4 pieces of ancient wisdom to help you crush your next interview

Prepping for an interview? From looking into the company’s culture and values to identifying key stakeholders in the organization, you might have done a lot of research. But you probably haven’t thought of tapping into ancient wisdom to help you prepare. 

Yes, you read that right. You can glean precious learnings from centuries-old nuggets of wisdom and relate them to the interview process — insights from great thinkers and significant historical figures. 

While ancient Greek philosophers or Buddhism don’t directly address the perils of applying for a new job and trying hard to get an offer, they do offer a fresh perspective that can feel energizing after days of Googling the best job interview tips and oscillating between interview prep fatigue and straight-up delirium. 

If you’re ready to look at your upcoming interview with a different perspective, here are four pieces of ancient wisdom to help you crush it on the big day. 

Stoicism 

When we think of the word stoic, we tend to picture a very calm person who almost looks devoid of emotion. But Stoicism, an ancient Greek Philosophy developed around 300 B.C., goes beyond that popular perception of the word. 

“A Stoic believes they don’t control the world around them, only how they respond—and that they must always respond with courage, temperance, wisdom, and justice,” according to Daily Stoic

Courage, temperance, wisdom and justice are the four virtues that inform the Stoic school of thought. And each one of them contains an insight you can leverage in a job interview

Courage is an obvious one: Putting yourself out there and facing rejection is not easy, but it must be done if you wanna land the job. 

Think of temperance like self-control and not letting extreme emotions overcome you. Instead of approaching your interview feeling intense excitement about potentially getting the job or debilitating fear about the idea of not getting it, aim to form a more neutral opinion about any potential outcomes. This will help you stay measured while facing pre-interview nerves

As for wisdom, it’s all about applying knowledge and rational thinking in action instead of responding impulsively to external events. So if you’re asked a tough question, take a short pause to recenter and think of how you want to approach your answer instead of reacting on a whim. 

Finally, the Stoic virtue of justice focuses on our interconnectedness in the world. And when it comes to applying for a job, it’s a great reminder to take a step back from perceiving the situation as a ruthless competition. Aim to explore the potential alignment between you and an employer instead of stressing over other applicants. 

Aristotle 

“For Aristotle, a thing is best understood by looking at its end, purpose, or goal. For example, the purpose of a knife is to cut, and it is by seeing this that one best understands what a knife is; the goal of medicine is good health, and it is by seeing this that one best understands what medicine is” according to Psychology Today

What does this have to do with crushing a job interview? It’s actually one of the most essential things to keep in mind: Understanding the goals of the company and the role you’re applying for. Without that understanding, you won’t be able to position yourself effectively in your interactions with your interviewers. 

So make sure the purpose of the company and the role is crystal clear before heading into your interview — and that any information you prep beforehand ties to those outcomes. 

The Sophists 

The Sophists were controversial characters. Consider them the consultants of ancient Greece — they were paid teachers and intellectuals who offered their services to wealthy young men. 

What did they teach? Aretē, which can be loosely defined as virtue or excellence. But the way their teachings evolved is what is most inspiring when it comes to the modern-day job interview. 

“In democratic Athens of the latter fifth century B.C.E., however, aretē was increasingly understood in terms of the ability to influence one’s fellow citizens in political gatherings through rhetorical persuasion; the Sophistic education both grew out of and exploited this shift,” according to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Persuasive communication is such a critical piece of career success. It doesn’t matter how much you know and what you’ve done if you’re not able to properly convey it when it counts the most. So when you get ready for your interview, make sure you not only focus on the contents of your message, but also on your delivery. 

Buddhism

Buddhist principles emphasize non-attachment, the art of mindfulness and the practice of consciously and continuously detaching from things like your own views and perceptions, objects and material things, desires or relationships. 

When you detach your sense of identity from your career or aim to deconstruct any stressful or disempowering thoughts you have about the interview process, you can show up on the day of the interview present and aware but gently detached from the outcome.  

It’s not about not caring and being aloof, but being intentional about your state of mind in the face of a situation you ultimately can’t control. And when you let go of control, you can appreciate the process a lot more and end up learning from it, whether you get the job or not.