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Job hunting in a time of corona: 9 ways to get into a positive mindset before your remote job interview

By Mark Staniland, Managing Director of Hays Ireland

“I’ve never had a phone or video interview before, what if it goes wrong?” “I feel worried about the impact of the virus, what if that negatively impacts my performance?”

80% of all the thoughts we have are negative. Yes, you read that right, 80% of the 12,000-16,000 thoughts we have every day are negative. And, of course, I don’t need to tell you that this percentage has most likely risen since COVID-19 pandemic began. So, what can you do to get in the right  frame of mind?

Why is it SO vital to have a positive mindset before and interview?

If you have a job interview coming up – which, in itself can be a stressful situation – you may be feeling more unsettled than normal, with self-limiting narratives playing in loops in your head. Plus, as the majority of us are now on ongoing lockdown, it’s almost certain that the interview will be taking place remotely, either via phone or video. Perhaps you’re worried you will have issues with the technology, further confounding the negative thoughts or concerns that are already playing on your mind.

Whilst the current situation is difficult, and, of course, all of us are experiencing our own unique challenges, if you have a job interview coming up, it’s important that you try to stay focused on the job at hand. You must do everything you can to approach your interview, whether it’s a telephone or video call, with a positive and constructive mindset.

Adopting a positive frame of mind will enable you to perform at your very best during the interview, in the knowledge that you’re as prepared as possible. It will also help you feel more confident, helping you to really sell yourself and your skills in an authentic way to the interviewer, even if you are doing so remotely.

Simple steps to get into the right frame of mind before your job interview

There are a number of steps you can take to stay optimistic and confident throughout your remote interview process:

1. Try to reframe your thought processes around remote interviews
If you have a tendency to drown yourself in self-limiting thoughts, such as by telling yourself that another candidate will be better suited to the job, or that you won’t come across as well on the phone/on a video call, the chances are that your brain will start to believe this. In fact, you might not even consciously realise that you carry these self-limiting beliefs, until you check your language for phrases like “that’s impossible” or “I can’t”.

Instead, reframe the way you think and try to appreciate how all of your achievements to date, taking confidence and reassurance from these. Rather than telling yourself that you won’t come across well via video, for example, think about this as being just the same as having a conversation with someone in person – the means by which you’re having that conversation are just slightly different. Remember, no one else in the interview process will have the option to meet the hiring manager in person either, so there’s no need to let the fact you’re not as experienced in telephone or video interviews put you in a negative headspace.

2. Don’t allow imposter syndrome to take hold
Instead of thinking “everyone will be better than me”, remind yourself of your uniqueness and of your worth – and take that self-belief into your job interview.

Many people suffer from something called imposter syndrome, an internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be. Essentially, this is the feeling that you have somewhat fooled others into thinking you’re better at something, or more capable, than you really are. Or, that you don’t deserve the success you’ve experienced so far.

It’s quite likely that imposter syndrome is what’s making you feel like you’re perhaps not good enough for this interview, or that your success so far has just been a fluke. In fact, due to the current climate, lots of people may well be suffering from self-doubt. This might be making it more difficult to remember all the things you’ve achieved so far. But it’s so important you turn this limiting mindset on its head by telling yourself that your success is ultimately down to your own competence and effort, not luck. And even if your current responsibilities look a little different right now, all those skills and experiences you’ve built up still exist and are still part of your capabilities.

In the words of Elizabeth Cox, for TED-Ed: “There’s no easy way to dismiss feelings that we’re less capable than the people around us. Intense feelings of ‘imposterism’ can prevent people from sharing their great ideas, or applying for jobs or programs where they’d excel… once you’re aware of the phenomenon, you can combat your own imposter syndrome by collecting and revisiting positive feedback.”

3. Remember to keep perspective
A job interview is, of course, a very important moment in your life. It could open countless doors for you, should you be offered the job. Perhaps you’d be working for a company you absolutely love? Or it might mean you’d be moving into an industry that you’re deeply passionate about? Or, perhaps, it’d give you the opportunity to find more purpose and meaning in your work?

But thinking too much about the significance of the interview itself could result in putting an unnecessary amount of pressure on yourself, therefore negatively impacting your frame of mind during your preparation – especially during this difficult time, when you’re likely to already be feeling more unsettled that usual. This, in turn, could lead to unhelpful thoughts that might affect your self-esteem and confidence.

So, take a step back and think about this for what it truly is: a conversation with someone about a job you’re interested in, to get a chance for you both to get to know each other. That’s really the basics of it, so try not to get ahead of yourself and overthink its significance – just keep things in perspective.

4. Prepare, prepare and prepare again
You know that old saying, “if you fail to prepare, prepare to fail”? It has more than a semblance of truth to it. But thorough preparation isn’t only good for improving your chances of landing the job in the first place; it’s also great for your mindset, helping you to relax in the knowledge that you have done all you can and whatever happens next is inevitable. If you feel prepared, you feel confident, and your frame of mind is therefore more likely to be positive, than negative.

We have a range of material that will help with your preparation for a telephone or video interview, including:

5. Get psyched up
Do you have a morning mantra that you tell yourself? Is there one particular song that makes you feel happy? If so, now’s the time to turn up the volume and really listen to it. You could also remind yourself of all of the amazing feats you’ve achieved in your career, or ask a friend to give you a last-minute ‘pep talk’, telling you that you have all of the qualifications and experience needed to pass this interview with flying colours.

Use optimistic language towards yourself, too, such as “I’m looking forward to the interview” or “I’m sure it will go well”, asserting that this could be the opportunity of a lifetime – but that even if you don’t get the job this time, that simply means something even better is going to come along.

In addition, positive self-affirmations – such as “I’m proud of myself for getting this far” or “this interview will be a wonderful opportunity for me to learn and grow” – don’t just make you feel good; according to a review of research literature by David Tod of Liverpool John Moore University, James Hardy of Bangor University and Emily J Oliver of Durham University, there is evidence that motivational self-talk helps to improve performance.

6. This interview, and any interview, will be an opportunity to grow
Your mindset ahead of, and during your interview will be much more positive if you don’t just see it in black and white – either getting the job or not, with nothing more to be gained from the situation. After all, whether the interview goes the way you want or not, you are sure to learn something from it. If you’re living through a difficult period at the minute due to the current circumstances, I know it may seem tough to adopt this mindset.

But try your best to use this interview as a learning opportunity. For example, you might even emerge from the interview with a clearer sense of what you want and don’t want from your career, and where your present strengths and weaknesses lie – and therefore, what you need to focus on next to get ahead in your career. And those are great outcomes in themselves, aren’t they?

You could even view this as a chance to learn how to use unfamiliar technology, or have a professional meeting remotely – perhaps things you’ve never had to do before. All of these experiences will only help you to become a more well-rounded professional. So, even if you don’t get the job, you will still gain knowledge and more experience, which is certainly not a bad thing. Nothing’s truly a setback as long as you’ve learned something, and acknowledging this is key to developing a growth mindset.

7. Always keep communicating to your recruiter
Regular and honest communication with your recruiter is very important, especially given that they are the experts in this field, and will have an existing relationship with the interviewer. Try to organise a video call with them, as this will be a good chance to test out your technology. Also, if you have any lingering doubts or uncertainties in your head about the role or interview process, a friendly conversation with your recruiter can help to dispel them, thereby improving your state of mind ahead of the big day.

You might ask your recruiter questions like: “Is this a newly created position?”, “What will the structure of the interview be?” and “Do you have any tips for a telephone/video interview?” This will help you to feel as prepared and informed as possible, so that you can enter the interview with positivity, confidence and poise, able to eloquently answer whatever questions the interviewer might throw at you. Remember to speak to them after your interview too, and give them your feedback.

8. Don’t become too absorbed.
Yes, it’s important to prepare well for any job interview, but even when an interview is looming, you should still have plenty to enjoy away from the world of work. So, don’t hesitate to continue with any hobbies and interests that will help you to keep perspective and blow off some steam. In fact, Nir Eyal, writing for Psychology Today, has highlighted the many positive benefits that such distractions can have on our lives. For instance, something as simple as a puzzle or video game can be great for boosting both our self-efficacy and confidence in overcoming problems.

Other distractions can also strengthen our ability to tackle new challenges, an upcoming job interview potentially being just one. Research has found that even simply spending time walking outside, for example, can reduce stress and improve cognitive function. If your current government restrictions mean that you cannot go for a walk outside, an activity like yoga or meditation will help you to achieve the same reduce in stress, and ensure you stay present in the moment, rather than overthinking and worrying about the bigger picture.

9. Finally, remember to be a bit excited!
At the end of the day, a job interview is a great opportunity to be introduced to new people and could open the door to taking the next exciting step in your career. Now is the time, too, to think about all of the things that attracted you to this role, including what it would be like to do the job itself, and the opportunities it could open up for you.

Allowing yourself to feel excited, and visualising what it will feel like to work in this new role, will help you to feel more confident and maintain a positive mindset throughout your preparation.

The power of a positive mindset in a job interview

All of the tools and advice above will help have you have your interview with a positive and constructive mindset. Although we’re living through testing times, there is reason to be positive – after all, you’re most likely reading this article because you have an interview lined up. So well done!

It’s now up to you to decide which approach is going to have the best consequences for you. Will you prepare for the interview thinking: “I’m so nervous”, “I hope they like me”, or “What if they ask impossible questions?” Or will you instead affirm to yourself that you are capable and prepared for success?

The power of a positive mindset really could make all the difference during this interview. You’ll feel confidence in the fact that you deserve to be there, with the knowledge that you stand just as much chance as anyone else of being offered the job.

With this positive mindset in place, you will also be able to enjoy your interview more and portray your authentic self from start to finish – a person who is confident, articulate and fully deserving of this wonderful opportunity. Ultimately, that’s who you are, so don’t doubt for a moment that you are anything else.

About this author

Mark joined Hays in 1985 as a trainee consultant and has been in various roles, sectors and locations during his time at Hays. He is a Board member and in 2019 his responsibilities extended to Hays Ireland.

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