The 15 minutes before a job interview can be harrowing. Job seekers are never quite sure what to do with that time — but experts suggest that you look in a mirror, take deep breaths, and do whatever else it takes to get focused and stay calm.
"Those 15 minutes are your opportunity to get yourself into the right frame of mind, and set your energy and focus on who you'll be meeting with, what you want them to remember about you, and what you want to ask them," says Deborah Shane, a career author, speaker, and media and marketing consultant.
Here are 11 things you should do in the 15 minutes before a job interview:
When you become stressed, your body releases stress hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine. Depending on the level of your stress, these can inhibit your ability to think clearly, said David Parnell, a legal consultant, communication coach, and author.
"Ensuring that you remain calm, collected, and cool in the minutes leading up to the interview is necessary to avoid this hormonal elixir, and keep your mind clear," Parnell said.
Career coach Anita Attridge added that staying calm before and during an interview allows you to listen better and to stay focused on how to best respond to questions.
"In addition, you are better able to think how you can best present your accomplishments in alignment with what is important to the interviewer — and being calm also demonstrates your ability to deal with stressful situations," Attridge said.
Arrive early, but don’t go inside
Few things can shake you more than running late to an interview, so always arrive early — but no more than 10 minutes early.
If you're earlier than that, wait in your car or a nearby café, as being too early can place unnecessary pressure on your interviewer and start the meeting off on the wrong foot, Parnell said.
Rita Friedman, a Philadelphia-based career coach, agrees. "It can come across as an imposition, as if you are expecting the interviewer to drop whatever he or she is doing to attend to you."
Be friendly to all receptionists and security guards
When you do walk into the office's waiting room (which should be about 10 minutes before your scheduled interview time), remember to be nice to the receptionist, security guards, or whoever greets you.
"It's very likely that he or she will be reporting back to the hiring manager about how you behaved," Friedman said.
Hopefully, you were planning on being friendly anyways.
Decide on one or two things you want to be remembered for
What makes you different from other applicants, and what do you know the company is looking for? Project management, communication savvy, or another skillset that sets you apart?
"Keying in on a few things that will impact your memorability and likeability is a smart way to approach the interview," Shane said.
You don't want to use this time to over-prepare or rehearse responses, which can make your conversation seem scripted and not authentic.
"You want to know your stuff, but remember your interview is a conversation. Trust that you know what you know, and that the interview will take on a flow of its own," Shane said.
Feeling nervous? Try a breathing exercise.
This will help with the first tip, which is to remain calm.
"Counting your breath is one of the most immediate and impactful techniques for calming your nerves," Parnell said. "Simply focus on your breaths, counting each until you reach 10, and repeat."
Focus on your posture
Sitting up straight, along with maintaining eye contact and minimizing your use of filler words, communicates that you're confident and professional, wrote Fran Hauser, author of "The Myth of the Nice Girl."
"You'll come across as looking more confident and poised," Friedman added.
Business Insider's Erin Brodwin wrote on exactly how to maintain great sitting posture:
First, sit at the end of your chair (that's right, don't rely on your backrest). Let your body go into a slouching position. Now, try to sit up straight, accentuating the curve of your back as much as possible. Hold this position for a few seconds. Next, release the position a little bit.
Be sure your feet are on flat on the floor and your shoulders are relaxed, too.
Don't check the news, your email, or social media
Now is not the time to read up on political news.
You may hear or read something that will get you all worked up, Shane said. Then, you'll be distracted and harried rather than calm and confident.
Briefly review your notes, but don’t do any additional research
You should be done researching, preparing, and rehearsing.
But if you made any notes for yourself, this is a good time to briefly look them over.
"This is not the time to be using your phone to look up the company's recent achievements or earnings report," Friedman said. "Giving big numbers of projects a glance at the last second is a good way to misinterpret key information."
Look in a mirror
Duck into a nearby restroom or clothing store to check yourself out in the mirror.
"You may have left the house looking like a million dollars, but you could still arrive looking like a vagabond," Friedman said.
This is also a great time to wash your hands and make sure your fingernails are clean and your palms are dry. If you wore comfortable shoes and plan on changing into dress shoes, be sure not to do this in the office.
Think happy thoughts
This may sound cliché, but thinking of pleasant things that make you smile and feel good will help put you in the right state of mind going in to the interview.
A smile can do wonders on how people perceive you.