I know I’m risking an angry response from some of my dear readers, but seriously…I’m worried about you. Being interviewed for a job is a lot like being on camera…we interviewers see almost every flaw, including things you can’t believe we see.
One of the most important things that shines through during a job interview is the attitude you carry with you. And your attitude matters not only because it tells us how you handle the interview process – but also how you would be to work with on a day to day basis. And I’m not just talking about the attitude you try to show us during the actual job interview. Let me explain.
Why your attitude TODAY matters so much
I’ll bet many of you think you can simply turn on a smile in an interview and your interviewer won’t have the slightest clue about all kinds of stuff going on in your personal life. Well…luckily, in most cases, that’s probably true. But what does come through anyway – in your walk, handshake, presentation, body language, eye contact, smile, interview answers, and stories – is a lot about who you are as a person and how you handle tough times.
So now here’s where I risk your wrath: How are you handling things today, right this minute? Some of you are really letting the interview process get deeply personal. Sure it’s horrible. And sure it drives us absolutely bonkers. But how you handle all this tells me a lot about how you will handle the job as well – and may affect your job interview.
Are you feeding the good stuff or the frustration?
In my extensive work life at almost all levels of the career ladder, I have rarely found a job that wasn’t at some point filled with roadblocks, frustrations or simply things that at some time in some way drove me absolutely looney tunes.
I’ve seen critical projects and improvements delayed for years or ignored completely. I’ve seen people who do nothing or do too much or seem to get in your face just to bug you. I’ve seen political games played all around that sometimes hurt innocent folks. And I’ve even seen hiring processes that take waaay too long – while our workers have to carry the extra load. And those of us depending on (but unable to control) the hiring process, consider hiring someone to scream for us because we’re too overwhelmed by the insanity to do it for ourselves.
Ok. I threw some of that in just to remind you there are two sides to the horrors of hiring – and many seemingly irrational, controlled-by-no-one aspects. And yes…you’d think that would/ should/ could lead to process improvement within the company. But getting stuck in woulda/ shoulda/ coulda won’t help YOU! So until you are in a position to change things, let’s let that go, ok?
For now and forever, please remember that the people who get ahead in interviews (and in their careers) are the ones who see all this and take it in perspective for what it is. BUT, instead of getting stuck with what isn’t working and how someone done ‘em wrong, they look for ways to make things better for themselves – and maybe even for others around them.
And what about the whiners and blamers? Well…sorry to say, more often than not (there are always exceptions) they get passed over. Again and again. And then they wonder why. And they blame some more. And they look everywhere except right there in the mirror at the one person who can truly help make things better. Seriously…who would you rather work with: a they-done-me-wrong whiner or a how-can-I-help-make-things-better doer? (If your answer is the whiner, we have a lot more to discuss about why your career might not be working for you! )
Now please know I try to make this blog a safe place where you can express your deepest frustrations as well as your successes. The hiring process is truly awful and many employers should be ashamed of themselves for the way they treat people. I want you to feel free to let it out here on Work Coach Cafe – so maybe you can then let it go.
But I also hope when it comes to real life, you will stop and take an honest look at how you are reacting to all this. And how much time you’re spending on things that just don’t help – and may even hurt. Is the way you’re handling your job search really working for you? And remember…the way you handle things here may very well reflect how you handle other things, including your jobs – and why you don’t move ahead as fast and as far as you would like.
PLEASE take the time to really think about how you reacted when you didn’t get an interview or if you got the interview and didn’t get the offer or – here it comes – when you didn’t hear back from a potential employer on YOUR time schedule or in a way that you think is the “right” way. While some whining, screaming, cursing, growling, crying, curling up in a fetal position, etc. is totally understandable and even feels good at times – lord knows – are you spending too much time stuck in blaming and whining?
If so, not only are you wasting valuable time and energy creating your own misery (we live in the attitude we create), but you are throwing away precious time you could use to find new people to network with, new companies to target, places to volunteer and meet folks, conferences or workshops that might help, and opportunities to upgrade your skills or become an expert in some field. Or you could use the time to be with family and friends. Or finally get to start working on that special thing you’ve always wanted to do (but never had the time) – something that could possibly enhance your entire life. Or, giving it a zen twist, just time to practice letting go of what you can’t control and focusing on what you can.
Coincidentally, any and all of this can also help you interview better.
Wait…why would this help improve my interviews?
When you are engaged in positive vital activities rather than spending your days on the couch feeling weak, helpless and ignored (this is deep stuff and worth exploring), you actually interview better. Partly because you have something current and interesting to talk about, but even more importantly because you feel stronger – and you’ve spent more of your time being happy and productive. This is positive energy you’ve created for yourself that can add to the way interviewers see you (as well as folks you meet while networking). It can also add to your life as a whole, well beyond this job search since attitude is a habit that lives on.
And all that can show in how you feel about yourself and how you carry yourself, etc. - and therefore in your interviews. The whiny blame game can become a bad habit that’s hard to kick – and one that undermines your chances of succeeding. And the same goes (even more so) AFTER you get the job.
I won’t mention any names, but one of my readers has been denied jobs for a reason that makes my blood boil. But not only does this person still stay focused on the real prize – getting herself a good job – she is also using her time and many talents to help change policy so others don’t have to go through what she is dealing with. (So proud of her!)
I see this as positive practical energy that will pay off in the long run – plus it reminds her of who she is and what she has to offer the world. Being unemployed and ignored does a horrible number on self worth. Please know you are still the same capable, talented person and there will be employers who see that – especially when you come to the table re-energized and reminded of all you are… and focused on how to get things done despite obstacles, a HUGE plus in interviews. (And not focused on all that’s being done to you!)
Emotions are lousy decision-makers
And finally…for anyone who hasn’t heard back from an interview and so you decide to punish THEM by withdrawing/ giving up (the real inspiration for this post)…well, what does that really say about how you handle challenges? There’s nothing lost if you do the best you can and just let the process happen in its own way and time. Either you get it or you don’t. What’s the big deal in leaving options open and (if possible) good feelings behind? It’s a great career approach. And anyway…you still need to keep looking with full job search determination everywhere you can no matter what until you get an actual offer!
As I’ve mentioned before…while keeping myself otherwise occupied, I once waited 3 -4 months to hear back from a great group phone interview. THREE TO FOUR MONTHS! In the interim, I simply sent an initial thank-you note and a follow-up e-mail every few weeks. I think I called once. And I turned out to be their top candidate!
FYI: Organizational changes (and later scheduling issues) had forced the delay – and no amount of calling or e-mailing on my part would have changed that. Could they have kept me better informed? Sure. Could that reflect on the type of employer they are? Sure. But in this case, I happen to know they are a great team to work with and it’s a wonderful company. They were simply overwhelmed at the time by major concurrent projects (yes…of course hiring sooner would have helped) and also they were/are very VERY bad at the interview process. (As always…I advise against jumping to conclusions based on only the part of the interview iceberg you see.)
So before you jump to any conclusions or make job search (as well as career) decisions based mostly on frustration, think about what you might stand to lose – as well as all you might gain by learning to go with the flow. At the very least, unless you know for sure something is wrong, you might as well stay in the process until you hear otherwise. You never know what is happening behind the scenes that has nothing to do with whether it’s a great place to work. Really. And it’s always worth keeping contacts warm and friendly for the future – people you meet now can wind up anywhere.
I worry that some of you feel so helpless and so abused by the process, you understandably want to take action. And since you do feel frustrated (and of course really need that job) and can’t influence the process beyond doing your best in the interview and occasional polite follow ups, you sometimes take the only action you can – blaming, aiming your anger at THEM, and maybe even giving up. You’re angry because you don’t have a job and deserve one. I get that and can understand why you feel as you do.
But when emotions take hold, you may not be seeing the whole picture or acting in your own best interest. Please aim your energy toward things that will help you now and in the future – and don’t waste it snarling at a process neither you nor I will ever fully understand nor probably be able to change to our satisfaction.
As my friend Paul so wisely wrote on his blog Work/Life Fusion:
It may feel like it sometimes
…but other people are not in your way!
Right on, Paul. And to all of you…please excuse my rant. I just care so much and want you to give yourself the best possible chance in your interviews and career!
Best of luck!