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Zen and the Art of Acing the Job Interview - Udacity

Job interviews are stressful. There is no getting around this. No matter how accomplished you are, how experienced, how qualified, interviews are high-stakes affairs, and a wicked case of nerves is to be expected.

Can meditation help?

It can, provided you still perform the rest of your due diligence. You still need relevant skills and experience. You still need to prepare. You still need to research the company, rehearse your answers, and be ready to prove yourself in challenge or test. And therein lies the real problem with interviews, and the real reason why meditation has something important to offer.

Even when we ARE prepared for a job interview, we often still fumble. Why? The answer: Pressure. Even the best of us crumble under pressure. And that’s where meditation can help. When you meditate, you slow down, and you calm down.

5 Ways Meditation Can Help You Get Hired

1. Thoughtfulness

Here’s an exercise for you. Ask yourself how many times you’ve said something you regretted when you felt panicked, defensive, or overly emotional. Now, compare that to the regrets you’ve accrued from things you said when you were calm, composed, and at peace. The point being, we’re more likely to say things we don’t mean to say when we feel rushed or under pressure, and we’re most likely to feel rushed when we feel panicked, or otherwise destabilized. The solution is to slow down, and give yourself the opportunity to really consider what you want to say.

Pro tip: Think before you speak. Make a habit of always pausing for at least two breaths before answering an important question during a job interview.

“But the way of practice is just to be concentrated on your breathing with the right posture and with great, pure effort.” —Shunryu Suzuki

2. Clarity

Over the course of a job interview, you’re going to be tasked with providing an enormous amount of detail, much of it to do with very complicated topics. Jumbled or confusing answers, answers that stray off topic, conflicting answers, or even the inability to answer in the moment, are all possible outcomes if your mind isn’t clear, calm, and focused.

Pro tip: Preface your answer to a complicated question with a very brief summary of what you’re going to say—think of it as the introduction to your blog post on the subject! This will help set expectations for your interviewer, and it will give you time to compose your answer.

Q: Tell me about why you want to get out of programming, and into product management?
A: Well, to begin, I’d like to explain what I really liked about programming, then detail what I felt was still missing from my career path, as a way to lead into my burgeoning interest in product management.

“Have patience. Wait until the mud settles and the water is clear. Remain unmoving until right action arises by itself.” —Lao Tzu

3. Empathy

Interviews are a bit of a setup. They’re structured to be all about you, but the last thing you want to convey about yourself is that you’re … all about you. The temptation to talk solely about yourself is almost irresistible, but you have to resist all the same. Throughout the course of the interview, look for opportunities to ask about the company, about the team you’d be joining, about the role you’re applying for, even the interviewer! And don’t fake it. Disingenuous attempts to seem empathetic will sound a false note—ask from a place of genuine wonder.

Pro tip: Authentic interest in others is not just a pleasant personality characteristic. It also telegraphs something critical to your interviewer—that you’re a team player. The ability to proceed with empathy—the ability to understand and share the feelings of another—is a critical factor in determining how well, and how soon, you’ll become a positive part of a team.

“To receive everything, one must open one’s hands and give.” —Taisen Deshimaru

4. Gratitude

Job interviews are notoriously ends-oriented events. A good interview is when we get the job. It is of course understandable that we might feel this way, but it’s critical to remember that we need to be grateful regardless of the outcome. And not later, but during the interview! By the time you walk into the room (or get on the call) to begin your interview, it’s likely that many, many people have already contributed to the process of getting you this far. They’ve read your materials, reviewed your credentials, researched your history, and most importantly, they’ve put their own reputations on the line to say, “Yes, let’s schedule a personal interview with that candidate.”

Pro tip: Make sure to express your gratitude before you get a decision. Thank your interviewer(s) for interviewing you, and for considering you for the role.

“A noble person is mindful and thankful for the favors he receives from others.” —Gautama Buddha

5. Confidence

Confidence may be the single most important factor in determining whether or not you ace the interview, but it’s a tricky thing to master. The answer to the question, “How do I appear confident?” is about as elusive as is the answer to the great Zen koan, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” The problem is that when you try to be confident, you don’t seem confident. So how do you become confident?

Stop trying, and just be. You got the interview for a reason. Trust that. You got here because of you. And this is your moment.

An oversimplification? Perhaps. But in many ways, that’s what meditation is all about—quieting and calming the mind, and recognizing the opportunity available in the present moment:

“The present moment is the only moment available to us, and it is the door to all other moments.” —Thich Nhat Hanh

Christopher Watkins
Christopher Watkins
Christopher Watkins is Senior Writer and Chief Words Officer at Udacity. He types on a MacBook or iPad by day, and either an Underwood, Remington, or Royal by night. He carries a Moleskine everywhere.