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The 24 Hours Before Your Interview


The twenty-four hours before your onsite interview are crucial for maximizing your performance. Ideally, you want to experience one of those days where elegant code flows effortlessly from your fingertips and bugs dare not speak your name for fear of being squashed.

Getting your mind and body into The Zone before your interview is essential. Here are some simple suggestions to help you achieve this.

Get Enough Sleep Before an Interview

It is important to get enough sleep before an interview. Being sleep deprived during an interview could be worse than being drunk beforehand. So, make sure you get a full night of sleep to maximize your brain power.

In fact, aim to get two nights of good sleep before the interview since sleep debt lasts for a few days.

As the sun goes down, put down the practice problems and focus on relaxing. If sleeping is not your strongest skill, follow these guidelines:

  • Exercise lightly earlier in the day.
  • Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and don’t drink alcohol at all.
  • Dim your screens in the evening to avoid bright light.
  • Eat a light dinner, ideally with brain-friendly foods like salmon, beans, and vegetables.
  • Before bed, listen to a boring podcast, calming music, or read a book.

The most important thing is to avoid staying up late practicing new or difficult problems, as it will only increase anxiety. Instead, focus on resting and relaxing.

Practice What You’re Good At

To build confidence, practice questions that you can already solve easily. Of course, you can start your day with a new problem, but in the afternoon, you should build momentum with the questions you know best.

Giving yourself a few wins like this helps your brain simulate a successful session at the whiteboard. You’ll go to sleep dreaming of data structures and wake up with a self-esteem boost that makes you stand out in your interview.

Imagine Your Best Day

Picture the ideal version of your day. This is a positive visualization exercise that athletes and entrepreneurs use all the time.

If you prefer a guided meditation, check out [our guided meditation to help you visualize yourself breezing through a full day of onsite interviews]. It takes about 12 minutes, and it can go a long way.

If guided meditations aren’t your thing, you can write out everything that will happen during a successful day of interviews. Here’s some inspiration to get you started:

  • Greet your interviewer(s). Play through some small talk and make them laugh with a joke.
  • Crush your first question. Answer the first question deftly and see the interviewer’s impressed face.
  • Overcome a tough question. You get to a trickier part of a problem, but keep calm and ask a few clarifying questions. Then, carry on to a solution.
  • End the day on a high note. Conclude the day with a lively conversation with a director or VP. Leave the building smiling and feeling great about the whole experience.

Visualizing a successful day will build your confidence. You’re training your brain to expect success and feel more comfortable during your interview.

Walk Through Your Problem-Solving Process

Reinforcing problem-solving patterns is more beneficial than practicing new problems in the hours leading up to your interview. Notice how our [coding interview tips article] provides a handy process for solving algorithmic problems:

  1. Brainstorm an algorithm. Draw out sample inputs and play around with them while talking and thinking out loud. Don’t start writing code until you and your interviewer feel confident about your algorithm.
  2. Write out your algorithm in code. Focus on getting it all down first, and jot down notes next to the things you want to go back and double-check later.
  3. Debug your code. Walk through your code with sample input and look for off-by-one errors and other bugs.

This high-level “What’s my problem-solving process” is great to keep in mind the morning of your interview. And speaking of that morning…

Precompute Your Morning

Decision fatigue is real. Successful people like Mark Zuckerberg and Barack Obama always wear the same thing to minimize the number of decisions they make each morning. Luckily, it’s easy to avoid decision fatigue once you’re aware of it!

Plan the boring stuff ahead of time. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  • Pack your bag. Include a snack and a water bottle.
  • Lay out some nice clothes. Dress a tiny step above what others in the office are wearing (usually they’ll be sporting jeans and a T-shirt).
  • Plan your breakfast. For your brain’s sake, try to include eggs, berries, and avocado.
  • Choose your route to the office. Expect traffic. Scope out the parking situation if you’re driving.
  • Tarantino your morning. Work backwards from about 30 minutes before your interview and figure out what time you need to wake up.
  • Set an alarm (or ten). Remember that you want time in the morning to chill, eat a leisurely breakfast, and sip on a cup of coffee (if that’s your cup of tea).
  • Brainstorm a pump-up routine. Come up with a few things to get you stoked. If you’re not sure what your morning pump-up routine looks like, we’ve got you covered…

Get energized

On the morning of your interview, it’s important to get pumped up and energized! A good pump-up routine will make you excited, confident, and ready to tackle your interview head-on.

Get your body moving. Do some sun salutations and a few jumping jacks. Light exercise increases blood flow to your brain and helps clear your mind.

Strike a power pose and read your positive visualization. This may feel strange at first, but it really works! You’ll prime yourself to feel more confident heading into your interview.

Listen to pump-up music. If you’re like me, the intro to Backstreet’s Back should do the trick. If you’re not a fan of the Backstreet Boys, you probably have an equally awesome song in mind.


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