Utilizing Mindfulness to Tackle the Job Interview

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When we lose ourselves in a stressful moment — a workplace situation can quickly go from a challenging one to an outright disaster.

Job interviews are a common scenario which can trigger a host of powerful responses; anticipation, fear, excitement. If you’ve sat in the interview chair, you are acutely aware of the critical struggle to remain calm and focused. As much as we attempt to stay calm — our minds can race out of control — not unlike a runaway train.

However, “managing yourself” through this stressful dynamic is key.

Could the practice of mindfulness help us through an interview? Recent research tells us that yes, it can.

Tough workplace scenarios can cause our “fight of flight” response to kick in — and job interviews certainly qualify. Labeled “Amygdala Hijacks”, by psychologist Daniel Goleman, these moments are characterized by a neurological process where our “rational brain” (Neo-cortex) becomes overpowered by our emotional brain. This renders us in a weakened position to deal with these situations effectively.

Mindfulness — defined as “The psychological state where you focus on the events of the present moment” — allows us to observe the events of our lives from a safer distance, without necessarily reacting in that moment. One key element, is the notion of equanimity, or “non-reactivity” to the events happening around us. Mindfulness tells us to pay attention and acknowledge both one’s inner experience and the outer world, without necessarily reacting immediately.

Discussed at length concerning its impact on both our psychological and physical well-being (See here and here), mindfulness can help us remain balanced in many situations that might normally derail us. One recent study links mindfulness to effective workplace behavior. The research revealed that mindfulness may help with roles that require a series of decisions in quick succession — not unlike the multiple decisions/responses we face during a job interview. Managing our automatic responses, (such as becoming nervous or flustered) and re-focusing that energy toward staying composed is key.

How might mindfulness help us in a job interview? Above all, you want to represent yourself completely. Regrets concerning what you may have forgotten to mention, (or did mention) can prove critical. During interviews we can become overwhelmed and “lose our heads” — as we quickly lose focus on the goals of the current conversation. (You can find yourself either rushing ahead or reviewing your last answer.) If you are unable to remain fully present, you may miss important conversational cues that will help you present yourself well.

We needn’t wait for your next interview, to develop techniques to become more mindful. Weaving techniques into our every day lives can prove to be a worthy investment. Here are a few things to consider:

Try these techniques to stay fully present and aware:

  • Practice the art of “micro-meditation . These are 1-3 minute periods of time to stop (perhaps when you feel most distracted) and breathe. While you are waiting for an interview to begin (seems these are always delayed), utilize the following acronym taught at Google: S.B.N.R.R. — Stop. Breathe. Notice. Reflect. Respond.
  • Tame the “inner voice”. Don’t let an inner monologue take over. (For many of us it is a panicked conversation.) Be aware of a “less than supportive” inner dialogue, that might rear it ugly head. Consciously interrupt it and replace it with a more positive message.
  • Refocus on your ultimate goal. Remind yourself of the purpose of the interview: to accurately portray yourself as a contributor. We all have triggers that cause us to lose focus and react with fear or anger. Monitor these (certain topics, etc.) and remind yourself to stay ahead of an emotional response pattern.
  • Breathe. While, we can’t halt the interview — we can silently “tap ourselves on the shoulder” to stay focused. When you feel your mind racing, mentally pause and “tap”. Collect yourself and return to the moment.
  • Bring along a mental list. Enter the interview with 3 or 4 critical points about yourself, that you want to leave with the interviewer. Use a reminder to circle back and inject these points into the conversation (try wearing your watch upside down or a green rubber band on your wrist).

How do you stay calm and focused during an interview? Share your strategies.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a Senior Consultant at Allied Talent. She is also serves as an Influencer at LinkedIn.

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