Idealist logoidealist
Land Your Dream Job
Careers that help you move from intention to action
Subscribe to Career Advice
Two people talking. One of them is holding a cup of coffee.

How do you prepare for an interview?

It probably goes a little something like this: research the organization, anticipate questions you may get asked, and come up with questions for your interviewer. All that substance is good, but it's important that you don't neglect your mental and emotional preparation.

Preparing your mind for the interview is all about reducing stress and projecting confidence. Before your next job interview, try one of these tricks to bring your best mental and emotional self to the big day.

Resist the urge to cram the night before

This may sound counterintuitive, but here’s why it’s important: you’re unlikely to learn anything new by going over and over your research until you’re stressed beyond belief. If anything, the stress could actually hurt your interview performance, especially if you’re opting for cramming over sleep.

Instead, do something that takes your mind off the interview. You can look over your notes for a little bit, but then go out to dinner with a friend, catch up on your favorite TV show, or read a book.

Even if you truly feel unprepared and need to devote more of your night to interview prep, you can still try to give yourself a “brain break” before the interview. That could mean resisting the urge to cram over breakfast or on the way to the interview, and doing a crossword puzzle or listening to a podcast instead.

Visualize the interview going well

You know the phrase “seeing is believing”? It can apply to what we see in our heads, too. Visualizing the interview going well can boost your confidence and help silence the inner critic who usually shows up when you’re stressed.

Visualizing the interview going well can look like:

  • Picturing the confident handshake you’ll give to your interviewers when you walk in, and the smiles and nods you’ll see as you give strong answers to their questions
  • Imagining yourself advancing to the next round of interviews, perhaps meeting the executive director or another senior leader and impressing them with your case
  • Envisioning yourself in the job one year from now, hitting your goals and making an impact

Give yourself a pep talk

If the power of positive thinking isn’t enough, try positive talking. One study found that talking to yourself in stressful situations can make it easier to deal with stress and even improve your performance.

The key is to use second or third person, similar to how you would encourage a friend. That slight shift in language (“You’ve got this,” instead of “I’ve got this”) can make a big difference.

You can give yourself a pep talk while you’re getting dressed in the morning or on the way to the interview. You know what motivates you, but feel free to try one of these lines to get you started:

  • “You’ve got this! They invited you to interview for a reason, and now you’ll show them why they should hire you.”
  • “You are qualified and confident, and you would be awesome at this job.”
  • “You did your research and you know your stuff. You can do this!”

Strike a power pose

One of the most popular Ted Talks is one by social psychologist Amy Cuddy about how body language can shape our confidence. Cuddy suggests holding a “power pose” for two minutes before a stressful event such as a job interview to make yourself feel more powerful and confident.

A power pose is when you stand up with your chest out, head high, and arms above your head in a “V” shape or propped on your hips (think of the iconic Wonder Woman stance). Cuddy’s research found that humans and other animals tend to take these stances to express confidence, power, and achievement—so the flip side is that even if you’re not feeling those emotions, you can “trick” your mind into feeling that way by striking the right pose.

Pro Tip: If you think it’s a bit awkward to assert your power pose in the reception area while you’re waiting for your interview, I’d have to agree. Instead, you’re better off striking a pose in a bathroom stall before checking in.

You can also mimic elements of the power pose while you’re sitting in reception. For example, sit with your chest out and head up high, instead of slouching.

Did you enjoy this post? There's plenty more where this came from! Subscribe here for updates.

Deborah Swerdlow profile image

Deborah Swerdlow

As a nonprofit advocacy professional living in Washington, D.C., Deborah works with groups across the country to educate their communities and lawmakers about public policies that can help low-income residents make ends meet. She is passionate about helping people connect their interests to a cause they believe in and empowering them to take action.

Explore Jobs on Idealist