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Self-Confidence in a Job Interview

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Self-confidence in a job interview is simply the result of feeling well prepared, which you will be. It is quickly polished with practice, which is another reason to interview as often as you can.

Self-confidence is not arrogance. It is not a chip-on-the-shoulder, "Why should I work for you?" attitude. Instead, it is an attitude that says: "I am serious about my career. I enjoy my work I can do this job. I will become very good at it. When can I start?" After you have interviewed with several companies you will discover that, although the questions generally remain the same, each company and each interviewer has a different style. Most interviewers are one-on-one, you and the supervisor. Most supervisors are not trained interviewers and probably would feel more comfortable doing something more directly associated with their jobs. You may actually be better prepared and more relaxed than they are. In this case, your ability to control the direction of the interview through your questions will be easier and likely much appreciated. The best interviewers, unfortunately, are found in the personnel department. Since you will not be meeting any of them, be prepared to rescue an aimless, wandering interview and ensure that your interview objectives are attained.

Occasionally you will be involved in a nonstandard interview. Such interviews might include the presence of multiple interviewers alternately firing questions at you to test your reactions under pressure. Other interviewers may reverse the situation by having several applicants take turns responding to the same question from the interviewer.

For example, I once participated in an exercise with a company that invited the eight "finalists" to a second interview where the interviewers asked us to play a game. Each of us was asked to imagine yourself as a manager supervising one subordinate who had searched another absent subordinate's desk for some information needed to resolve an urgent job-related problem. Searching another's desk was an explicit violation of company policy. However, in the course of the search, the first subordinate had discovered some stolen company property. He then reported the stolen property and the method of discovery to us (the finalists), the collective mythical manager. Each of us was then asked in turn how the situation was to be handled. Should both violations be punished, or only one, or neither? Then, a different managerial problem was presented, and again each of us outlined our proposed solutions.

Some interview techniques and tricks are legendary. The classic interview problem posed to lower-level sales applicants is for the interviewer to hand the applicant an object and instruct him or her, "Persuade me to buy this." Other famous tricks to test poise are seating the applicant on a wobbly chair, positioning the applicant so that the sun glares into his or her eyes, or inviting the applicant to smoke without providing an ashtray.

No matter what form the interview takes, the ingredients for success remain the same: self-confidence, enthusiasm, and participation. No matter what efforts are undertaken to test your poise under pressure, remember that poise is also a result of self-confidence.

If, however, you believe that you have encountered the very rare interviewer who simply enjoys placing applicants in demeaning situations, stand up, excuse yourself, and leave. You are in the interview of your own free will and you are under no obligation to endure disrespect or rudeness. Again, such problems are rare.

The interview sometimes includes an element of formal testing. With the current concern over providing equal opportunities in employment to all applicants, many forms of standardized employment tests have fallen into disfavor or disuse. The one form of testing that remains and appears to be growing in popularity is psychological testing. Some companies request that all final candidates for hire meet with the company psychologist. The purpose of this meeting, the company says, is simply to ensure that you are compatible with the rest of the organization and to evaluate your potential. These are laudable and valid goals if true. No matter what the purpose of the psychological evaluation, the process can be construed as an invasion of your privacy. As such, this evaluation is often viewed with trepidation by candidates. Although I have never talked to an individual who did not ultimately enjoy the psychological evaluation and view it as a valuable learning experience, the final decision belongs to the individual and not the company. Therefore, if you are strongly opposed to such an evaluation, politely decline or, better yet, try to get the interviewer to change his or her opinion about the need for the evaluation. State that you would be happy to see the psychologist and let the company learn all about you as long as the interviewer goes also, so that you can hear what the psychologist has to say about the interviewer.

If you decline the requested evaluation, you also will probably destroy your chances for the job, as your competition will not decline.

The final step in the interview, as mentioned previously, is closing the interview. This bears repeating, since clarity in your communication is vital. As you are shaking the interviewer's hand on the way out the door, ask what is the next step, who is responsible for accomplishing that step, and when will it be taken. If you have not done so earlier, ask when the final decision is due. Finally, express interest in the job. Remember, your objective is to get a job offer, whether you want the job or not.

However, if you have concluded or been informed already that the interviewer has no interest in you, and you have exhausted your counterarguments without success, your objective instead becomes to obtain leads on jobs elsewhere in the company or industry. Failing that, be certain that you leave the interview having made a friend and contact for future referral. Do not be reluctant to take advantage of that person's knowledge, influence, and advice. Every two weeks after the interview and until you do select a new position, re-contact the interviewer and inquire in a very friendly and confident manner about his or her knowledge of any new job openings within that company or industry. If you create enough of these valuable contacts, they will routinely funnel all appropriate leads to you out of friendship or frustration.
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