job interview successJob interview success is really based on a healthy dose of self-confidence. When you don’t believe in yourself, it’s really hard to convince anyone else to believe in you. So when you walk into a job interview more worried about blowing it than marketing yourself, you will blow it. And that’s what happened to Dana this week.

First let me tell you what happened, and then we can deconstruct the issues that impeded Dina’s job interview success.

A few nights prior to the interview, Dina and I scheduled an interview prep session; I started with an explanation of why it’s so helpful to adopt a Zen approach to the job interview, and went over some techniques for achieving it. As we spoke, I actually think I saw my words going right over her head, and not because she didn’t understand me; her self-defeating mindset wasn’t allowing anything to penetrate.

She was prepared; a nurse, she was interviewing for a position in a metro area hospital’s burn unit and had been recommended by a friend who already worked there. Now, Dina is a competent nurse with a few years’ post grad experience, and having an employee recommendation gave her a strong advantage. To bolster her value proposition, I gave her an article to read about Professor Dan Ariely’s experience with the nurses who had treated him in an Israeli burn unit, which demonstrated her interest in this area of medicine and the way that nurses can affect patient recovery. The job seemed to be hers for the taking.

Until she blew it.

Dina’s allergies were in full force the day of the interview, so her eyes were watering badly. Worried that the nurse managers interviewing her would think she was crying, she said nothing. She answered their questions in her usual wooden-with-fear manner (so much for the Zen approach), and never mentioned how the Ariely story had motivated her desire to work with burn victims. Why? No one had asked her.

And even though we had discussed how to answer the question typically asked at the end of interviews – “are there any questions you have for us?” – an answer that should have referenced her knowledge of the advances this hospital’s team had made in treating burn trauma, (which she was aware from having done her pre-interview prep), she simply shook her head, “no,” and dabbed at her eyes.

“Next time,” I said, “if your allergies are bothering you, put the issue to rest before it becomes an issue. You can say, `my allergies are really irritating my eyes today! I hope it’s not making me look like I’m about to cry!” Being upfront and lighthearted about anythings that may have affected your appearance – whether an allergic reaction or a broken shoe heel, or mud splashed all over your interview suit by a passing car – puts everyone at ease, ends any curiosity as to your less-than-perfect appearance, and allows the focus to remain on you and your qualifications.

The intimidation factor can be huge when bring interviewed, but it doesn’t need to be. Remember, you’re there to have a conversation about a position that you are potentially interested in, not to be grilled. Interviewers don’t control the interview; they facilitate it, so if there’s something you think is important for them to know, bring it up. Weave it naturally into the conversation. Dina had plenty opportunity to bring up what motivated her interest in burn care, but she thought she was just there to answer their questions, which caused her to ignore that they had actually asked for her questions at the end.

“You can clean this all up in your follow-up email,” I told Dina. As I mentioned in “Effective Ways to Follow Up After Your Interview,” this gives you the opportunity to correct any misassumptions, as well as make a point you forgot to make. I told Dina to draft the email, and I’d review it before she sent it, but within an hour, she received a call saying that the hospital was not going to pursue her candidacy further.

Rejection hurts, especially when it’s clear that the decision was made so quickly. But every experience is a learning opportunity, and Dina’s was no different. She learned that all the interview prep in the world is for naught if you don’t believe in yourself and your ability to excel at this job. She learned that rather for losing points for being being human, she would have forged a better connection by being authentic, rather than coming across as the “perfect” nurse.

Meditation can help us get in touch with our authentic selves, and I strongly recommend it as a pre-interview strategy. I sent Dina a link to Ben Rubin and Dan Harris’s 10% Happier Meditation app, and I hope she gives it a try.

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