Recently I had one of those interviews where the company's HR recruiter and I met for a “screening interview” and I felt it went terribly wrong. It all started off with what I thought was a good 20-minute discussion a few days prior, where we went through my qualifications and career highlights.
She opened the face-to-face interview with, “Well, you don't have the specific industry knowledge we’re looking for,” which left me wondering why the meeting even got that far. I did my best to explain why I thought my skills were transferable but she didn't seem receptive. To me, it was like saying a seasoned mechanic absolutely can’t work on my vehicle because it's “special.”
The interview got worse. She would ask more questions and as I tried to explain, she would look down at the document and not seem to pay attention. As a senior executive, I was quite insulted with how I was treated but felt I needed to stay reserved in our meeting. It was not until afterward, once I had some time to reflect and articulate my thoughts, that I can say, “Forget you! It's your lost opportunity, not mine.”
Wondering if you have any words of wisdom to share that may help people to manage through should they find themselves in a similar situation.
I’m sure there are many people who can relate to your interview experience and would appreciate some guidance. And with that said, the experience you described doesn’t just relate to job interviews. In fact, you’ve touched on an issue that I feel is epidemic in the workplace, and that’s the lack of acceptance of emotional issues.
Throughout your face-to-face interview, you were aware of emotions brewing. Our bodies provide us with signals: butterflies in the stomach, confusion, heart palpitations, to name a few. It takes time to assess what’s causing these feelings; however, in the workplace, we are expected to react quickly. This leads to us putting off these signs.
Children are great at dealing with their emotions. They react immediately to negative feelings and don’t stop to think of whether it is the right or wrong thing to do. As we get older, we are given parameters around appropriate and inappropriate behaviours. Society expects us to not react rashly to our emotions and if we do, we are labelled as childish. This leaves us hanging on to negative emotions and not effectively dealing with them, resulting in high levels of stress, unhappiness and declining health.
By developing some skills and methods to handle the signs of negative feelings when they occur, you will be able to deal with situations that might otherwise leave you feeling devalued or unappreciated. Here are some techniques you can try:
Blurt it out. Blurting out what you are feeling and making the other person aware can open the conversation to help you gain some clarity. This could help you to better understanding what is going on inside. Comments like, “I’m feeling really confused right now,” or, “Wait a minute, something is not feeling right” may get the other person curious enough to ask questions that could allow you to take some time to reflect on your feelings. It could also get the other person to reflect on their words and conversations with you.
Gain clarity. Make sure you are clear on what the other party is thinking. Use both specific and open-ended questions to gain as much information as possible on the situation. For example, in your situation you might want to ask, “What will be the objective of the face-to-face meeting?” or “What will be our focus when we meet?” This type of information will allow you to be better prepared for what to expect.
Be fearless. We sometimes stop ourselves from asking questions because we feel they might not be appropriate. When you find a difference between what the person said would happen and what actually happened, call her out on it and have her explain the discrepancy. “You had mentioned that the objective of this meeting was to introduce me to some of the managers. What has changed since our last conversation?” This type of questioning may make the interviewer reflect back on your initial conversation and may bring out new information that could be useful to you.
Celebrate your self-worth. Always remember that you have a lot to offer a company. By heeding the above steps, you are honouring your time, energy and most of all your value. Do something special for yourself after handling an emotional situation, and take a few minutes to really acknowledge yourself for all the good qualities you possess.
Cindy Gordon is the president of Culture Shock Coaching in Toronto.
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