One of the most stress-inducing interview processes you can encounter is the daylong event replete with multiple meetings in different formats. Over the years, I have helped prepare candidates for this process from fields as diverse as medicine, engineering, law, teaching, higher education and executive leadership, not to mention a couple of clergy members.
One thing I’ve learned is that seemingly no one is exempt from the potential of a daylong session, regardless of the field or level. If you haven’t done this yet, you might not be prepared for the intensity of the experience, or the stamina required to stay sharp throughout the day. With that in mind, here are basic tips to help you survive and maybe even thrive in this process.
1. Request as much information as possible from the scheduler. You need to know the day’s agenda, as well as the names and titles of interviewers in each session if possible. This will help you prepare mentally, while also giving you the foundation for pre-interview research.
2. Identify a “handler” for the day. Ideally, the scheduler will have thought of this, but if not you need to ask: “Who will be my point of contact throughout the day? Will he or she be with me all day, or just at the beginning? Will someone be assigned to help me find my way to each meeting?” Don’t worry that this will sound anxious on your part.; you need to ensure that you arrive on time for each session so no interviewer forms a bad opinion of you.
3. Prepare for each meeting separately. Consider using colored file folders that you can assign to each session. You’ll need those folders with you on the big day, but in the meantime you’ll be filling them with research notes on the individual interviewers, preparation for specific questions you want to ask or anticipate answering in each session, and extra resumes or portfolio pieces that you want to distribute in the meeting.
4. Prioritize the meetings. You could say that every contact and meeting will be important, and that’s true. But it’s likely that one of the meetings will be more critical to your success, perhaps because of a particular decision-maker who will be there. However you make your judgment, try to rank the sessions so you can put extra preparation where it will count the most.
5. Strategize the social time. Your agenda may include lunch with peers or even an after-hours cocktail party. Watch out! You will desperately want to relax but you really shouldn’t. Try to find a happy medium where you are a little more relaxed but also alert to the social dynamics. You are still being evaluated, even if no one is asking you questions at the moment.
6. Learn the names. Yes, this is a tough one. Give yourself a head start by doing Internet searches on the interviewers. Matching their LinkedIn photos with their names will help you lock them in. In the interviews themselves, make the effort to use names when referring to the interviewers. Not, “Regarding what she said…” but “Regarding Sue’s comment on the finance process…” This helps position you as one of the team.
7. Get a bag and pack it. We’re talking over-the-shoulder bag with a couple of pockets for your wallet, phone and keys, as well as room for those folders. This might sound like a putzy detail but when you consider the alternative of juggling papers all day, you’ll appreciate the tip. Savvy women will use the bag for personal items so they can skip hauling a purse around; fashion-conscious men will recognize that the wallet bulge in the back pocket isn’t that great of a look.
8. Bring food. Not a chicken dinner, mind you, but can you fit some protein bars into your new bag? You’ll need to stay stoked, so don’t hesitate to take a couple of bathroom breaks to gobble a snack. Just be sure to check your teeth before you head back to the interviews.
9. Wear comfortable clothes. The temptation will be to wow your interviewers with a great outfit. A better plan is to wear something that fits well, doesn’t bind, and lets you walk with ease. You might be covering a lot of territory, so pay particular attention to your shoes.
10. Smile. That’s a tall order after everything else on the list. But this really is a great opportunity to meet a lot of people and get your message out. They’re going to a lot of trouble to make it happen, so the least you can do is look appreciative.