So cultivate the one that works!
Here’s my favorite story about interview attitude:
Many years ago, when my daughter was 4, she had to take a standardized test to assess her readiness for kindergarten. (It’s a New York thing; don’t ask! :-)).
The night before, as I was tucking her in, I gave her a preview of coming attractions that went like this:
Tomorrow after breakfast, we’re going to take the subway into the city, and we’re going to go meet some new people. I think they’re going to be nice, and if they’re nice, we can stay and you can play with them. And if you don’t want to, we’ll just leave and go the park.
What inspired this cozy and disingenuous pep talk? Well, I was thinking about the alternate speech that I’m pretty sure parents throughout the city were delivering to their four-year-olds on that very same night:
Tomorrow after breakfast, we’re going to take the subway into the city, and you’re going to take a test to get into kindergarten. It’s REALLY IMPORTANT that you do well on this test, so I want you to be on your best behavior, and don’t you dare act like a baby. Be polite to everybody and show them how smart you are.
Ridiculous, right? When you compare those two speeches side-by-side, you can see which one is going to help the recipient relax (relaxed and friendly is the attitude that works), and which one is going to make them incredibly uptight.
So why do we constantly do this to ourselves?
How often have you gone into an interview thinking:
- “It’s VERY IMPORTANT that I do this well,” or
- “I have to impress them,” or
- “I need to show them how smart I am.”
Attitudes like these are self-defeating for two main reasons:
1. As already noted, they make us uptight!!
2. They completely misconstrue what’s really going on at a job interview.
What IS a job interview?
Many people think that a job interview is the place to prove they’re qualified for a job.
But trust me on this one: If you got the interview, they know that you’re qualified! (If you weren’t, they wouldn’t be wasting their time.)
What they’re looking for now is whether or not they want you around.
And when are you most likely to make a positive impression on people who are trying to assess whether you’re a “good fit” for their colleagues and company?
HINT: It’s probably not when you’re putting yourself under tons of desperate pressure to “perform well” or impress others.
So how should you prepare for your next job interview?
- Research the school, program, or company you’re applying to
- Think through and practice answering the questions you’re likely to be asked (particularly the ones you’d rather not answer!)
And, to solidify your relaxed and friendly attitude…
Follow these six “attitude adjustment” strategies
This is the approach I took when my daughter was 4 (and again, when she took the SAT’s):
- Review your interview notes and materials (4-year-olds can skip this part)
- Do everything possible to downplay any negative or desperate feelings you’re having (they’re just feelings; they mean nothing except that you’re human)
- Try to get a good night’s sleep the night before your interview
- Eat a solid, healthy breakfast and hydrate. Then…
- Go meet some new people who might be nice, and
- If you like them, have a good conversation.