How To

The Pre-Interview Ritual

photo: Aidan Jones

Every sports movie has it — the montage before the big game. With preparations finished, the athlete follows a set of steps — some practical, some superstitious — to prepare himself to step onto the field. This isn’t just the case for athletes: Most performers, from musicians to public speakers, have a routine they follow before they take the stage.

There’s intense value in following these routines physically and psychologically, and you can reap those benefits in your own career. Rituals can make a difference in many parts of your work, but of all the situations in which you need to be at your best, they are never as crucial as before the job interview.

Developing a pre-interview ritual can put some of your worries on autopilot and ensure you arrive at the interview loose and ready. We’re assuming here you’ve already done the routine preparation, such as rehearsing your answers to questions you expect to be asked and learning about the company where you’re applying. With that out of the way, the pre-interview ritual is designed to leave you looking good and feeling confident. Read on for the time line to pre-interview excellence.

The day before: Transportation dry run

The day before your interview, you should do a dry run of your trip to the interview site. Take the same transportation you’ll be using on the day of and track how long the trip takes. If possible, try to travel at the same time of day, so you can assess the traffic situation. Take your total time, add a small buffer so you’re covered in case of unforeseen traffic delay, and work backward to determine when you need to leave. That way, you’ll arrive on time and unhurried for the big event. If you’re driving, gas up on the way home so you have a full tank in the morning.

The night before: Final rehearsal

Take time the evening before your interview to practice in front of a mirror. Go over your talking points, and practice answers to questions you think you’ll be asked. Pay attention to your voice and body language, and make sure you’re using eye contact. Make this your last rehearsal — cramming the morning of isn’t recommended, so take this time to iron out any wrinkles in your “presentation.”

The night before: Lay out your clothes

Decide what to wear before the day of the interview. The night before, think about the company you are applying to, and their dress code. If you have been to their office before, think of what others were wearing. You’ll dress very differently if you’re applying to work on a charter fishing boat than you will if you’re applying for an IT firm, so think it through and dress to show you will fit into the company’s culture. After deciding, check your outfit for stains, wrinkles and missing buttons, then set it out. One less thing to worry about the on game day.

Morning of: Clear your mind

Stressing about the interview won’t make the time go by faster, so put your energy into other things. Go out to breakfast with a friend, or get in a good workout at the gym — spend your time and energy on something that will relax you and leave you feeling good as you kill time leading up to the appointed hour.

Five hours before: Cut the caffeine

Cutting the caffeine before your interview is a great key to looking and feeling relaxed. If your interview is early in the morning and you can’t operate without your morning Joe, go for it, but don’t overdo it. Your body will be pumping adrenaline during the interview, so you’re going to be keyed up and nervous as it is without a double-espresso putting you past the redline. Cutting back on fluids in general is a good pre-interview step: It reduces that “need to pee every 10 seconds” feeling many of us get when we’re nervous.

Two hours before: Go to the bathroom

You’ll probably feel the need right before you go in, but that’s nerves more than anything. By cutting fluids and taking a solid bathroom break in the hours leading up to the interview, you’re ensuring that biology doesn’t get in the way of you blowing your future employers’ minds.

Pre-departure: The Power Move

Remember that arm-wrestling film Over The Top? The character turning his hat around as a sign that he’s about to unleash on his opponent? “When I turn this hat around, it’s like a switch.” You probably already have your own pump-up move, but if you don’t, there’s never a better time to start. Pick a little gesture or accessory that signifies you’re taking it to the next level. Whether it’s your strapping on your favorite watch, pulling on the lucky socks or throwing both fists in the air like Rocky, pick a symbolic action that tells the world, “It just got real.” Pump yourself up, pop an Altoid and go get ‘em.

just be your best self

A pre-interview ritual can be a powerful tool to ensure you put your best foot forward. These are our suggestions for steps to your ritual, but keep two things in mind. First, make it automatic. The point of a ritual is to follow these steps every time so that they become something reassuring and solid, rather than giving you even more things to worry about forgetting to do. There’s no value in a routine if it’s too complex or changes, so lock it in and rely on it. Second, use your own judgment. These are our suggestions, but take what you find useful and mold it to fit your needs. Don’t be afraid to add your own steps to this ritual — even if it’s something that seems silly, like wearing your lucky underwear. If it works for you, it’s valuable, so embrace it.

By developing a set of preparations you perform before every interview, you can replace feelings of doubt and nervousness with a sense of routine and reassurance. So identify the steps of your ritual, then practice it till it’s smooth.

The Pre-Interview Ritual provided by AskMen.com.