Again this week I had a conversation about the how and why people are selected at interviews, and I thought it might be useful to touch on what that certain ‘something’ might be, that when it appears, puts you ahead of the competition. It is something that is often more important than qualifications; the successor can hold lesser qualifications and experience and yet still walk away with the prize.
What on earth is it?
Well, it is something often elusive and really hard to describe but I will give it a go.
- Fitting in without ‘trying’ to fit in.
- Being yourself, thus presenting a genuine quality.
- Confidence without being overwhelming (I call this quiet confidence).
- It is understanding the absurdity of the situation whilst taking in seriously.
- It is about compassion for the interviewers.
And they are just some descriptions, I could go on, but you get the idea. These are of course based on the interview panel and the interview itself being genuine. The vast majority of people are decent souls who in this situation want to find the right candidate for the team but equally, do not want to make any other reasonable sort miserable.
Success, past a certain level (or age), is about nuance and grace as well as intelligence; it is about self-awareness and acceptance but also about ambition and seriousness.
So quite a tangle then, all very well but how the heck does you do all that? Some of this is hard to achieve and that is what I spend a good part of my working life achieving with people. In a nutshell, I would say it is about confidence and relaxing (as far as you can), so that you present a good reflection of yourself and therefore have more chance of being accepted into a team that is a good fit for you.
Most interview conversations have the express hope of finding out whether you will be a good fit; yes it is true that often inexperienced or inappropriate people are given this responsibility. If the interviewer finds themselves overwhelmed and they behave badly that is a reflection of them, not of you.
Sometimes our own lack of confidence can lead us to press too strongly about how we feel an interview should be conducted or how we ‘know’ the answer to their problems. Just hold back on that and do a self-check. They know their business better than you (and even if they don’t they believe they do) so you are only going to alienate and annoy and obviously not get the position.
You should never ever compromise who you are of course, but sometimes when we are under pressure we can become a little too much of ourselves – more strident perhaps or more reserved. This is the time that knowing yourself and knowing how you react under pressure is invaluable.
Above all else, you need to find your confidence and quiet self-belief. Even the most confident of people experience times of horrifying self-doubt they just understand that there is no point in staying in this frame of mind and so offer themselves a sharp reminder to ‘get a grip’ when needed.
Think about the kind of person who is easiest to be around. I would suggest they are the ones that whilst showing some human frailty they are confident enough to just get on with tasks and objectives. Is there anything more exhausting than people who need reassurance on too regular a basis or whose continual pressing on how accomplished they are proves quite the opposite?
The quickest step to this place is acceptance for who you are right now, with the anticipation that once you know better you will do better. Separate out what you bring to any exchange be it interview or conversation; take responsibility for that and not for what is going on for the interviewer.
Here’s to your success and if we can help, you know where we are