Dear Nestor, I’m a senior applying for jobs and I’m scared that I sound juvenile in my interviews. My interviewers never react to what I’m saying, which makes me think that they aren’t interested, even though I think I’m talking about the most interesting things in my life. I feel badly and like I’m never going to get a job. Do you have any advice?
Dear Scared Senior,
This is such a stressful time. With the external pressure of finding a job weighing on you, it is only natural to doubt yourself. Unfortunately, on top of this, the interviewers are not providing you with the reassurance that you need to inspire confidence as you answer their questions.
Consider, however, that from the questioners’ perspective, this may actually represent a strategy to test your independence, your self-esteem and your ability to improvise in the absence of encouraging feedback. This approach makes sense, because most people function well with positive reinforcement. However, with no reassurance or validation, we are often at our most vulnerable. In most workplace situations, no one pats you on the back. If anything, employers, coworkers, and clients will criticize you. As a result, these interviewers are perhaps looking to simulate a workplace setting; in this way they can see how you would perform under stress.
In reality, these interviewers are not primarily trying to make you feel ‘unwanted,’ they are just observing you under pressure. Instead of viewing their reactions as being negative, I suggest you view this experience as offering a challenge: ‘How can I shine without reassurance?’ Prepare yourself in advance. Try visualizing a time when you presented well or excelled and bring that memory and energy with you to the interview.
Also, the interviewers may not reassure you to avoid giving you a sense of false hope. This is better for both parties to avoid your feeling misled if you ultimately don’t get the job. In fact, the opposite result may very well occur. You may be pleasantly surprised to receive a job offer despite feeling concerned about the interview. This could be a tactic to prompt the candidate to be more eager about joining their company and to feel more enthusiastic and positive when he/she is given a job offer.
Ultimately, on a subconscious level, we perceive these interviewers as the ‘gatekeepers to our future.’ And when we feel an interview is unsuccessful and believe that we won’t get the job, this in turn makes us feel rejected and inadequate — as if we have failed. It can feel personal.
The truth of the matter is, yes, there is no certainty that you will get a job. But, you may not fully appreciate the impression that you are making. As a Swarthmore student, you have already dealt with copious amounts of work, experienced difficult professors, and learned how to be a successful student. Having attended such a high-pressure institution with distinguished standards, you — more than many college graduates — are preparing for the “real world.”
I encourage you to view these interviews as learning experiences that will make you stronger. In life, you will frequently face adversity and not always be rewarded with what you want or believe you deserve. In many instances, decisions are made that have very little to do with your performance. Don’t let the interviews get to you on a personal level. Following the interview, you may want to ask yourself: What could I have done better? How could I have responded differently? Even more importantly: What did I answer well? What makes me unique and interesting? Bring all of the answers to your next interview. Post-interview, I would suggest that you just relax. At this point, the result is not in your control.
The key is to be you, as well as to believe in yourself. If an interviewer doesn’t see what you have to offer, then the heck with them. Some other company down the road will be lucky enough to appreciate your talents.