Q. We just went through a round of mock interviews at school, and nobody wanted to hire me! They said I came across as “difficult” – how can I fix this for real job interviews?
A. Good for you. Rather than feeling hurt or defensive, you want to improve yourself. Negative input is never easy, but often valuable. Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid. (Proverbs 12:1)
Now ratchet up your courage and follow up with your peers. How were you “difficult?” Common interview failures include being: unprepared, too nervous, withdrawn, or pushy. “Difficult” is vague. You need specifics.
Try these steps:
- Make a roster of students who interviewed you. Pick four or five with whom you feel comfortable with. Then, within the course of a few days, ask each one of them to fill you in on how you came across. Ask them to be honest and specific. You don’t want vague, beat-around-the-bush feedback. Jot down their comments so you can compile and compare. You’ll earn their respect and, likely, their cooperation.
- Ask them some questions to clarify their perceptions. “Was I kind of defensive? Did I seem irritated? Was I avoiding answering questions? Did I seem smug?” You need to trigger their thinking so you can get some meat on the bones. Depending on their comments, get them to be even more specific. “How was my body language? Did I frown or look away? Was I sarcastic?” Again, you need to dig for specific impressions.
- Then ask them some questions about specific positive behaviors to develop. “How could I have made a better impression? What behaviors/answers would make you want to hire me? What strengths do you see in me”?
- Take some time to reflect on what you’ve heard. Focus on just a couple areas of feedback and write a short letter to yourself. Summarize what you’ve learned about yourself and how you are going to change. Focus more on improving specific character traits than interview techniques. You actually want to become less “difficult” as a person.
- To put the icing on the cake, I’d suggest that you share your insights with a wise and trusted adult. This could be one of your parents, your counselor, a teacher, etc. – ideally it would be someone who knows you well and also has some job and interviewing experience. Ask them for their impressions and advice.
Your future is bright. Instruct the wise, and they will be even wiser. Teach the righteous, and they will learn even more. (Proverbs 9:9)
Jim Berlucchi is the executive director of the Spitzer Center, whose mission is to build cultures of evangelization (www.spitzercenter.org).