By Gillian Armour, CMFS
In Part 6 of our ongoing series "You're Hired" we review energy management:
You expect a potential employer to look at your resume, your experience, your qualifications, and your training. But did you know they’ll also be looking at your energy? Dave Watson defines energy as the ability to make something happen. Certainly an employer needs people who can make things happen. Without energy business and the world would grind to a halt.
Not only does energy get things done, it is contagious. It is magnetic and attractive. As a general rule, we prefer being around people who are energetic. An interview, whether consciously or unconsciously, will be looking for energy signals. If you don’t communicate great energy it’s impossible to have a successful job interview.
So how can you non-verbally send the message that you’re a high energy person? It’s not just one thing but your whole presentation that tells the interviewer what kind of energy you have to contribute. An interviewer will make judgments about your energy based on:
§ The vigor of your stride
§ Your handshake
§ Your eye contact
§ Your posture
§ Your listening skills
§ The quality of your voice
When you can show an interviewer you have a steady flow of energy, you’ll stand out from the completion. Catherine Pratt explains that, “If a company has the option between choosing someone with the skills but with no energy and someone who doesn’t quite have all the skills but has a lot of enthusiasm, they will choose the enthusiastic one every time. You can teach people the skills and knowledge to do a job, personality and high energy is much harder to teach someone.” Preparing for a Job Interview – How Your Actions Speak Louder Than Your Résumé
But did you know not all energy is equal? Robert K. Cooper, Ph.D., explains that research has identified two very different kinds of energy. As with cholesterol there is both a good and a bad kind of energy. The good energy is calm energy and the bad energy is tense energy. Calm energy is what an interviewer will want to see.
So, the obvious question is, can you do anything to increase you calm energy. Luckily, there are lots of things you can do. They include things you can do on the day of an interview and also include things you can do on an ongoing basis that, over time, will improve your overall energy. Not all strategies work for everyone so you’ll need to experiment and find what works best for you.
Let’s look at some of the most successful ongoing strategies.
A healthy diet is the source of your energy flow. You’ve probably heard the expression; junk in junk out. This expression certainly applies to your body. If you eat a junk food diet you can’t expect to have high energy - junk food in, low energy out.
Right up there with diet is exercise in its ability to create a positive energy flow. With energy and exercise going hand in hand, it makes sense to incorporate exercise into your daily routine. Sad but true, exercise will not have the desired effect if you wait until the day of the interview to begin your exercise program.
Drink plenty of water. You’ve heard it before but it’s worth repeating. Your body is approximately 70% water. Your brain has an even higher percentage of water, somewhere between 75 and 85% depending on who you believe. This means you must stay hydrated just to function properly. Without enough water both your physical and your metal energy is impaired. Eight to ten glasses of water a day is what most experts say you need.
Practicing some form of meditation or visualization has also been shown to increase energy levels. People who mediate have more energy, are healthier, live longer, sleep better, and have more mental clarity. It sounds like we should all be meditating! These effects are so pronounced and well documented that some insurance companies have actually instituted reduced insurance rates for policy holders who meditate.
Maintaining happy, healthy personal relationships with friends and family is another way to keep your energy high. If you are happy and fulfilled in your personal life you’ll have more energy and optimism to bring to the workplace. An interviewer will be alert to the subtle non-verbal signals you send that indicate how satisfied you are with your life in general. Employers know when an employee is unfulfilled in their personal life there is a high probability it will negatively impact their job performance.
Now let’s look at energy boosting strategies you can use on the day of an interview.
Breathe! Well that sounds easy enough. You’re breathing right now, right? But it’s not enough just to breathe. You need to breathe in a certain way. Deep slow breaths relax and at the same time, energize your body. Notice how your breathing changes the next time you’re stressed. Your breathing becomes both shallower and more rapid. Shallow, rapid breathing places a greater demand on the muscles responsible for breathing. It actually burns up more energy. So, if your breathing is shallow and rapid during an interview, you’ll have less energy to focus on the interview.
Get a good night’s sleep the night before an interview. Plan on going to bed a little earlier than usual. Don’t schedule a special event or a big night out with friends the night before an interview. Instead, go to bed with a something to read (but not a page turner), something warm to drink (preferably non-alcoholic) or invoke any other ritual that you know will help you relax and fall asleep quickly.
Wake up early. This is especially important if your interview is in the early part of the day. Don’t get off to a bad start by oversleeping and then feeling rushed. If you’re a very sound sleeper you might even ask someone to give you a wake-up call. Waking up to music rather than an alarm can also help you start your day on the right note.
Start your day with a good breakfast. Even if you usually get going without breakfast, do yourself a favor and take the time to eat breakfast on the day of an interview. Choose something nutritious but light. Remember, junk in junk out. Not only will you have more energy, you’ll eliminate the need to snack on the run which could be disastrous if you’re unlucky enough to spill food on your interview clothes.
It’s natural to have some pre-interview jitters. You can minimize nerves by making time for some light exercise in the morning before an interview. If you still feel tense just before your interview do some simple stretches to help you relax and get energized.
If you do only one thing for yourself on the day of an interview, organize your day so you can avoid feeling rushed. If you are worried about being late, your focus will be scattered and your energy will be tense rather than calm.
Beware of taking in too much caffeine before an interview. Everyone has a slightly different tolerance to caffeine but whatever your tolerance level, be careful not to exceed it. Too much coffee or high caffeine soda can quickly change your energy from calm to tense.
You can often calm your nerves just by focusing your attention outside of yourself. So, during an interview, direct your attention to the interviewer. This is easy to do when you practice active listening. Active listening is a special kind of listening in which you:
§ Focus all of your attention on the interviewer
§ Non-verbally signal your acknowledgement and involvement, for example, by nodding your head or leaning slightly forward
§ Observe the interviewer’s body language cue