A Negative Mind-Set

If you have a downbeat attitude regarding the job search, that attitude seeps into your interviews and minimizes your appeal. Before the interview, make a conscious decision to think positively, no matter what direction the meeting takes.

Your mind-set or attitude shows up in a number of ways. For example, appearing to give up in the middle of the interview will show you as weak, a quitter. Suppose you determine midstream during the interview that the examples you have given are poor; you surrender to a loss. But, remember: it is not up to you to disqualify your candidacy—that is up to the interviewer, so do not do his job for him. Instead, concentrate on your job, which is to do the best you can in the interview. When you answer a question poorly, let go of your disappointment and start fresh with the next question. Interviewers recognize that a candidate's apprehension is part of the process and are willing to overlook one or two weakly worded answers.

Another way that a negative mind-set is revealed is if you take a defensive stance, especially in response to the interviewer's reactions to your examples. Follow-up questions are part of the competency-based interview, so expect to hear questions like, "What happened next?" or, "Can you explain your thought process?" The follow-up questions are a sincere attempt to clarify your experiences and uncover the depth of your knowledge.

It is also important to note that making false claims is never a good idea, but that during competency-based interviews, it is relatively easy for an interviewer to catch you in a white lie when follow-up questions are asked. If you exaggerate your level of experience, that quickly becomes evident. Remember, when you don't have actual examples to cite, answer the questions hypothetically, as described in Chapter 2.

A Potpourri of Other Interview Mistakes

Interviewers constantly encounter the classic interview missteps, which they have grown accustomed to expect. And with job competition so stiff, once a candidate makes a typical mistake, it is difficult to recover. Do not fall into any of these interview pitfalls:

1. Taking Charge of the Interview. Though it is true that a candidate is interviewing the company while the hiring manager is interviewing the candidate, some candidates are too aggressive about the former. They assume the role of interviewer and attempt to control the session. This power play never fares well for the candidate. Keep in mind that, just as you do not want to be interrogated, neither does the interviewer. As the job candidate, you should take an active role in the interview, but allow the interviewer to take the lead.

2. Scheduling Interviews Too Close Together. Competency-based interviews run long—sometimes sixty minutes or more. Schedule your interviews accordingly, so you don't put yourself in a situation of having to choose between cutting an interview short or arriving late to another.

3. Believing the Interview Is a Gotcha Game. One of the assets of competency-based interviews is that the interviewer lays the company's cards on the table. The questions that are asked reveal the proficiencies that are considered most important to the position. In addition, the questions reveal the problems you may encounter if hired. Keep those two things in mind when you start to feel that the questions are being asked just to trick you. When an interviewer asks competency-based questions, be assured that your answers are relevant to the position.

4. Being Too Modest. The main purpose of asking competency-based questions is to give you the opportunity to describe your assets. The interviewer wants to learn about your successes, so this is not a time to be humble. Speak confidently about your relevant accomplishments, your experiences, and how you will add value to the hiring organization.

5. Monitoring Your Time. Though you may be anxious, avoid glancing at your watch. Competency-based interviews run long, and if you look at the time, the interviewer may conclude that you are not interested or are bored with the interview. To avoid giving the wrong impression, focus your attention solely on the interviewer.

Anyone can get tripped up during an interview by an unexpected question and can drift off course when giving a response. But when you are prepared with your list of core competencies and are aware of the common mistakes that can ruin the interview—the ones you can control—you're a long way toward eliminating the negatives. You are free to answer the competency-based questions to the best of your ability, without worrying about how you are coming across to the interviewer.

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