By Jim Hasse
The foundation for feeling confident in any job interview situation is knowing yourself, how you react to various situations and preparing yourself so you can be at the top of your performance.
It’s critical that you have personally addressed your strengths and challenges and that you have discovered how and where you do your best work, according to Sybil Pressprich, Senior Counselor, Adult Career & Special Student Services, University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“Get feedback from others and pay attention to yourself and your reactions to various situations,” recommends Pressprich, who organizes practice interview situations for her clients.
Decide what you want to get across to your interviewers during the first 15 minutes of the discussion. Think like an employer. Ask yourself: “Who am I? What does the employer expect?” she says.
And, always prepare for a behavioral interview, which is much more probing than traditional interviewing. Under a behavioral interview, employers predetermine which skills are necessary for the open job and then ask very pointed questions to determine if you possess those skills.
For example, if successful customer care is essential for a position, then you may be asked about your experience in customer service and your views about how to achieve superior customer service.
So, in other words, Pressprich explains, the key to feeling confident during your next job interview is preparation.
However, displaying confidence during a job interview is often difficult, especially if you have disability issues to address. But you’re not alone. In fact, Pressprich points out, 98 percent of jobseekers experience self-doubt and even some symptoms of depression at some time during a job search.
The good news is that there are steps you can take to alleviate that stress and depression and build your self-confidence.
Consider these confidence building strategies that Pressprich offered to career counselors during the 12th Annual Summer Institute on Education and Work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in July 2011.
- Focus on your past experiences and personal strengths.
- Take classes and workshops to improve your interpersonal skills.
- Take small steps in moving forward to reach your goals.
- Challenge the negative thought, “I’ve had so many interviews and no job offer; what is wrong with me?” Replace it with affirmative thoughts.
I found Pressprich’s suggested tactics for focusing on personal strengths particularly helpful. She recommends “The Interview Rehearsal Book: Seven Steps to Job-winning Interviews Using Acting Skills You Never Knew You Had” by Deb Gottesman and Buzz Mauro (Berkley Pub Group, 1999).
Gottesman and Mauro recommend keeping a journal and completing two of these sentences each day leading up to your interview.
- One of the nicest compliments I have ever received is …
- People can always depend on me to …
- My most important achievement so far this year is …
- I really helped someone when I ...
- My greatest personal strength is …
- I know a lot about …
- My co-workers appreciate me for my …
- A good decision I recently made is …
- One thing I really like about myself is …
- Most people are surprised to hear that I …
You can even capture these affirmative thoughts on a daily basis and keep them on Post It notes on your mirror. Then, review all of your notes the day before your interview.
You can also identify your attributes by following this exercise: Complete the sentence, “I am …,” creating a list of adjectives (which may already be in your resume) to describe yourself. Select the top five attributes you believe to be most noteworthy.
Then, for each attribute, the co-authors recommend writing a specific example from your work or personal life about when you exhibited that trait.
What are the three attributes which could prove to be most useful in the job for which you are interviewing? Write about how each of these three attributes would be helpful for your future employer. Also review those the day before your interview, Gottesman and Mauro explain.
By following these simple exercises, Pressprich says, you’re controlling what’s real, managing your stress and detailing your attributes. You’re preparing yourself to present what you want to get across to your prospective employer during those first 15 critical minutes of your job interview.
How critical are those first 15 minutes? According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 63 percent of job interviewers generally know 15 minutes into a job interview whether they’ll make a “not-to-hire” decision when they meet a job candidate for an interview.
So, those 15 minutes of your job interview are critical.
Interviewing is a portal through which talent enters an organization, points out Florence Haley, SPHR, IPMA-HR CP, Director of Human Resources, City of Beloit, WI. If you get to an interview, she says, you know the prospective employer believes you can do the job. The interviewers want to find out if you’re the right fit for the organization and if you’re motivated to do the job to the best of your ability.
Employers believe past behavior predicts future behavior, counsels Haley, who also spoke at the 12th Annual Summer Institute. She advises that you tell your interviewers what they want to know in concrete terms through brief stories about your accomplishments.
Those stories, according to Haley, should answer these questions that your interviewer most likely has in the back of his or her mind:
- Are you willing to learn?
- Do you have good communication skills?
- Do you know how to manage stress?
- Are you resourceful?
- Do you take the initiative?
- Are you open to change?
Give details, but be brief. Avoid generalities. “Cite the situation you faced, the action you took and the results (some kind of measurement) you generated,” Haley urges.
She always recommends avoiding statements such as, “This is my dream job,” “I think outside the box.” and “I’m results-oriented” -- which are generalities and have become clichés.
She also cringes when she hears, “I need a job” or “I just need a break,” which I also sometimes hear from jobseekers with disabilities. Employers really don’t care because those considerations are irrelevant to the interview situation, which is designed to match what the job requires with what the job applicant offers, Haley asserts.
But, employers want you to do a good job in the interview because they want to find the right person for the job, she says. “They don’t want to find themselves again interviewing to fill the same job in six months.”
So, prepare, practice and relax. And be yourself.
Copyright © 2011. Hasse Communication Counseling. All rights reserved.
Jim Hasse, ABC, GCDF, (www.jimhasse.com) has compiled and edited the recommendations of HR experts and the personal observations of both job seekers and hiring managers into Perfectly Able: How to Attract and Hire Talented People with Disabilities (www.perfectlyable.com), a comprehensive disability recruitment guidebook for hiring managers published by AMACOM (September 2010), the publishing arm of the American Management Association. Lighthouse International (www.lighthouse.org), New York City, is the author of the 272-page hard-cover book, which continues to evolve online on Hasse's forum, Timely Tips for Retaining Employee Talent (forum.perfectlyable.com). Jim is founder of www.cerebral-palsy-career-builders.com, the comprehensive career coaching guide for parenting youngsters seven to 27 years old who have cerebral palsy.
Aug 08 2011, 04:41 PM