In part 1 of Are You a Defensive Interviewer? we talked about how defensive interviewing can sabotage results. In this article, we look at how to prevent it.
The first, and most obvious way, is to be prepared. Know what you want in a job and define it by looking at your previous positions. Consider what motivates you, in what kind of work environment you excel, know what type of company culture you want. This information gives you a basis for questions to tell you if the company is one you want to pursue.
Ask about company turnover. Find out how your potential manger envisions the working relationship. Measure these answers against what you’ve defined necessary for your next job. Pinpoint your negatives: holes in your employment, a termination, industry change, and instead of hiding them, find the positive spin and pipe up.
Defensiveness can strike out of nowhere as well. Knowing how to handle an awkward moment with grace can prevent you from dragging yourself down. Here are two of many specific examples that can be avoided by practicing interview questions and answers, defining how you can benefit a company, and remembering the decision is yours, as well.
You pick up a vibe – something’s gone wrong. Assumption: There’s something you said or did that isn’t favorable.
Normal response: You put effort into overcoming it.
Do this instead: “I seem to have said something that isn’t sitting well with you. Do you mind if I ask what it is so I can clarify or dispel any possible misconception?”
Why: Because it gets it out in the open. Then you can discuss it, address it, agree with it, wake up to it, whatever. It doesn’t sit on your mind, leaving you wondering what’s going on, and sabotaging – even mildly – the remainder of the interview.
The interviewer says he thinks you’re overqualified. You sense an end to the interview.
Normal response: To overcome the objection and convince him that you’re not.
Do this instead: Ask him why he believes that is so.
Why: Because then you can specifically address why he has that impression. Perhaps you have experience you haven’t elaborated on or that isn’t on your resume. Perhaps he’s formed a quick opinion based on something that flew out of your mouth. On the other hand, maybe he’s right. And if he is, then acknowledge it and end the interview – unless you’re looking for something for which you’re overqualified.
And if you are, then we’re back to why you should know what you’re looking for, which would have eliminated this entire scenario as you’d have addressed it directly.
One client, a successful, senior-level commercial banker, had been fired from his last job. Addressing why he left was giving him problems. Secondary banks were willing to hire him, but top banks were turning him down. I gave him the exact wording to answer the question, and told him to practice it until he could say it smoothly, lightly and naturally.
He did. Instead of frowning and then an awkward silence, his interviewers laughed, nodded, and smiled in understanding. And he was hired by a top bank.
Many of you will stop to consider, “Am I a defensive interviewer?” And some will say, “No. I don’t have that problem.” And maybe you don’t. But many who think you don’t, do. You walk in the door, standing tall, shoulders squared, smile on your face, wanting to make a good impression, but you’re defensive and may not even know it.
Pay attention to what you’re feeling. Start practicing awareness. Notice the shifts in energy during the conversation. If this sounds too woo-woo to you, all the more reason to follow my suggestion.
When you start getting a grip on awareness, you begin to notice if you’re a defensive interviewer. Then you can pinpoint what the problem is and fix it. And if you already know that you’re a defensive interviewer, what are you doing about it?