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January 20, 2015

Mental Practice for Interviews, Part 1

Mental Practice for Interviews, Part 1Practice makes perfect. One of the most valuable – and overlooked – ways to practice for a successful job interview is in your imagination, via mental practice.

There’s also a lot of value in mock interviewing with a friend or coach, or practicing aloud by yourself with a mirror, but don’t skip the inner practice. One thing it offers is an opportunity to practice with the real interviewer!

Let’s say you’ve landed an interview with John Smith, CEO of XYC Corp. In your imagination, you can actually practice interviewing with that person: seeing his face (which you’ve looked up on LinkedIn or elsewhere), feeling the handshake, hearing his voice talking with you – while you remain calm, cool and confident.

Is that good practice? You bet it is, and there’s research backing it up. Mental practice (sometimes called motor imagery) is widely used by top athletes, musicians and others interested in improving their performance when the stakes are high.

When you mentally practice having a great interview – concentrating on seeing, hearing and feeling it as vividly as possible – you are powerfully training yourself to have a great interview experience.

And because you’re imagining a successful interview, your confidence will grow. In fact, the inward focus of your private imagery session can allow you to concentrate more fully on cultivating the feelings of relaxation and confidence that allow you to do your best.

You can use mental practice on your own. It can also be helpful to have a guided imagery recording you can listen to before interviews, using your phone or other playback device. Contact me if you’d like to experience a one-on-one session (via phone or in person) and obtain a customized “Relax and Psych Up!” recording.

To use mental practice on your own, here are some guidelines:

  • Get comfortable, take a few deep breaths, relax and close your eyes.
  • Imagine yourself waking up on the morning of the interview, feeling rested and calmly optimistic. See a few images of your day unfolding, up to the point where you’ve arrived at the interview.
  • Vividly imagine meeting the interviewer, feel a good firm handshake and see her smiling, and experience the feeling of a nice rapport blossoming.
  • Then imagine the interview itself. You can imagine specific questions and answers, or just imagine the tones of voice, body language and overall “vibe” of a successful interview for a practice session focused on nonverbal factors.
  • Continue up to the final handshake and out the door, feeling a sense of accomplishment!

If anything negative creeps in – for example, if you imagine feeling very nervous at the interview – back up a little and try again. Be kind and encouraging with yourself. Mental practice is itself a skill that gets better with practice!

Easier said than done? In Part 2 of this series I’ll provide troubleshooting tips to make your mental interview practice easier – and more effective.

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