I have spoken many times to groups of students and coached many individuals about the ingredients for interview success. Competition for jobs or training contracts is more intense than ever which means that it has never been more important to have the winning “edge” that will enable you to succeed at interview.
In my previous career I interviewed literally hundreds of lawyers and lawyers-to-be. One of my biggest frustrations was the number of candidates who were invited for an interview on the strength of an excellent CV but who “fell apart” in the interview or who seemed to lack the confidence to really give their best.
I am therefore passionate about teaching my clients practical tools to enable them to manage their state so that their abilities can shine through. I start with the presupposition that most people know how to research the roles they are applying for for and have probably already found countless books suggesting answers to tough interview questions. So I look for other areas where I can add real value and develop useful strategies for interview success.
A major key to interview success is state management – that is the ability to manage one’s state regardless of external factors. This can be broken down further into 3 key components:
- Developing a positive internal dialogue
- Having an anchor for excellence
- Having a clear outcome
Developing a positive internal dialogue:
What are you communicating to yourself? What beliefs are you installing?
Have you ever had the experience of deciding to buy a new car, and then suddenly you seem to see that make and model wherever you go?
This is your reticular activating system at work (RAS). Your RAS is the automatic mechanism inside your brain that brings relevant information to your attention.
Depending on how you prime it, your RAS can either work for you or against you. The critical thing here is to be clear about the exact messages we are giving it.
If the RAS is primed by messages about lack of confidence, inability to perform in interviews, fear and dread, it will seek evidence (either from memories or present experience) to support these messages. This tends to operate as a self-fulfilling prophecy.
If, on the other hand you RAS is given positive messages in the form of affirmations such as I am a confident person (or even – I am developing my confidence) and clear goals, the RAS will be primed to notice all the evidence to support these new beliefs and statements of intent.
If we persist in thinking that we cannot achieve a goal or succeed in interviews, our unconscious minds will help us not to achieve it.
Think of three positive qualities you have that will assist in an interview setting and write them down as a sentence (make sure they are all expressed positively).
For instance – “I am a confident person who finds it easy to engage with people and achieve the goals I set myself”
Place this in a prominent place and read it often, then be curious about what will be the first piece of evidence you will notice that supports this statement!
Having an anchor for excellence
Have you noticed how easy it is to change your state?
If you are in any doubt, remember how it felt last time you heard a sad song on the radio….Now think of the happiest, most uplifting, rousing tune you’ve ever heard and remember how that felt. Notice the difference? Just by recalling those two things my guess is that your state will have changed – you will have brought a little of how you felt at that time into the present moment.
NLP has a number of methods for anchoring states – this simply means “attaching” a state to a trigger (which can be a movement, feeling, sound or picture). The trigger is under your conscious control so that you can summon up the state whenever it would be useful.
Think what an excellent state would be for you to be in as you enter an interview, would you want to be confident, calm, relaxed, resourceful, self-assured, or something else, or maybe a combination.
Imagine a circle on the floor in front of you.
Now remember a time when you experienced that great state, what did you see? What did you hear? What were you feeling? Really relive that experience and as you do make the picture bigger, brighter and with even more clarity, really notice the sounds from outside as well as what you were saying to yourself. As you feel the state building to its full intensity, feeling it in every cell of your being, STEP INTO THE CIRCLE NOW, and enjoy that positive state. Step out of the circle as soon as the intensity starts to decrease.
Now in your mind’s eye, “pick up” the circle so you can take it with you wherever you want it. Practise throwing the circle onto the floor and stepping into it a few times, noticing how your state changes as you do. If you wish you can add more resources to the circle to make it even more powerful.
Imagine stepping into that circle the next time you go for an interview (run it like a movie in your mind) and notice how good that feels.
Having a clear outcome
This seems obvious doesn’t it? But you would be surprised how many people turn up for interviews seemingly with no well-defined outcome.
By “outcome”, I don’t mean getting the job! I mean beyond that.
Your interviewer is certainly going to be looking beyond the interview, he or she wants someone who will contribute to and fit in with the business’ goals and objectives. Hiring someone is a big investment for an employer both in terms of money (particularly if agents are involved) and time so they will want to satisfy themselves that they will get a return on this investment.
There are many goal setting tools you could use, I would recommend an NLP model for setting well formed outcomes because I truly believe that these are the most effective.
What all these tools have in common is the requirement for the goal to be stated in the positive, to be specific (where, when and how), evidenced (you have an idea what you will be seeing, hearing and feeling when it is achieved), to be in your control and fit with the rest of your life.
When you have defined your outcome, imagine that you have achieved it (or are well on the road to success) and ask yourself the following questions:
- Where am I now that I have achieved X? (what environment am I in, describe it, are there other people around etc)
- What behaviours am I demonstrating? What am I doing?
- What skills and capabilities do I possess that enable me to do those things?
- What am I believing about myself? What must be true for me to have achieved this?
- Who am I now that I have achieved this goal? (Start the response “I am…..”)
- What is the bigger picture that me or this goal are part of (who else or what else is being served)?
If you have answered the questions honestly, you will also have identified some development areas – maybe some skills or capabilities or new behaviours that you see yourself having in the future but don’t yet possess. An awareness of these is likely to be useful in the interview should questions arise about “weaknesses” or areas for development.
Now you have a clear idea of what your goal is, what success is and a clear vision of what success means, it will be easy for you to talk about your ambitions in the interview. What is more, you will be talking from your heart rather than repeating, parrot fashion, one of those trite stock answers often found in interview preparation books.
I speak from experience when I say that interviewers enjoy interviewing candidates who are able to speak sincerely about the future and have a real sense of purpose and direction.
Summary of the 3 steps to Interview Success
When you are clear about your outcome, have eliminated negative self-talk and are in control of your state at the interview, you will be in a good position to “hit the ground running”. This will allow you to get on with the important business of gaining rapport with the interviewer and communicating your experience and “fit” clearly and with clarity.
If you would like to find out more about interview readiness coaching sessions, please feel free to contact MBS Coaching for further information