You’ve confirmed the date, done your homework, and even laid out your confidence-boosting outfit. But have you considered what you consume? It turns out, how we fuel ourselves could be key to tackling pre-interview nerves, and leaving you with a razor-sharp focus. Here’s what to eat to help you smash your next job interview (and what to leave in the fridge until afterwards)
Whether it’s the chance of a promotion or an exciting new challenge, most of us try to feel prepared before we head into the interview room. While you might have done your research, rehearsed your answers, and got a good night’s sleep, have you considered what you tuck into that morning?
The truth is that what you eat before an interview (and what to ditch), is actually a pretty important part of preparing for the job you want – whether it’s keeping you calm, or stopping an energy crash during that all important ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ question. So, let’s take a look at the best food and drink to opt for before your interview – and what to save until later.
Food for thought
First things first, it’s really important to remember to eat and hydrate properly before an interview, as this is essential nourishment for mental performance. However, according to the Association of UK Dieticians (BDA), about one third of us skip breakfast on a regular basis, even though there’s lots of reasons why you shouldn’t – especially with a mentally-taxing workplace situation. Research has proven that starting the day with a good breakfast helps with our concentration and mental alertness, as well as our memory and energy – all of which would be undeniably handy in a stressful interview scenario.
In terms of specifics around what to eat before the big moment, there’s both short and long-term things to consider. “B vitamins are really important for mental performance and brain health in general,” says dietitian Sophie Medlin, director of CityDietitians. “Meat and dairy are rich in this but if you’re vegan, you may consider supplementing. Omega 3 is also really important. We can get this from vegan algae and oily fish.”
While a single supplement won’t necessarily help you nail the interview, they could be worth trying to support your overall mental performance in the workplace.
But what if the interview is tomorrow? Well, there are still a few quick-fixes worth trying.
“For an immediate boost, there’s data to show those who have a blueberry smoothie before an exam, have better mental performance and outcomes,” says Sophie Medlin. “Foods rich in antioxidants and polyphenols help improve blood flow and are important for mental performance.”
Other research has revealed the benefits of blueberries when taken along with other berries, such as strawberry and raspberry. One study in the journal Nutrients found that drinking a smoothie, which included a mix of different berries, helped maintain or improve cognitive performance over a six-hour day – plenty of time to help you ace even the longest of interviews.
And how about your morning brew? Well it could assist with making you more alert. “Caffeine can be helpful to a certain extent – a small dose prior can be helpful before a point you want mental performance. However, too much makes you jittery, especially if you’re feeling nervous. You could swap this for green tea, this contains a balancing amino acid, which gives you the mental energy from caffeine without the jitters,” explains Sophie Medlin.
According to one survey from JDP, more than 90% of us feel anxious before a job interview, and it’s no wonder as these can be extremely stressful situations. To tackle this, firstly make sure to drink plenty of water. Dehydration may actually make your anxiety worse, so it’s a good reason to take a bottle of water with you into that interview. You may also find certain beverages helpful with your pre-interview nerves, such as camomile tea, for example, which has been found to help with anxiety.
When we’re anxious, many of us naturally crave sugar. While we don’t want to reach for a ton of sugary snacks before the meeting (more on why that’s a bad idea in a moment!), tucking into a few squares of dark chocolate could be a helpful, as it’s been found to help boost your mood.
If your interview is first thing, eating a high protein breakfast is a great idea. Think about making an omelette or smoked salmon (which also offers an omega 3 boost) on wholemeal toast. High protein foods help balance your blood sugar, which, in turn, can aid with preventing anxiety or a change of mood.
Cuisine to cut out
While making sure you don’t head to the interview hungry or dehydrated is top priority, there are a few things you can sidestep to help you perform at your best as well. Firstly, if you’re a naturally anxious person, there’s two types of drinks to avoid.
“If you’re at all prone to nerves, avoid alcohol and caffeine before it,” says Sophie Medlin. But if you can’t bear to go decaf, you may be able to have your morning latte. Technically, around four cups of coffee a day shouldn’t cause any negative effects, but some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others.
Next, ditch the sugary snacks. “Be conscious of foods that are high in refined sugars, and opt for high protein instead. You want your blood sugar to stay stable during the interview!” explains Sophie. Ever found yourself wanting to nap at your desk after indulging in a few slices of your colleague’s birthday cake? That’s why. And this doesn’t just mean sweet treats. Any refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and pasta, will make your blood sugar spike quickly, with it being thought this could contribute to poorer memory.
While we can’t promise you’ll get the role of your dreams, we hope these simple nutrition tips have helped you feel equipped in the best ways to support your body during your next job interview. By focusing on staying hydrated, eating high protein foods, and avoiding refined sugar, you can ensure you feel your very best when you walk through the door to that next opportunity.
Jenna Farmer is a freelance journalist who specialises in writing about gut health. She has Crohn’s disease, and blogs at abalancedbelly.co.uk
To find out more about nutrition, visit the Nutritionist Resource, or speak to a qualified nutritionist.