Interview season is almost upon us! As a resident, I am very excited for the upcoming interviews to meet all the bright and capable new faces of medicine. But I also remember the nerves that plagued me on the applicant side of interviews. While I felt confident and excited, the anxiety was impossible to ignore. Unfortunately, the excessive anxiety can affect your performance. Having a solid pre-interview routine that keeps you relaxed is key to starting the interview day off right. I will go over my personal pre-interview routine and how it helped me. Yours may look quite different, but it ought to have the same calming effect to set you up for success. Fortunately, an effective morning routine is easier to achieve from the comfort of your own home rather than an unfamiliar hotel room!
Wake Up Extra Early
This is one of the harder things to do. It can be hard to get good sleep the night before an interview. Ideally, you’ll have gone to bed early to maximize your rest. I am a morning person, so my strategy will be different from night owls. I usually set my alarm for 4am on interview days. This gave me time to hit snooze, lazily scroll Twitter in bed for a bit, and take a nice long shower. To me, giving up an extra 30-60 minutes of sleep is worth extra time in the morning to avoid feeling rushed. Over the course of an interview season some mishap will occur and you’ll be grateful for the extra time you built in.
Caffeine and Breakfast
For those of you who can function without caffeine, I envy your superhuman strength. For the rest of us, enjoy your morning caffeine. With in-person interviews, I stuck to the cheap hotel room coffee for simplicity. The benefit of virtual interviews is that you can caffeinate as you please. You can have that gourmet coffee in the cabinet or your favorite flavor of tea. Use it to your advantage and reward yourself early. My one tip is to avoid overdoing and creating the caffeine shakes. Caffeine can make anxiety worse, so try not to pass the sweet spot of caffeination and turn yourself into a jittery mess. The same goes for breakfast. Make yourself those scrambled eggs or avocado toast that make your stomach happy but not bloated. Use the virtual interview season to your advantage and start your day off right with a nice breakfast.
Distraction / Enjoyment
If you’ve approached the interviews with solid preparation you shouldn’t have to spend the morning going over last-minute practice. On top of a nice coffee and breakfast, you can also incorporate some entertaining distraction from the nerves. I would turn on whatever binge-worthy podcast or audiobook I was currently addicted to or my favorite music station. This helped get my mind off of the pre-interview nerves.
Meditation / Prayer / Quiet Time
The last thing I did every morning before leaving my hotel (or now, logging onto the computer) was to take some quiet time to try and settle my mind. For me, this came in the form of prayer. For others, this time of quiet reflection might be meditation or listening to peaceful music. The point is to try and settle your nerves with mindfulness and intentional calm for a few minutes prior to the interview.
No one is exactly like me. My routine may be of no help to you. What are some other strategies people might use? If you are a night owl and waking up early is a set up for disaster, make sure to get to bed early. Do anything you can the night prior to save yourself time in the morning. Maybe you need exercise and a short yoga or treadmill session to get your day started right. Maybe you need an episode of your favorite tv show or a few minutes with your favorite book to distract you. Maybe you need to talk to a friend or loved one. Since you’ll likely be at home, a quick walk with the dog or snuggle from the cat might be what you need.
Whatever your individual style, everyone has different needs to keep their anxiety at bay. Be honest with yourself. Try to find what helps you feel as relaxed and prepared as possible for the day ahead. If you have a bad interview day, consider the effect your morning routine had. Is there something you can change that will help you start the day off better?
I found a routine during my interview travels that worked quite well despite my relatively high anxiety level. By the end of interview season, I had come to actually enjoy my pre-interview mornings. Virtual interview season brings entirely new challenges for applicants. However, it allows for easier and more effective morning routines that will set you up for success on interview day!