The Final Countdown: What to do in the 24 hours before your interview

final countdown

When I was in college, I was not too great at studying for exams. Despite everyone telling me that it would be best for me to start studying weeks in advance for my final, I had a tendency to wait until at least 9pm the night before.

Often times it was even worse than that. I had terrible trouble not procrastinating, and unless there was a very immediate deadline, I just wouldn’t do the work. So I came up with a plan: I would go to bed early and wake up at 5am the morning of my 9am exam to start studying.

Suffice to say, this was a suboptimal strategy, in large part because I’m not particularly good at waking up at 5am. I remember one particular exam for a data structures class where I said I would study in the morning and ended up waking up at 8:45. I passed the exam, but it wasn’t exactly pretty.

When it comes down to it, an interview is a lot like an exam: Someone is judging you on your knowledge and you’re not allowed to oversleep. Another similarity is that with a little forethought, you can make the day of your interview go much smoother and be a lot less stressful.

When it comes down to it, an interview is a lot like an exam: Someone is judging you on your knowledge and you’re not allowed to oversleep. Click To Tweet

In this article, I have put together a list of the most important things you should remember to do before and leading up to your interview. These will not just make the day of your interview less stressful, but will also help you to perform better.

The day before your interview:

Figure out where your interview is

One of the worst things you can do on the day of your interview is to be late. If you’re late to your interview when you’re trying to make a good impression, what are the chances you’ll be on time when you’re not trying to impress anyone? One way to improve your chances of being on time is knowing exactly where you’re going. Put the address into your GPS and see how long the drive will take. If you have time, actually drive there the day before so you know you won’t get lost. It is also good to know who you are supposed to be meeting with. Make sure you have their contact information available in case you are going to be late for any reason.

Gather everything you need for interview day

You don’t want to forget something you need in the morning. You’re going to be stressed out as it is, so why add the risk of forgetting something? Pack a bag ahead of time. Lay out your clothes. You’ll thank yourself in the morning.

Don’t forget:

  • Your clothes
  • Water bottle (you’re going to be talking A LOT)
  • Snacks. You’ll perform much better if you’re not hungry.
    Snickers advertisers have a point
  • Optional: Copies of your resume

Study up on the company

Would you prefer to hire the genius who doesn’t want to be there or the average Joe who is really excited about your company? I would go with the average Joe every time because a genius who doesn’t do any work and doesn’t care is of no use to the company. By studying up on the company a little bit, you can show your passion about the company. This can get you huge bonus points.

Learn about their products. Use them if you can. Figure out some questions that you can ask your interviewer about the company. If you know who your interviewer is going to be, you can try to learn a bit about them as well.

Review your study materials for no more than 1 hour

It is important to study. Of course you know that, but there is such thing as studying too much. Hopefully you’ve been studying for weeks at this point, so a few extra hours are not going to help you. You’re much better off skimming through the sections of your preferred review book and then kicking back. Let your brain rest.

Set 2 alarms

This is probably self explanatory, but you don’t want to oversleep. I’m a big fan of asking a friend to call me in the morning.

Drink water

As I mentioned earlier, you’re going to be talking a lot during your interview. Most people don’t drink enough water as it is and dehydration is not your friend, especially at an interview. Keeping hydrated will help you not lose your voice when you’re talking all day and will help you go strong until the end of your interviews.

Relax

You’ve spent so much time preparing for your interview by now that the best thing that you can do is give your brain a rest. Kick back and watch a few episodes of The Office. Play some video games. Read a book.

Go to bed early

Again this may be obvious, but you need to get enough sleep before your interview. Studies have shown that even small amounts of sleep deprivation can seriously affect your mental abilities. If you’re traveling for your interview or you are stressed out about it, I recommend taking an OTC sleep aid. I find that this helps me to sleep much better the night before and not keep waking up. The big caveat, though, is that you shouldn’t take it unless you’ve taken it before and know that it won’t make you drowsy the next day.

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Interview checklist

The day of your interview (at home):

Eat a good breakfast

Eating a well balanced breakfast will give you plenty of energy to sustain you through your interviews. You never know what sort of food or drinks (if any) will be offered to you when you go in for your interview, so it’s best not to risk it. This means that if you are a coffee person, drink some coffee. This is not the day to kick your caffeine habit.

Make sure you look (and smell) presentable

Hopefully this shouldn’t be too hard, since you laid out your clothes last night, but definitely take a few extra minutes on this. Brush your hair, brush your teeth, put on deodorant. You may be in a cramped room with your interviewer for an hour or more and you want them to be focused on you and not your coffee breath. It is also good to check your teeth for food, check that the tag on your shirt isn’t sticking out, and make sure you don’t have any stains on your clothes.

Meditate or take some deep breaths

You don’t have to do anything fancy here, but the idea is to help you relax a little bit. The more relaxed you are, the better you are going to perform in your interview. Try this simple exercise:

  • Sit comfortably and close your eyes
  • Slowly breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth
  • Count 10 out-breaths

Before you start your interview

Use the restroom

You’re going to be in your interview for a long time. While it is totally acceptable to ask to use the restroom, you don’t really want to interrupt the flow of the interview if you don’t have to. You also want to maximize your time with your interviewer. Going to the restroom also allows you to do a quick “mirror-check” to make sure you look interview-ready.

Turn off your phone

I’m personally a big fan of turning my phone to vibrate rather than turning it off, but this is an exception to that rule for two reasons. One is the obvious fact that your interviewer may be unhappy about your phone going off, but an even bigger issue is that it will distract you. While you are in the middle of tackling a hard problem, your phone buzzing can break your concentration and make it much harder for you to figure out the solution.

 

In the end, studying is important, but proper pre-interview preparation is going to give you the best chance to show off your knowledge and let your brain operate at it's full potential.

In the comments below, let me know what your pre-interview ritual is. Is there anything that you find particularly helpful?

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Sam Gavis-Hughson

Sam Gavis-Hughson

Sam, founder of Byte by Byte, helps software engineers successfully interview for jobs at top tech companies. Sam has helped thousands of students through his blog and free content -- as well as 400+ paying students -- land jobs at companies such as Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Bloomberg, Uber, and more.