How to Shine in Job Interviews Using Effective Mindfulness Techniques
Do you hear the word “interview” and immediately have a flashback to that fear-inducing moment when you’re invited into the interview room?
Or that uncomfortable silence when you’ve completely blanked on a question and you have no idea what to say? Or the overwhelming reaction of your body’s response to threat, screaming at you to get the heck away from there as fast as possible?
I know I have!
Interviews used to scare the pants off me. Or the living daylights out of me. Whichever one is worse!
Over the last few years, I've discovered some practical ways of using mindfulness to get through interviews (and now, I actually find myself enjoying them!).
Here are ten tips I wish I’d known from the first time I attended an interview, including my favourite mindfulness practices for staying calm, using visualisations and recovery tips for common hiccups.
1. Use mindfulness practices to calm your nerves
Feeling nervous before an interview is completely normal. Not feeling nervous is normal, too! We all react to interviews in different ways. Maybe, you don’t feel nervous until the interview is over, or you start feeling anxious halfway through.
If calming your nerves would be useful, here are three practices I use myself.
This is a simple breathing technique which is easy to remember (and use!) during times of stress. Simply inhale for three counts, hold for three counts and exhale for three counts. Repeat as many times as you like!
Explore your senses
A powerful way to bring yourself into the present moment is to consciously pay attention to your senses. Challenge yourself to find ten different colours, or hear five different sounds, or notice how the ground feels underneath your feet. You can create as many little challenges for yourself as you like!
You can find plenty of guided body scans online or in meditation apps if you would like a little extra guidance for this practice! Essentially, this practice involves paying attention to each different part of your body, from the tips of your toes to the top of your head. If you notice any areas of tension, focus on gently releasing and letting go of that tension.
2. Prepare, but don’t predict
Throughout high school, I studied Indonesian and the final assessment in Year 12 was an 8 minute interview, followed by a 7-minute presentation on our chosen topic (mine was orangutans). And it was all in the Indonesian language!
Every week for two years, we prepared for this assessment. We built up our skills and language knowledge and did mock interviews in class. Funny story- those mock interviews made me so nervous every week that my teacher and class knew I always went first, so I could get the interview over and done with and relax!
The actual interview was terrifying, but I made it through and was happy with how it went.
One thing I realised afterwards was how much time I’d wasted over the previous two years, predicting negative things happening and feeling stressed about them. Predictions such as being late to the interview, forgetting all my words, failing the class and not getting into my University course. So much excessive worrying, with little need for it. Negative predictions actually increased my stress and didn’t help me whatsoever!
The moral of the story is, practice and prepare, but try not to make needless predictions.
3. Recovery from common hiccups
Forgetting the question:
“I’ve lost my train of thought, may I please hear the question again?”
“Could you please repeat the question?”
Keep it simple and don’t worry- forgetting a question isn’t a big deal! I’ve had it happen to me several times. However, if you find it happening regularly, try keeping your answers more succinct and to the point.
Not having an answer:
“I’m not sure how to answer that question.”
“That’s a great question, I just need a moment to think about it.”
If it’s appropriate, you could request for them to give you an example, as this may trigger an idea for a response, or clarify the question for you.
Saying something you probably shouldn’t have:
Just apologise. Let them know you’re feeling nervous and then tell them what you actually wanted to say.
“I’m sorry, that’s not actually what I wanted to say. What I meant was…”
4. Remember that interviewers are real people, too!
While this tip may be simple, it can also be an easy one to forget. Your interviewer has been in your shoes before and they probably still remember how it feels. In fact, your interviewer may even be nervous, too!
If it helps, you might like to imagine the interview is actually just a conversation (which, essentially, it is!). You’ve had plenty of conversations in your life and they went ok, right? That’s how you know you’ve got the skills (and done the practice!) to be a great interviewee.
5. Use a visualization
In the lead up to an interview, do you find your mind spiralling out of control and focusing on everything that could go wrong (and, maybe, all the tough experiences you’ve had in the past)? Say hello to your negativity bias!
Negativity bias is the tendency for our minds to be more likely to remember “negative” events and experiences, repeat negative information and have an impact on our emotions and behaviours.
Try balancing out your negativity bias with some conscious positivity, such as a visualisation. Imagine arriving at the interview at the perfect time, your interviewers are friendly and kind, you answer the questions thoughtfully and you maybe even enjoy yourself!
The way I see it, we can choose to imagine challenging things happening, or we can choose to imagine good things happening. I know it may not always be easy to think positively, but every effort can help when we’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed.
6. Embrace stress like it’s an old friend
Stress doesn’t want to hurt us. Stress is actually more a manifestation of our body’s attempts to protect us from threat and avoid harm. Our hearts race, our bodies sweat, our hands shake and our breath quickens because we’ve identified something challenging and our body is preparing to run away, or stand and fight. In moments of real danger, this stress response is ready to save our lives.
The thing is, our interviewers don’t want to eat us. An interview isn’t an avalanche we need to escape from. However, our bodies think they are!
So, why not embrace your stress like it’s an old friend, here to visit for a little while, just to make sure you’re alright. And once it knows it isn’t needed, you can let it leave again.
7. Practice mindful communication
In everyday life, many of us have numerous occasions to practice mindful listening. Be conscious of using open body language and making eye contact, avoid multi-tasking if possible (especially using your phone or watching television while someone is talking), answer questions thoughtfully and share your own opinions and experiences.
Practicing mindful communication empowers us with incredibly useful skills to draw on during interviews. Plus, you may even find that being a mindful communicator helps strengthen your relationships with the people around you!
For mindful listening tips, you might like to listen to this episode of The Mindful Kind podcast.
8. Boost your self-confidence
Self-confidence is something I’ve enjoyed working on over the last few years. It’s a skill which can truly transform the way you appear to other people (as well as having an amazing impact on how you feel about yourself!).
For example, I used to be very shy and felt uncomfortable even making eye contact or smiling at people I didn’t know. While I didn’t intend to, I may have seemed a little unfriendly! Since working on my self-confidence, I feel much more able to connect with people, I’m less critical of myself in social settings and I’ve actually discovered how great it can feel to believe in myself.
Obviously, this can have a hugely positive impact on how you interact with people when you’re being interviewed!
9. Organise an indulgent self-care practice as soon as possible after the interview
Reward yourself for your efforts and engage in good self-care to increase the positive feelings you have towards interviews.
Here are a few ideas for indulgent self-care practices:
-Book yourself in for a massage, hair appointment, facial or anything else which will feel great for you
-Take a bath (with candles, a good book, bath salts and a body scrub- the works!)
-Go out to your favourite restaurant/café for a meal
-Buy yourself a treat, such as a new pair of pyjamas (my latest self-care purchase!), a book, a pair of shoes, or an essential oil mist (like these ones from Combardis Elixirs, which you can receive 10% off by subscribing to my newsletter at the end of this article!).
10. Take an honest look (without being critical or judgemental!) at what you could improve
Even when we do something really well, we can usually find something to improve. By encouraging ourselves to grow and learn, rather than striving for “perfect”, we cultivate a growth mindset and open up a world of opportunities for ourselves.
There is a big difference between using self-talk like “I did a terrible interview- no way will I get hired” and “I could improve a few things, such as my responses to questions about my strengths.”
Take an honest look at what you could improve and then actually take action! Practice your responses in mock interviews, find new ways to help you manage nerves, attend workshops for assertiveness training and public speaking (it can all help!), or you could even hire a coach to help guide and support you.
Bonus tip: What happens if you don’t get the position / grade / opportunity you were interviewed for?
The best thing I learned to do when I didn’t achieve what I wanted from an interview was to let it go and move forward. There’s no point beating yourself up, analysing all your potential mistakes, or comparing yourself to the person who gets the job (or a higher grade).
Sure, you can learn and find things to improve, however there’s a time where you just need to let go and move forward.
Sometimes, it helps me to acknowledge that I may not have been the right candidate, but it doesn’t detract from my worth as a person. It doesn’t mean I’m a failure, or not good enough, or hopeless. I can still be gracious and kind and determined to succeed, and believe that the next adventure for me is just around the corner.