How you approach an interview, and the attitudes you adopt, will have a tremendous impact on your success at interviewing. There are eight attitudes and interviewing styles that can destroy your interviewing effectiveness: being apologetic or defensive, providing inappropriate information, expressing anti-business feelings, demonstrating negativity, showing an unwillingness to reveal your true self, being overly modest, bragging, and trying to take charge of an interview.
Many job applicants come across as apologetic or defensive. This usually occurs because they feel insecure and believe their background is weak in certain areas. Consider the following responses to the comment, “Ted, we’re looking for someone with six years of computer programming and systems analysis.”
An apologetic response: “I’m sorry, I only have four years of experience. I wish I had gone to school earlier in my career, then I’d have the six years. I really blew it.”
A defensive response: “Well, I don’t have six years of experience, I have four years. Every place I go they want more experience than I have. What’s wrong with my background?”
Whether apologetic or defensive, Ted’s lack of confidence comes through loud and clear. If the applicant lacks self-confidence, how can the interviewer be expected to have confidence in his or her ability?
Now consider Ted’s response after he’s had some interview coaching: “Mr. Jenkins, I’ve had four years of programming experience. Because of the variety of my experience, however, it’s equal to what most people gain in seven or eight years. During these last four years I’ve taken on every possible challenge so I’d be ready for this type of responsibility.”
Ted has learned the art of overcoming objections. The interviewer was probably impressed with Ted already when the question was asked. The job description specified six years of experience, but the inter-viewer realized it was not just a matter of years, but of the quality of experience. He was testing Ted, and Ted passed.
Giving inappropriate information in an interview can be disastrous. Let’s assume an interview has just started and the two people are still involved in small talk:
Interviewer: Did you see the latest Gallup Poll? It indicated the number-one goal of college students today is to get a good job and make a lot of money. Things sure have changed since the ’60s, haven’t they?
Sandy: I think college students have sold out. Everything now is “what’s in it for me?” When I was in school people cared and they took action. Look at what we did with the marches on Washington and the 1968 Democratic Convention.
Job interviews are not the place to discuss religion or politics. Both are emotional issues. You can win in such discussions only if your views coincide with the interviewer’s. It’s seldom worth taking the chance. In principle, any statements that do not help to sell you should be left out.
Unless your opinion on a specific matter is requested, it is generally inappropriate to express opinions. Have you known people who are so opinionated that they constantly insist on telling you what they think, whether you want their opinion or not? For instance, it would be very inappropriate to say something like, “Mr. Bertram, it’s probably none of my business, but have you noticed how old fashioned your logo looks?” Do you think this person scored any points?
The exceptions to the no-opinions rule: 1. Your opinion on an issue has been requested. Be honest in your response but also use discretion. 2. You are expressing an opinion in an area that you believe will help sell you. For example, “Mr. Johnson, I’ve studied virtually all of the Japanese and American theorists on management, and have tested many of those methods. What I’ve learned is that some of them are just fads and have no lasting impact. I’m still quick to embrace ideas that have been proven to work in U.S. companies, but I really look hard at them to see if they will work with my particular department.” Here the person has intentionally expressed an opinion. The comment demonstrates that this manager is very knowledgeable and that she has learned to be selective about introducing new management techniques.
Especially during the 1960s and 1970s, many college graduates went into interviews expressing a strong distaste for big business and capitalism. Today, liberal arts graduates are the ones most likely to con-sciously or unconsciously express an anti-business bias. Throughout the interview, demonstrate that although you majored in history or speech, you have an appreciation for private enterprise. Business people do not feel the need to defend the profit motive, neither do they want to enter a debate regarding their record on pollution control. Raising these and other anti-business issues merely raises questions about you.
If you have strong views on various issues, however, there is a solution. Research the company prior to the interview to determine how well it matches your values. If you like the organization and you’re called in for a second interview, research the organization more thoroughly. Even if your research doesn’t give you a definitive answer about the organization, go to the interview and thoroughly sell yourself. If the matter you’re concerned about is an emotional issue for you, it is probably best not to ask questions concerning the issue until the job is actually offered to you. When you do ask your questions, ask in a calm, objective fashion. If the company passes your test, you have an employer who shares your values.
A common problem I observe among job seekers is that they often create their own problems. They commonly do this by showing a streak of negativity. During interviews they often identify certain aspects of a job which they would not like. Unlike those who merely become less enthusiastic about the job, these people actually raise barriers. They will point out to the interviewer the perceived negative aspects of the job during the first interview. Remember, employers are often looking for reasons to exclude people from further consideration. If it appears a person has a negative attitude or really doesn’t want the job, the employer needs no further reasons for rejecting the person. The first or even second interview is not the time or place to raise issues such as the long hours, the long commute, or the inadequate medical plan. Keep silent on these issues and go right on selling yourself. After the job has been offered to you, then these issues should be raised and discussed. That is the proper time.
Unwillingness To Reveal Yourself
The person who carefully measures every response, and who seems fearful of revealing anything which could possibly be construed as negative, quickly creates a negative impression. The interviewer becomes frustrated by this total lack of self-disclosure. After the interview the employer knows about past job titles and duties, but has no sense of the person—he or she remains an unknown entity. While it’s important to be careful in what you say, you must also come across as genuine and real. Striking the right balance between openness and discretion is a matter of preparation. If you know the points you want to sell about yourself, if you are prepared to answer all of the typical questions, and if you are prepared to handle any difficult questions with tact and discretion, you will be able to relax more and be your true self.
Meek And Mild Doesn’t Make It
Some people are so concerned about the appearance of bragging that they are unwilling to say anything positive about themselves. Their attitude seems to be, “I probably won’t get the job, but at least I didn’t toot my own horn like a lot of people.” This is a self-defeating attitude. If you don’t say positive things about yourself, who will? Interviewing is all about selling yourself. To sell yourself you need to believe that you’re a pretty good product and that any company which hires you will be fortunate. If you tend to undersell yourself, it’s especially important that you take a good look at your accomplishments and identify the skills you demonstrated in those accomplishments.
To avoid the appearance of bragging, simply talk about your experiences. In this way, you can let the experience speak for itself. If the interviewer wants to be impressed, he can be; if not, he won’t. If the interviewer is not impressed, you haven’t hurt yourself because you did not create huge expectations. It’s better to respond in this way:
Employer: Are you effective at completing projects on schedule?
You: I’d have to say I’m very effective. Last year I . . .
I would say so. In June I. . . .
That’s one of my top strengths. I’ve worked on numerous projects that had very tight deadlines. One of them was already three months behind when I took it over, and I had only six months to complete it. . . .
In the beginning of each of these statements, the person sounded fairly modest but also confident. I don’t believe that anyone would think the person was bragging. So, go ahead and feel confident. As your story unfolds, it will speak for itself.
Interviewees are more apt to be too modest than to brag. Nevertheless, some do come across as bragging, and it always hurts the interviewee. Often the job seeker has no intention of bragging; it just comes out that way. The antidote to the appearance of bragging is sharing specific examples and letting the example speak on your behalf. The sense of bragging usually comes through because the interviewee merely makes claims yet never backs them up. Employers want to sense your confidence, but confidence should not spill over into conceit. Avoid saying you are outstanding in a certain area. Even if you provide a good, solid example, the interviewer may be disappointed because expectations were set so high. It is better to sound somewhat modest, and then share an impressive example, than to claim greatness and give an example demonstrating you are “only” excellent at that skill.
Taking Charge Does Not Work
Some interviewees feel compelled to take control of the interview. They dominate the conversation and take it in directions the interviewer never intended. Generally, this approach makes an interviewee seem arrogant. A client recounted how he began interviewing an applicant, and was still in a rapport-building stage, when out of nowhere the applicant said, “Well, let’s roll up our sleeves and really get to it.” This created an instant feeling of dislike. The applicant did not get the job. Another applicant entered the room, took off his coat, and announced, “Let’s get comfortable.” The results were the same.
Julie learned from inside sources that her –sailing nut