What to do before an interview?

Any tips on how to answer in interviews impressively? I’m not ready for my first interview and I don’t know where to start.

[UPDATED IN MARCH 2019] : 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 thoughts, you won’t feel the need 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 worry as much during the job hunting season!

So, today I’m sharing with you the 6 habits / mindsets I picked up from reading a billion articles on Google on “what to do before an interview”. I will also share my personal obstacles that cause me to be 3 degrees away from a nervous breakdown, and how I formed habits to get over them. Because the only way to get past something is to train yourself on the warning signs and then train further to avoid them. Unfortunately.

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 consider 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 in this blog post 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 so 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 your bad habits. 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 cavernous 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.

Related: 5 Steps to Writing a Successful Cover Letter

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, organize a rice warehouse, and pick locks as a kid. (Unfortunately only the lock picking stayed with me over the years.)

Now, my interests are more practical, like learning content marketing in my spare time via the blog. Or how to set up a online consultancy for girls who want to become a known teacher in their field. My fave interest is 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 interview.

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. 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 became 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, no exceptions. Unless they already wanted to hire you ASAP, they won’t feel kind to your character if you’re 5 minutes late for an interview you both agreed on.

Related: What’s The Difference Between a CV and a Resume?

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.

Related: Should I Include My Photo in My Resume?

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.  Twice I’ve been rejected because I lack technical skills needed for the role too. I’ll talk about that here someday~

But now, let’s switch over to something I think is extremely important.

So, every year, over 4,000 students graduate from UP Diliman, ready to take the next step to kickstart their careers.

To help them, the University Job Fair was created. It’s the official university-wide career fair in the University of the Philippines Diliman, covering across 21 colleges. UJF fulfills the purpose of exposing students to diverse range of jobs to suit their equally diverse fields of specialization. This year, UJF 2019 aims to help students focus on purpose-driven goals as they navigate the world after college. The theme, Mapping Milestones, will empower them to take calculated and sensible steps towards their career paths.

Happening on March 19-22, 2019 at Bahay ng Alumni, UP Diliman, UJF provides more than 100 companies and 30 NGOs and Graduate Studies partners to excellent, forward-thinking graduates who are willing to give back to the Filipino people.

UJF is determined in its quest to give graduates all the support they deserve, hosting events such as Career Workshops and Talks (March 19-22), NGO Summit (March 19-20), Graduate Studies Summit (March 21-22), and  Mock Job Interviews (March 22).

For updates and opportunities, reach them via their official Facebook page at www.facebook.com/upujf and their official Twitter account at www.twitter.com/up_ujf.

For inquiries about partnerships, you may send an email to marketing.ujf@gmail.com or message Andrea Uy at 09329199618. You may also drop your resumes at our Resume Bank at bit.ly/UJF2019ResumeBank.

In case you have no idea where you are, welcome to The Border Collective, where any question you’ve got on internships, resumes, or careers in the PH can and will be answered. I’m Justine, founder and writer of all things here.

Interviews is a sub-category of Resource where I share things I’ve learned over the course of going on dozens of interviews, and helping hundreds of people prepare for theirs, so that you guys don’t have to trial and error this stuff like I did.

I know it’s incredibly hard to talk about your life experiences in 3 minutes while making it sound attractive to your dream companies. Trust me, I talk a lot and it’s terrible. Through my writings and my experiences, I hope you learn at least 1 thing that makes your life easier.

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