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I am in the process of interviewing for one of my dream companies. I am very impressed and the position looks like a great fit. I went through the screening and first couple round of interviews and did well. Their last step is a "virtual onsite" where they said I would be interviewing with several different people. I assumed that this would be anywhere from one and a half to two and a half hours. However, when I received the invitation, I saw that the interview is going to be five separate interviews with each one being 45 minutes long with 15 minute breaks in between them.

I'm honestly terrified of being interviewed for that long. The longest interview I've ever had to do up to this point in my career has been two hours and that already exhausted me. I am worried that if any of the individual interviews go over there time, I won't actually get the fifteen minute breaks in between interviews and become tired.

How can I stay mentally and physically focused for such a long time with or without breaks between each of these interviews?

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  • Is this your first job? – Tymoteusz Paul Dec 8 '20 at 18:24
  • @TymoteuszPaul no, I have been in software development for 6 years now – mkamerath Dec 8 '20 at 18:24
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    Coffee is your friend – Neo Dec 8 '20 at 19:00
  • @Neo, unfortunately, I'm not a coffee drinker – mkamerath Dec 8 '20 at 19:39
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    @TankorSmash Nah, I'd suggest not mixing up your routines. – Michael McFarlane Dec 9 '20 at 17:59
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How can I stay mentally and physically focused for such a long time with or without breaks between each of these interviews?

I am pretty sure that endurance is part of what they are wanting to test. In the end it's pretty easy to keep a façade for 30-45 minutes, and most people can keep pretending for an hour or two. But to pretend to be something you are not for 5 hours, now that's not something many people can do.

So how to actually handle this? The same way as you would do with meeting filled day at work - by enforcing time boundaries, preparing everything for each meeting a day ahead, and then taking the breaks to actually decompress not as a scramble to prepare for the next one.

While it may sound daunting to at least softly enforce the time boundaries, think about this day like you were already employed there, and then if you have a string of meetings, one after another, you have to do it, otherwise your next meeting will suffer because of the person before running over. It is a great quality to have if done correctly.

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  • Solid answer, though one might want to add some routines to stay focused. Those could include: Coffee or tea (both contain certain amounts of alkaloids of the xanthine-group), physical exercise with your feet (like tapping etc.) during remote interview, catching a breath of fresh air during breaks, moderate exercise during breaks (i.E.: a couple of jumping jacks) etc.. – iLuvLogix Dec 10 '20 at 10:28
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Don't Over Worry

Five hours is not so long unless you have an underlying condition (you have not specified as much). I strongly suspect that your adrenaline (or whatever important-task brain chemicals) will kick in and you'll focus. You'll do great, and even better if you keep a positive mindset!

For the extra boost, remind your interviewer you have stop once you go over by five minutes (they'll assume you have to pee). Then, spend the next five minutes clearing your mind by exercise, stretching, meditation or anything not task-related. Don't ruminate over missteps. Then, join your next session five minutes early and wait patiently. Good luck.

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Just the same way we tried to stay awake at school.

Try to participate as much as you can in the conversation. Ask as much questions as you can. Take notes. Be consciously interested. Everytime your brain drifts away and starts daydreaming or getting tired, notice it and go back to focusing. Be interested by the people you meet and make actual efforts to remember their names and what they say. And finally, use the breaks to recharge. Read your notes, tell yourself you did great and you can still go on.

If you're motivated enough, you can do it easily. Time passes by pretty fast when we're focused on something.

I saw some comments telling you to drink coffee for the first time. Don't do that. You don't know yet the effect coffee can have on your body. Sometimes it can resemble a panick attack : heart racing, sweating hands, really fast movements, and high stress levels... If you're an anxious person, don't drink it, ever. It can give you actual panic attacks (look up caffeine induced anxiety disorder). And not to forget that coffee makes you go s**t so quick. I'm not even joking. It accelerates digestion so you can imagine your stomach hurting and being gassy the whole time.

You can try it someday if you want and get used to it. But don't do it the day of the interview (for the reasons I listed earlier), or the days before (because it will completely ruin your sleep).

So if I were you, I'd avoid changing my habits, cause you don't know what can happen. Just be confident and do your best to stay interested, awake and focused. Good luck.

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This is not a 5 hour long interview. It is five "separate" interviews taking 45 minutes each, and you get a 15 minute break between.

In total the interview time is: 3 Hours 45 Minutes

With a break of: 1 Hour

Doesn't sound so long if you think of it this way.

How can I stay mentally and physically focused for such a long time with or without breaks between each of these interviews?

Make sure you go to sleep early and get enough sleep, best to start doing this at least a week before the interview. Make sure you drink enough water throughout the interview to stay hydrated.

Also are these all technical interviews, non technical, or a mix?

Try and not worry so much. Stop assuming that you wont get a break, and remember, this isn't one long arduous interview. By focusing on the negatives that may happen, you could end up inadvertently sabotaging the interview. Instead try and focus on the positives that may happen.

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That's quite a long interview but not unheard of from some of the FAANG companies. Onsite interviews are typically much harder than the initial screening interviews and so success in the screens does not guarantee success in the main set of interviews. If this is for the company I'm thinking of then it truly is gruelling so you'll need your A game for all of these 5 interviews.

The good news is that you mentioned Virtual Onsite which presumably means you don't have to go into the office to do these 5 interviews. That means you can attack this differently. You'll get 15 minutes between interviews to calm down and get prepared for the next one and that time is the most important. You need to put the interview you've just done behind you and reset in between each of these interviews.

Make sure you drink plenty water as you'll sweat more given the pressure and if you don't keep hydrated by the end you'll start to lose your voice. Unless you can't due to medical reasons then use a caffeinated drink like coffee, tea or a soft drink to keep your energy levels up and some quick snacks in between. 5 hours is long enough you'll be hungry by the end so even an apple or something in between that will keep your belly full.

Good luck with the interview.

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Don't go into this believing that it's going to be an awful, stressful experience. If you do that, then you've pretty much failed already.

The fact that they're willing to spend so much time with you means that this time is important - they're more than likely very interested in you and seeing how you fit in with the team.

See this as a positive

You're probably going to be "meeting" your team-mates and your managers and getting to know them and the work that they do. Don't be afraid to talk, don't be afraid to learn. If you're unsure about something you're asked about, don't be afraid to say so and show that you're willing to learn or work through things together. Say what your strengths are and what you'd probably need some collaboration time with.

This is a great opportunity for you. Enjoying this experience will help it go faster (and I'd be surprised if you didn't want it to go on for longer by the end of it).

Stay hydrated, and don't forget to eat and get a little movement in between sessions.

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