The job search guidance that I give clients comes in many forms. It can be instructional, making them aware of resources and techniques which they didn’t know existed. It can be motivational, increasing the energy they are able to direct towards a goal. It can be definitional – reframing problems so that they may be viewed in ways that makes them easier to solve. It can be psychologically or emotionally oriented or strictly “mechanical”/factual. Another important type of guidance I give is what I would call correctional: pointing out sub-optimal habits, speech patterns, attire, facial expressions, or general demeanor that I believe stand in the way of getting desired results from job interviews (i.e. – OFFERS!).
In order for correctional advice to be most valuable the client needs to be cognizant of when the sub-optimal things are happening. Three examples* of interview problems clients were encountering and the contributing sub-optimal behaviors:
1) A very bright millennial client couldn’t understanding why she wasn’t getting past phone interviews: she’d had 9 in the past three months, eight of which she felt very good about, but none of which led to a face-to-face.
It quickly became apparent to me that she was using the word “like” so frequently (I counted 33 “likes” in 60 seconds!) that she was coming off as something of a bozo despite having an impressive professional and educational background.
2) A recent graduate of a prestigious master’s program wasn’t feeling very positive about his phone interviews – he felt that he wasn’t really connecting with the interviewer, and the few chats that he did have ended well before the scheduled time.
In our initial session the client was overly verbose, going into unnecessary detail and frequently wandering off topic. I could see that he wasn’t listening attentively enough, and was lacking in focus.
3) A high-powered CEO, who’d lost his job a year before, wasn’t having any luck clinching a new deal and was freaking out about having no income to support his family’s very nice life style plus sending four kids to private school and college.
The client was boastful and somewhat arrogant, peppering our discussion with technical jargon and acronyms that no one outside of his field (which I was) would understand.
I shared my conclusions about these problematic behaviors with the clients and urged them to try to pay close attention to when they were exhibiting these behaviors. The problem with that guidance, however, is that the behaviors cited above, and most others that are similar, are often deeply engrained habits, and habits are challenging to break as they are engaged in almost unconsciously.
There are two useful techniques that can be employed in tackling these kinds of behavioral habits, both involving observing the behaviors from the outside.
The first is to record oneself (audio and/or video, depending on the nature of the issue) and review the result with the specific behavioral issue as the focus. Seeing/hearing the problematic behavior from the “outside” often has a tremendous impact. When I asked the above-mentioned client who so overused the word “like” if I could record her, and then played the recording back, it made such a huge impact on her that she immediately demonstrated a huge improvement. Of course, this will only work if the exact nature of the problem is known in advance, which is often not the case.
The second, designed to both identify the problematic behavior and help correct it, is to ask a spouse, partner, close friend or, even better, a professional like myself for feedback and monitoring help: “I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong, but I know I’m not getting the results that I want. What do you think I could be doing better?” Frequently an outsider will be able to identify issues that are invisible to the person with the issue. While the answer may be unpleasant to hear (“You ramble when you talk;” “You don’t maintain eye contact when you’re talking to me;” “You don’t speak with any energy;”), and it may be tempting to become defensive, outsiders can make a big difference in helping you improve your interviewing technique.
*These examples all pertain to speech, but a lack of self-awareness can come into problematic play as it relates to physical appearance (attire, grooming), body language, etc.