Interview Success - the Importance of Mental Preparation

Jim Brackin

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Ask any employer the biggest mistake candidates can make and you often get the same answer - not being fully prepared for the interview. Successful candidates use every conceivable means possible to prepare for the interview and to allow themselves ample time to prepare. They understand that interviewing is a skill and that preparation and practice will enhance their chances of success.

It’s a fact that preparation can make the difference between successful offer, or disappointment and rejection. One easy method of preparation is to rehearse the interview in your imagination, before the event, using the Successful Outcome Visualisation Technique. As the name suggests it’s a process where you visualise the event and its successful outcome a number of times, in your head, prior to the interview. The repetition of the successful outcome programmes the mind to automatically reproduce the actions and behaviours that are most likely to produce your desired outcome.

This technique is used by many top athletes to help them maintain a competitive edge, so why shouldn’t you take advantage of it? Research has shown that this technique actually conditions the unconscious mind, which is responsible for, amongst other things, muscle control and speech. By repeating an imaginary process the unconscious mind is trained how to react when a similar real-life situation arises. Research has shown that the Successful Outcome Visualisation Technique can improve performance by up to 15%. This may not sound like much but often the difference between winning and losing can be measured in percentages of percentage points. For example in the last Olympics the difference between the Gold medal winning time and the eighth place finishing time was just 1.8%. And in most interview situations there are no prizes for coming second.

Although this technique has a grand sounding name, in reality many people naturally use this technique on a daily basis without ever realising it. Running through a scenario prior to it happening is a natural process. If you have ever heard someone, before attempting something stressful or difficult say something like “I’m no good at this”, or “I know this will end badly” then they have already imagined the outcome of the event, and come to that conclusion. Not surprisingly, these people rarely excel themselves and do really well.

So, to start the technique, find yourself somewhere comfortable, where you won’t be disturbed. Sit down, take a few deep breaths to relax and then close your eyes. After a few moments, imagine the scenario just prior to the interview. Notice that you feel confident, self assured and relaxed. If you don’t see yourself as totally comfortable then just remember this is your visualisation so you can control exactly how you feel. If there is anything you don’t like then change it. Then only when you are ready, walk into the interview. Imagine yourself being friendly and relaxed answering all of the questions easily and confidently. Imagine yourself having a rapport and empathy with the interviewer. Imagine yourself asking intelligent and relevant questions. Imagine the interview going really well and during this process perhaps you might become an observer watching yourself in the interview. If so, notice how you feel, what you see, how you sound and what you say. Notice the positive effect this has on the interviewer. During this process, make a note of the positive and use the visualisation to change the negative. Remember you are the projectionist of this movie so you can freeze frame, rewind and reply any part of it until you are happy. Finally visualise yourself walking out knowing you did the very best you could, feeling good about the experience.

For maximum effect, run through the Successful Outcome Visualisation Technique at least three times before the interview and you will be amazed at the difference it makes to your performance on the day. If you have trouble visualising, then I suggest you download a guided version of the technique. Just Google online, self-help, therapy, interview, success, visualisation and you find sites like that have some useful advice as well as a range of Interview Success downloads to aid the process. Remember the difference between success and failure is often the amount of preparation you put in beforehand. And the amount and type of preparation is one of the things you have total control over. So ultimately you can prepare for success, so why not take action now and tip the balance in your favour?

Jim Brackin contributes tips, help and advice on popular psychology to variety of magazines like Cosmopolitan, Real, Spirit and Destiny and Women's Own. He is the body language expert for Sky News (UK) and developed Personaliteye a visually based personality profile tests that provides free personality based reports on relationships, work, friends and lifestyle.


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