Why should you think about tennis when you could be spending your last pre-interview moments recalling formative leadership experiences and key elements from your resume?
For one, last-minute cramming – and anything done frantically – rarely adds value.
More importantly, thinking about tennis (which is simply an example of using positive imagery) will boost your confidence, making it a much more important pre-interview exercise than a last-minute skills cram.
Much research has documented the effectiveness of positive imagery, and it’s used for a variety of purposes: excelling in sports, quitting bad habits such as smoking, even experiencing a less painful childbirth process. Many studies have demonstrated the ability of positive imagery, or “guided imagery,” to help patients deal with medical conditions ranging from allergies to heart disease.
So how can you use imagery to prepare for your interview, whether it’s for college, graduate school, or a job?
1. Visualize yourself doing something you excel at: Think of something you’re really good at, whether a sport, an academic subject, cooking, or whatever, then visualize yourself doing it. Use very specific details: imagine the setting, the equipment you’re using, the result, even the positive reactions of others.
2. Visualize yourself excelling in the interview itself: If you’ve been through successful interviews, use your memory of those to help create positive imagery about the upcoming interview. Imagine yourself shaking hands with the interviewer and providing poised and compelling answers to their questions. Imagine the interviewer nodding in response and giving you positive feedback at the end. Focus more on what this will look like than the content of the questions and answers.
3. Use positive affirmations: People have mixed feelings about saying positive things to themselves – it can feel forced, corny, or ridiculous to talk to yourself in this way. But you may find it helpful to say things to yourself (out loud or in your head) like, “I’m going to do well today” or “I deserve a place in this class.” There’s strong evidence that it works: in controlled experiments, people using positive affirmations were able to lift more weight or break boards more easily than those who weren’t. Hopefully you won’t have to break boards as part of your interview, but consider experimenting with positive affirmations, with or without any imagery.
Imagining yourself doing something in which you are proficient (tennis or anything else), will endow you with a greater sense of capability as you approach a less familiar and typically anxiety-provoking situation (yes, like an interview). But make sure you practice the technique before you really need to use it! Start by finding a quiet space in your day, clearing your mind, and using one of the above techniques. The more you practice, the more easily you’ll be able to summon imagery when needed. Then, ideally starting a day or two before the interview, practice using imagery to relax yourself and boost your confidence. When interview day comes, you’ll be ready to smash that ace!
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