Nerves can seem to take over your mind and your body when approaching those last couple of minutes before entering your potential new office for an interview. And depending on the time of day, your body will physically be in a certain state as well. An early morning interview can go quite differently than an afternoon; particularly if you stayed awake the night before binge watching your favorite show!

Based on when your interview is, you should plan your day accordingly. If in the morning, rise early and give yourself plenty of time to do your morning routines, grab breakfast, mentally prepare, and make it to your destination with time to spare. If it’s in the afternoon and you happen to be working that day, make sure to give yourself enough of a buffer to grab lunch and make it to your destination with time to spare.

Speaking of breakfast and lunch, food and drink choices can also play a part in your mental and physical state. Below are some suggestions for handling food and drink choices and scenarios before and during the interview process.

“My mother always told me breakfast is the most important meal of the day”

She was right! Don’t believe it? Try searching “most important meal” online. It’s not just because they wanted you to eat that bowl of Frosted Flakes before getting on the bus. You’d be amazed at how much scientific research has been invested in arriving to this conclusion. Eating habits vary widely with individuals.

For some, a cup of coffee and bagel will do. For others, it’s a full spread of bacon, eggs, pancakes and toast along with the morning newspaper. And for some, it may be completely skipped. Whatever your habits, it is highly recommended to eat a hearty (and hopefully healthy) breakfast on the day of your interview; particularly if it is in the morning. This won’t just help your stomach from growling at that oddly quiet time when you’re thinking about the response to a question, but it will also provide the nutrients your body needs to kick start your brain and body.

interview coffee at table holding
Coffee can have a profound effect on the body, including stomach pains due to an acid that it contains.

Be mindful of any foods or drink that may leave you with an unsettled stomach; particularly if you are aware of any that are prone to doing so. The last thing you want is to be uncomfortably sitting in the chair while you’re trying to focus on the discussion. Or even worse, needing to interrupt the interview for a restroom break. Let’s consider coffee. Apart from those who have developed an iron stomach against harsh foods and drinks, coffee can have a profound effect on the body, including stomach pains due to an acid that it contains. Check this article out for more detail.

We know that a large portion of the population relies on coffee to keep them going, so it could be an essential element to some. However, just consider if you happen to experience any challenges drinking it!

Pack a lunch to go to work or school, not to an interview

Unless there are some unique circumstances, the only things that should be traveling with you to an interview are a pen, paper and portfolio/resume. Food and drink should be left behind. Depending on the time of day, you will want to eat and drink in moderation to ensure you aren’t in an uncomfortable circumstance when you get into the interview. If for some reason you do need to use the restroom, ask to do so before the interview starts. The last thing you want to be doing is dancing in the seat, or worse, slumped over with a stomach ache.

woman magnifying glass interview
As much as you are trying to impress them, they are also demonstrating why you should want to work there.

Remember what was mentioned about coffee above if you’re not accustomed to drinking it without issue! Also, if you are concerned about fresh breath, eat that mint or chew gum before the interview; not during. Under the circumstances, it is a big no-no to chew gum during an interview. Shake those jitters out and walk in with confidence. After all, you already know the answers to what they will ask you; you just need to remember it and relay it in a logical manner.

The front desk or interviewer offered me a drink or snack. What should I do??

It is common practice for interviewers and/or the staff greeting an interviewee to offer a drink or even a snack depending on their own routine processes. After all, they want to present a positive representation of the company.

Remember…that interview works both ways! As much as you are trying to impress them, they are also demonstrating why you should want to work there; at least if they are a reputable company! So, what should you do when the offer is extended?

If you tend to get cottonmouth during interviews, don’t hesitate to take the lifeline they are extending! Water could be helpful in this circumstance. Should you take them up on their offer, make sure to set the cup or bottle to the side so it isn’t an active participant between you and your interviewer. Also, this helps ensure you don’t accidentally cause any spills. Pace yourself on drinking, as you should prevent looking like you are half way through a marathon grabbing a drink during your run.

If you need to take a drink, do so while the interviewer is asking their question or during the brief time you are thinking through how you are presenting your scenario to them. Try your best not to make drinking a distraction.

My Interview Is A Lunch With the Hiring Manager. What Now?

In some instances, it is customary for some employers to conduct the interview during a meal. This may be more common if you are interviewing for a position in the hospitality industry. If this is the case, then you should treat it as you would a business lunch. Order in moderation, and choose something you are confident will not upset your stomach or cause any other issues such as heartburn, etc.

man in interview drinking water
In some instances, it is customary for some employers to conduct the interview during a meal.

Ensure that the meal doesn’t interfere with your ability to have a solid discussion with the interviewer. The pace you eat should match them and not defer any focus that should be on the topic at hand; you! Be sure to hand a copy of your resume or portfolio over before the food arrives. This gives your interviewer an opportunity to review it without food being in the way. It also gives you an opportunity to call anything out you feel is important before you start your meal. This is also the best time to have the full attention of your interviewer.

In many cases of a lunch interview, they are leveraging the meeting to get a feel for your communication skills and personality traits.

As far as lunch choices, keep in mind avoiding foods that you know will or potentially may upset your stomach. Remember that you want to be focused on the discussion and not comfort issues! Ask your interviewer if they recommend a dish there. If they do, consider trying it. Stay away from the most expensive dishes, and order in moderation. And of course, the same rules apply to arriving at the venue with time to spare.

Food for Your Brain and Beyond

There are many articles and studies around “brain foods”. While there is no magic pill or food that can guarantee improved results, there are certain foods or drinks that have been shown to help. A well-balanced routine diet can help your overall mental alertness and abilities, but for those looking for a boost, some specific foods are recommended. Check this article out for fruits, meats, nuts and even chocolate (seriously!). If you’re not one for specific diets, then find something that works for you. The most important thing is to not go into your interview on an empty stomach.

woman man waiting before interview
Unless there are some unique circumstances, the only things that should be traveling with you to an interview are a pen, paper and portfolio/resume.

Last Minute Tips

Now that we’ve discussed some tips around handling food and drink options before and during your interview, here are some final tips to consider in preparing for your big day. These tips cover a broad range of topics around preparation for your interview:

  • There’s no substitute for sleep. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) along with several other sources recommend that working age adults get between seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Now, this may not be realistic for everyone due to things such as social life, family needs, children, other jobs or anything else life has enlightened us with. However, you should always make it a priority the night before an interview to get that well-needed rest in. The last thing you want to do is lose a job opportunity because you skipped out on a few hours of much needed rest.
  • Take it easy the night before. It’s probably not the best idea to hit happy hours with your friends or do any excessive activities the night before your interview. If this isn’t part of your normal habits, at least try to make it a temporary one for the sake of your interview.
  • Try meditation or some other form of relaxation. This could come in many different forms. For some, it’s sitting in a quiet place. For others, it may be listening to their favorite music. And for some, it may even be activities such as shopping. Whatever your relaxation triggers may be, leverage them before your interview. Perhaps you may even have an “interview time” playlist with your favorite motivational songs.
  • Avoid eating any foods in excess that tend to release in your sweat glands. This could include food heavy in onions, garlic or other spices. When eaten in excess, these can be smelled through your sweat several hours after consumption.
  • Review your past accomplishments and anticipate any questions that may surface based on the job requirements. You should be prepared to provide a scenario for each major responsibility listed. Understand how you can address the needs of the role.
  • Prepare in advance. Don’t be printing copies of your resume or researching the company’s information the day of your interview. This isn’t a college exam to cram for! This is a potential life-altering opportunity you’re about to embark on. Treat it as such.
  • Either leave your mobile phone in the car, or make sure it is on silent (check it twice!). Nothing is more distracting than a phone ringing during an interview; especially is it’s a themed ring tone.

Putting a little thought into what you eat and drink before and potentially during an interview, can help ensure that your body doesn’t take over your valuable time and effort for the interview. With appropriate planning and dietary controls, you can present the best possible depiction of your skills and abilities. Best of luck on your big day!

Here is a video of famous soccer player Zlatan Ibrahimovic in a surprise job interview: