6 Habits of a Failproof Pre-Interview Routine

Justine: Hey there, readers! While watching the Vice Presidentiable’s debate the other day, I realized something. “How did they become such eloquent, spontaneous speakers in front of crowds of thousands, while most people my age can’t do a presentation without faltering?”

The easy answer everyone will say is practice, practice, practice. But I think habit forming is also an integral part of being at ease before you talk in front of people. When you’re habitually prepared to go and present your case in front of crowds, you won’t feel the need to practice everything over and over again since it’s already ingrained into you. You just need to focus on the content since you can’t forget your habitual presentation style.

The same holds true with interviews. The 24 hours before your job interview can possibly be the most frightening of your almost-adult life. (It usually is, for me.) This is what defines whether you get paid in the immediate future and whether you spend 40 hours of your week learning and growing into your potential while simultaneously helping a company grow. And it all hinges on a 30 minute interview with someone who’s professionally trained to judge your life. Fun.

But if you’re habitually prepared to present yourself in the best light possible before you even speak, you won’t have to worry as much during the job hunting season!

Down below, I take the reins for a solo post this week by sharing the 6 habits I picked up from reading a billion articles on Google on “what to do before an interview”. I also share my personal obstacles that cause me to be 3 degrees away from a nervous breakdown, and how I formed these habits to get over them.

And Betina shares some Unilever Business Week info that sent me into a happy spiral. 😀

And if you want to read more, especially stuff we co-wrote, why not read up on everything else we’ve written here on The Border Collective, like Part 3 of the Internship FAQ‘s series or if you’re sick of us always talking, try our  Intern-view with Nikki Lucenario on BPI! And for those with 2 years still left in school aka graduating in 2018, why not read up on What’s INKOMPASS and Why You Should Apply For It! There’s still 9 days left to apply for the best internship program for sophomores in the Philippines!

So, thanks for being patient, thanks for reading, and hope I shared something useful for you!

Research and rehearse.

Everything hinges on what position you’re going for, since the recruiters are looking for the best candidate in the land to fill that position. It’s kind of like open casting for a Prince Charming; they have an idea of what they’re looking for but they’re open to being wow’d by someone they never would have considered on their own.

So, you’re going to have to do a lot of grunt work if you want to be considered for the role. It all starts with asking yourself a lot of questions. Google is a huge help here.

First off, why do you want this position? What do you know about the company? And why do you think you’re a good fit for the company in that position? Figuring out the answers to these 3 questions ahead of time and rehearsing them is a sure-fire way of not panicking suddenly during the interview. Trust me, you do not want to blank out because of these questions since these are the heart of every interview.

When I was interviewing for Citibank, the interviewers asked “Why Citibank?” and I just recited their website’s About section in my own words. I read it for the first time the night before, and worked out how to say it without sounding like a robot. Their faces told me they were impressed. Which I wasn’t expecting but was happy to see, because that was literally the only piece of research I did on them.

To answer the other 2 questions, I talk about how my immense love for learning coincides with the program’s vision of developing young leaders with diverse experiences. That’s the basic gist of what I say, but I tailor my answers to every situation and company, as should you. I’m not going to teach you that here on the blog though. 😀

It’s important to do all your research the night before the interview. Don’t spend the last few minutes before going in, frantically searching for every piece of information on the company. You need time to digest what all those numbers and news mean for the company’s bottom line, and if you do that right before your interview, you’re just going to stress yourself out more.  

The same goes for rehearsing your answers. The minutes before your interview should be spent in peace, not with you muttering under your breath your answer to “What’s your biggest weakness?” Overly rehearsing your answers hinders you from replying spontaneously and authentically, leading to the recruiters wondering why you seem too pageant-y.

Best way to rehearse for me is to have my friends ask me the questions over lunch. I’m in sufficient rush to answer the question since I want to eat, and it’s casual at the same time terrifying to do. You also need to give your friends free reign to pick on bad habits you have. Like how 4 different people told me I shouldn’t wear headbands to anything important, because I keep pulling them off and putting them back on and arranging my bangs, then pulling them off and putting them back on and you get my drift.


Organize everything ahead of time.

This means your outfit and accessories, your route and backup route, and most importantly, your bag and its contents. Every little thing is a cue to experienced recruiters; they can tell a lot about you from the moment you walk into the room and I find that equal parts cool and terrifying.

Your bag needs to be organized so that if you open it in front of them, they won’t see either how messy it is or any incriminating personal effects (like used tissues littered around or packs of cigarettes) inside. If it looks like a hurricane went through it, that indicates you’re not as detail oriented as you made yourself out to be during the interview. Because I can’t guarantee how clean my bag will be from commuting, I bring a black shirt and use it to cover the contents of my bag. Now it looks empty and cavernouse to the untrained eye.

Your outfit and accessories need to reflect the branding you’re going for. Because I look so young, I try to prime the interviewers into thinking of me as a schoolgirl with how I dress to interviews. Usually, this means clean-cut long sleeves, pencil skirts, and the “no makeup” makeup look. My only accessories are my wristwatch and the 2 rings I wear on my hands everyday. (The rings also help in that I turn them slowly around my finger, if my hands are hidden, as a measure of how fast I’m speaking.)

Also, super protip that almost no one ever says, use a clean, plain phone case. Especially if your current phone case has an obscene word or looks like it’s gone through a war. How you take care of your phone is an indicator on how conscientious you are about personal matters.

The route and backup route are because of Manila’s never ending traffic problems. If you’re commuting, this is the one I can’t stress hard enough. As someone who always takes the train to Makati, it is important to know how to walk calmly to the office, without looking like you just got off the extremely cramped and sweat-inducing MRT. Sakay.ph and Google Maps can help you plot out your route as well the nearest Starbucks for you to chill in while waiting for your interview.

You don’t want to be either too early or a little late to your interviewer’s office, and I’ll explain why you don’t want to be too early down below.



Decide how you want to be remembered.

Everyone always says “Be yourself” but I find that to be absolute bull. My everyday self loves to lie around, watch TV shows, and eat a ton of snacks. No recruiter will ever hire me on that basis. So, I offer you a version 2.0 of the old adage.

“Be the best version of yourself.”

And in line with that, you need to decide what’s the lasting impression you want to leave on your recruiter. They’re going to meet dozens, if not hundreds, of applicants for this position. You need to stand out. Do you want to highlight that you’re a varsity athlete, which means you have a discipline and drive most people our age lack? Or maybe do you want to talk about your love for volunteering your time to causes and subsequently, how you became an excellent events-for-more-than-500-people organizer?

Think about what you didn’t get to write on your resume, but your love for it is so immense that you could talk about it for an hour without losing your train of thought. That’s your best possible branding, because it’s the most authentic part of you.

Like I said, I want them to think of me as young (even though I’m around the median age of applicants), energetic, and eager to learn. I always talk about my immense love for learning new things, which lead to me learning how to read Latin, saber champagne, and pick locks as a kid. Now, my interests are more practical, like learning to code in my spare time, how to run a digital marketing campaign for the blog with zero cash involved, and what’s the fastest way to commute to this office from my house.

And because I want them to think of me as energetic, I have to keep up my energy levels the whole time with a natural looking smile. This is hard, especially if you’re being fake. So again, whatever you decide to use as the way the recruiters remember you, make sure it’s authentic.


Arrive 1 hour early, but go in 15 minutes max before your time.

This is my dad’s advice: always leave the house 2 hours before the interview because you never know what could happen. There could be a rally, or worse an INC event, happening during that day and you’d get stuck in traffic, miss your interview, and be a jobless hobo for the rest of your life. (He’s a little intense, so now you know where I picked this up.)

Invariably, I always end up with an hour to kill before the interview since I left super early, which is where Starbucks comes in handy. In Makati, you can’t walk 100 meters without a Starbucks popping up, so sitting in one with a strong aircon has become a ritual for me. I sit there, reading whatever book is in my phone with an alarm for 20 mins before my interview. Only when the alarm rings do I make my way to the interviewer’s office and sit in their waiting room.

Being too early makes you an inconvenience for the recruiter. They might be busy with another interviewee or in a meeting or in the zone when the receptionist pings them. Your presence might throw them off their current task, which leads them to view you with some irritation. And you might not be able to shake off that feeling with your interview.

Being late does the same. Even if Philippine traffic is hellish, unless they already wanted to hire you ASAP, they won’t be feeling kind to your character if you’re 5 minutes late for an interview you both agreed on.



Be polite to everyone.

Speaking of receptionists, you need to be polite to everyone you meet once you step into the building because you have no idea who works for the office and who doesn’t. Some recruiters check your character before they even meet you by asking the receptionists or assistants how you treated them and what they thought of the candidates as well. Some places even take it a step further by instructing the receptionists to be a bit rude to you to see how you’ll react.

Just like you shouldn’t date someone who is nice to you but rude to the waiter, neither will they hire someone who was nice to them but not nice to the front desk. Even if it was because you’re nervous, being rude is never excusable in a work environment


Stay calm.

Last but not least, don’t stress yourself out to the point where you’ve made multiple apocalypse scenarios, if you don’t get the job. (My favorite scenario is where the world goes into a Walking Dead style apocalypse and I get left behind because I have no skills at all.) Opportunities come and go; keep your chin up, your head clear of depressing thoughts, and you’ll do immediately better. Everyone’s attracted to positive energy after all, so try to be a fountain of it.

I always get scared before interviews; there’s something about having someone judge how hire-able I am that freaks me out. I talk fast on a regular basis, and so I always worry that people think I’m nervous. Which makes me more nervous about talking too fast. Which speeds up how I talk even more since I’m nervous. It’s a cycle that never quits.

How I keep calm before going into an interview is usually by reading the autobiography of a funny woman, like Tina Fey or Mindy Kaling. They talk about times that they failed and how they picked themselves up and kept marching on, in a laugh-out-loud manner. It’s uplifting in the best way possible, plus puts me at ease with a big smile on my face. How I keep calm during the interview is by twisting the rings on my fingers slowly. It’s a physical reminder to follow a slower speed lest I look and sound like an idiot in front of the recruiters.

Find your ritual, habit, talisman, or whatever you want to call it and make sure that whatever it is, it calms you down regularly. It’s a grounding habit taught to people who get sudden grips of a negative feeling, like anxiety, irritation, or a need to throw something. (Up to you to figure out which one I suffer from.) The habit serves as a centering point for your emotions and so that subsequently, you can take stock of the situation as objectively as possible. And, you know, to get over the negative feeling.

The simplest habit though is to download a breathing GIF. You know the ones friends share on FB all the time: “Breathe with the circle.” Slow, steady breaths will calm you down so long as you don’t use it to start hyperventilating.


And that’s it, my no-fail pre-interview routine! I’ve never been rejected after I complete the in person interview, always before I even get to it because of either my academic standing or my resume only. But enough from me, time for Betina to tell you the excellent news aka half the reason that kept us from writing  regularly the past 2 weeks!

Betina: Hi guys! Just a short note to those who got accepted into Unilever Business Week:

First off, congratulations! See ya next, next week! 🙂

Secondly, there seems to be a bit of confusion about what the Business Week program is. I texted one of the HR Managers (who is in charge of Business Week) to clarify before I answered any of my friends because I wanted to be sure.

Business Week is an on-boarding activity prior to summer internship at Unilever, in other words “Congratulations, you got the Unilever internship!”

It’s so funny I congratulated my friend on getting the internship after she told me she got in and she was surprised. I think because nobody explicitly says “You got the internship”, some people are under the impression that Business Week is a business competition where they will funnel us down to a few people who will get internship offers (similar to P&G CEO Academy or Globe’s business competition).

Everybody who got into Business Week automatically gets the internship, it’s just a matter of scheduling when. Hope that clarifies things!  


Justine: And that’s officially it for this week’s Internship FAQ’s Part 11 + Unilever Business Week info!

If you’re not acquainted with The Border Collective yet, we write 2 different regular series: the Internship FAQ’s where Betina and I answer your questions about interning, job hunting, resumes, and interviews! You can read them all here on the site! I suggest you start with Part 1 – The 15 Most Frequently Asked Questions about Interning – though, because there’s an actual progression with how we talk and advise. But if you’re a rebel, here’s Part 10 –  What We Look for in a Company!

I also talk about INKOMPASS here on the blog and on The Border Collective’s FB page, particularly about what it is and how you can be a part of the 2016 batch of INKOMPASS interns! So did one of our Intern-views, Greg Chua. We’ve got tons of other Intern-views coming up, like with a real estate startup intern, and the continuation of the FAQ’s, so keep up with us at our FB page and our Twitter @theborderc!

If you have any questions about interning, you have any suggestions on how we run the blog, or you want to nominate someone to write for the Intern-view series, drop it here into our Google Form! And if you have time-pressured questions or you want to be assured your anonymity, drop it here in our ask.fm!

Plus, super huge favor to you, dear readers! Here’s another Google Form that’s more on feedback we want to hear from you. We want to know what to work on, what’s goods already, what we should just scrap. So if it’s not too much trouble, please fill this up!

To contact either Betina or me, email us at betina@thebordercollective.com and justine@thebordercollective.com! For business inquiries, email it to theborderc@gmail.com! You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram as well @ChaiXingJun!

So, thanks for reading and hope I answered something useful for you! Talk to you guys soon!

One thought on “6 Habits of a Failproof Pre-Interview Routine

Comment on this Post!