BY: Joanna Samuels, B.Ed (Adult Education), M.Ed, CMF, CTDP, RRP
I had a interview coaching session with a panel of JVS job developers just before my upcoming interview for an office manager position that I am 100 percent qualified for. Their feedback upset me. They said that I was scaring them with my responses.
Is this possible? How can the interviewer or hiring manager be afraid of me?
Signed: Fear Factor (FF)
You are lucky that you received this honest feedback. You can be sure the hiring managers or HR staff would never dare to give you such critical information on your interview. Employment blogger Maggie Graham presents the following ways that job seekers can scare the hiring manager at the interview. I have included my own advice, based on my frontline practice as well with my clients:
1. Being negative and complaining about previous employers.
Be very careful about what you say about previous employers or colleagues, Graham advises, adding that “no matter how much bait the hiring manager throws you, dodge every invitation to go negative. It’s like trashing your ex on a first date. People can’t help but wonder what you’ll say about them in a few months’ time.”
2. Sounding too desperate.
“I’ll do anything” is a common comment I often hear, when asking clients about their job goals. This reveals desperation to employers and does not help them to see you as the best candidate for the position. Although searching for a job is stressful and often leaves you vulnerable, you should not show this at a job interview. You need to present yourself in the most positive, professional way – from a point of strength, not weakness. No one wants to hire a person who cannot control their anxiety.
I’ve heard feedback from employers that if a person can’t handle the stress of an interview, how will he or she handle the stress of meeting tight deadlines of multi-million dollar projects?
3. Counting the chickens before the eggs hatch.
Don’t rely on one employer, one job or just one opportunity. This is another source of anxiety. Generate multiple opportunities for yourself, so that you don’t expect too much from one interview. As Graham posits, you will be “more relaxed going into an interview when you know you’ve got several other options in the pipeline.”
4. Focusing on what is in it for you.
If you start asking questions about the salary, the benefits and vacation days at the interview, it’s a turn-off. Your interview presentation (on the phone and in person) should be about how you can help the employer, what you can deliver and not about what you want or need. If and when you get a job offer, this is the time to “hash out the details and the fine print later”, Graham suggests.
5. Taking questions too literally or not answering the question.
When interviewers ask questions, they are also trying to figure out how you handle co-workers, managers, deadlines, team work, and other “soft” skills. For example, when you’re asked about working with multi-generational teams, there’s a subtext to that question: it’s not just about whether you play nice with everyone. It’s about whether you’ll make a power grab, undermine someone younger (or older) than you, ridicule someone who isn’t syncing with your tech skills. There’s a great deal of unspoken concern in every question that comes your way.
Listen to the question, answer what is asked, and make sure to share examples from your work history where you can showcase your skills. Read up on this issue in a previous post.
6. Talking too much.
Find a balance between talking too much and not enough in the interview. Graham advises candidates to “think about how much you’re talking vs how much the hiring manager or interview team is talking. You should be saying more, but not by much. Look for a 60/40 or 70/30 split with you on the higher side“.
To submit your questions for this column in confidence, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joanna Samuels B.Ed. (Adult Education), M.Ed., CMF, CTDP, RRP is a certified Life Skills Coach, and certified Personality Dimensions Facilitator who works at JVS Toronto as a Job Developer/Job Coach/Workshop Facilitator. Also, Joanna is a part-time instructor of employment counselling with people with disabilities at George Brown College.