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“Hiring is a manager’s most important job.”
– Peter F. Drucker (1909-2005), American management consultant and author
How do many job seekers self-sabotage during interviews? What qualities often make a successful job interview?
Liz Ryan, founder and CEO of Human Workplace, has conducted many an interview. In ‘The Startling Truth About Hiring Decisions’, she describes her experiences in corporate HR as a career-coach for fellow employees pursuing other work. Of the many candidates she spoke with, the ones that stood out were the ones who spoke with purpose and conviction. “They knew why they wanted the job they were applying for, and they knew that they could make a difference in it,” Ryan notes, “[t]hey weren’t afraid to be themselves.”
However, she also notes this is easier said than done. So, how do job-seekers attain this level of confidence?
They learn by confronting the fear of failure. Oftentimes, as Ryan points out, nervous candidates play the role of people-pleaser – a persona rather than a personality. In the absence of authenticity, the memory of the interview fades into obscurity. You won’t make an impression on anyone by phoning it in. Realizing the value in self-expression is the key to more natural – and compelling – conversations in job interviews.
“They just sat in the chair and had a conversation”
Ryan backs up her observations and advice with valuable context from her own interviewing experiences. However, no advice on reducing nerves or increasing interviewees’ confidence is given. How can we appear poised when we’re shaking inside?
An important thing to remember is that hiring managers are people too – just because they represent a successful organization in an important industry doesn’t mean your responses should be manufactured. In his classic What Color is Your Parachute?, best-selling advice author Richard Bolles emphasizes job interviews as both a two-way conversation and a learning experience. Building a rapport and engaging interviewers as individuals creates a less intimidating, more informative experience for both parties.
Connections before contracts
Trusting that the right fit will come along, Ryan insists, also goes a long way. Bolles also shares this very optimistic, very American point of view that there is a perfect job for everyone. Consider me a bit skeptical on that claim. We do, however, have much more choice and freedom than many job seekers seem to realize.
Remembering your strengths, giving yourself the credit you deserve for your achievements, and focusing on your advantages creates more possibilities.
It’s also okay to be rejected and “fail” an interview. It’s absurd to expect yourself to be a perfect fit for all potential employers – even in your niche career. Sometimes remembering that the quality of our professional lives matter gives us the courage to speak more openly and candidly about ourselves and our expectations.
May I suggest that you allow yourself to be stumped by hard questions and tailor your answers for the actual job you seek to fill? How would you perform in this particular work environment? Would you fit in? How do you know? Risking being authentic in your responses and evaluations. If you do so, you will also create more meaningful and insightful interviews for both you and the potential employer.
How have you prepared for past job interviews? How do you help your English students prepare for job interviews? What advice do you pass onto them?
For further reading, check out our chapter on Practicing Interviews from Compelling American Conversations, available for $3.99 on Teachers Pay Teachers! Featuring a number of fluency-focused activities to strengthen English speaking skills – plus expansions from the Teacher Edition – we hope this savvy resource will make a great addition to your English classroom!