than fidgeting in too-tight pants or being distracted by an itchy tag on your neck.  It’s helpful to plan out your outfit the night before so that you don’t have to contend with last-minute wardrobe changes the morning of.

Tip #2 - Assemble Your Interview Arsenal

As an on-the-ball job seeker, you’ve done all your necessary interview preparation in advance.  In other words, you’ve written out and practiced your answers to a dozen of the most common interview questions, printed out the job description and any research on the company, and have 3-5 questions prepared to ask them at the end.

Now it’s time to gather up those materials as well as a few copies of your resume.  If you don’t already have one, purchasing an inexpensive leather (or faux leather) portfolio from an office supply store is a great idea.  Most come with a side pocket for resumes as well as a pad of paper and a pen holder for taking notes.  Toss some breath mints, a comb and tissues into your bag, and you’re good to go!

Tip #3 - Arrive 45 Minutes Before Your Interview

You might be thinking, “What? That’s waaay too early.”  You won’t, however, be walking into the office that early, just parking your car (or finding a nearby cafe if you took public transportation).  

For the first 20 minutes, go over your questions and practice the answers out loud, looking in your visor mirror. (You’ll obviously need to be more discreet in a cafe.)  Some of those questions might be:

  • Tell me about yourself.

  • What attracted you to our company?

  • What skills and experience do you have that make you the right fit for this position?

  • Why did you leave/are leaving your employer?

  • What are your strengths/weaknesses?

Most of these questions should be answered in under two minutes, so make sure you’re concise and organized in your responses.  

During these 20 minutes, you’ll want to take another pass at the job description and the research you did on the company.  Your knowledge of their mission statement and any recent product launches or awards will help you stand out.

During the next 10 minutes, close your eyes and do some deep breathing.  I find that doing an inhalation for 4 counts, a hold for 4 counts, and an exhalation for 8 counts can really calm those jitters and clear your head.

This leaves you 5 minutes to walk to the office…which leads us to:

Tip #4 - Walk Into the Reception Area 10 Minutes Early

You’ve made it through that first door — phew!  And because you’ve given yourself more prep and relaxation time, you’re probably feeling more centered than usual.  Now it’s time to greet the receptionist with a smile, acknowledge that you’re early for your interview, and ask if you can use the restroom.  (It doesn’t actually matter if you have to go.)

Walking to the restroom is a perfect time to get a glimpse of the office environment and take in the energy.  Are people racing around like total stress cases?  Or are they slumped over their computers looking bored?  Do you hear a vibrant buzz or is it dead silent?  What’s the general demeanor of people walking by you?  As you can see, this is a vital information-gathering opportunity.

Once in the bathroom, as long as the stalls are high enough and no one can see you, stretch your arms high in the air and then shake out any of that nervous energy.  Throw in a few shoulder rolls.  It’s common to walk into an interview visibly tense, so getting a little blood moving will help alleviate that.

Follow it with a quick mirror check — hair, nose, teeth, clothes — and it’s back to reception.

Tip #5 - Manage Your Mindset

While this is the final tip, it’s really something to be cognizant of during your entire interview preparation process.  

The key mindset misstep job seekers often make is walking into the room wanting the job.  You might think, “Well of course I want the job!  That’s why I’m interviewing.”  But what I’m referring to is a subtle desperation, need for validation, and even a bit of entitlement.  Especially when you’ve been job searching for a long time, it’s easy convey a sense of neediness or even give the impression that you DESERVE this job.  

One way to avoid this trap is to try and view the situation from the hiring manager’s prospective.  Their main priority is finding the best fit for the role as efficiently as possible.  When there’s an opening, it’s usually because one of three things took place: someone quit, someone got fired, or it’s a new position due to increased demand.  Either way, there’s likely work piling up.  

So to put it another way, it’s not about you…it’s about them.  They want a problem solver who can hit the ground running and will mesh well with the team.  It’s your job to anticipate their needs and demonstrate how you have the unique skills and experience to solve their problems.

So in those final few minutes before walking through that interview door, instead of thinking “pleeease give me this job!!” think “I’m here to help you.”  That subtle shift will take you from frenzied to resourceful.  

And then no matter the outcome of the interview, you’ll walk away knowing you did the best you could do.  

Janna Kefalas is a Certified Professional Career Coach and founder of ForwardThink Careers. She helps frustrated job seekers across industries find a job they love.  She works one-on-one with clients, providing them job search and networking strategies that tap the hidden job market.  Aside from career coaching, Janna has a background in recruiting and HR in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors.  

Check out her free guide: The 7 Job Search Mistakes You Might Be Making…And What To Do Instead