Dear Mr. Molloy:
I graduated from MIT with a degree in electrical engineering five years ago. I was not at the top of my class but I did graduate with honors and it should have been easy for me to get a job. However, it took me three interviews to get the job I wanted. Some of my classmates who were not nearly as well qualified as I, were wined, dined and hired after their interviews.
I was interviewed by three engineers before being hired. I overheard them discussing whether I should be given the job. The reason I was hired one fellow said he knew I was like a jumping Jack but since I was not going to be dealing with the public he was going take a chance on me. He added I will be working with other engineers and I’m sure he will be good at that. The reason he made that comment was I am a terrible interviewer. I get nervous, my hands sweat, I fidget and stumbled over my words and generally make a fool of myself. I’ve been to a dozen interviews and every time I fall flat on my face. Believe it or not under most circumstances I am cool, calm and collected.
I’m going for an interview for another position within my company but it will be a real interview and at present I don’t expect to get the job,even though I have excellent references, good recommendations and a gift for problem solving.
Please don’t tell me to relax, I’ve tried and it doesn’t work. Can you help?
Name and Address Withheld
Your problem is not only solvable but easily solvable. I’ve dealt with it literally hundreds of times before. You have what is called “sales fright” which is a common problem for new salespeople.
You can be assured I’m not going to tell you to relax, that is like telling someone learning to walk a tight rope to relax. It’s easier said than done. What you have to do is learn to handle pressure and the only way to do that is to practice under pressure. However, before putting yourself in a high-pressure situation you must consult a physician and describe the training you’re about to undertake. I think if you tell him that I refer to it as sales boot camp he will have a general idea of how we are going to treat you.
The first thing you should do is arrange for several interviews for jobs in your field. Since these are only practice sessions you will be relaxed enough to analyze the approach of the interviewer and the questions they’re likely to ask. Once you’ve done that you will be able to write down the questions you are likely to face in a real interview and develop smooth and clear intelligent responses to them. You should have several versions of each question and answers that fit each one. Read through these answers several times.
Your next step is to think of the questions that you’re likely to face in the interview you’re going to have at your company. Follow the same procedure and once again develop several versions of each question and excellent answers for each version.
In the second stage you are to enlist the help of a friend or your significant other. Give them the questions you’ve developed then have them ask you those questions over and over and comment on how smoothly and calmly you’ve answered each one. Next, have the person doing the interviewing increase the pressure. He or she should at this point raise their voice, in fact almost shout, challenge your answers and even possibly your honesty. At no time will you react to those challenges or the attitude of the interviewer. They should run this high-pressure interview repeatedly until you remain calm, friendly and seemingly pleased to be speaking to the interviewer, no matter what they say or how they say it.
Once you have mastered your emotions and your reaction to forceful interviewing, your pressure interviewing really begins. The interviewer from this point on must become verbally abusive. He or she is to get directly in your face, which means he will place his face within two or 3 inches of yours and shout. The interviewer must also insult you in ways that are not only impolite but rude. If they cannot carry this out effectively find another person to interview you.
Many women interviewers have a problem using this technique. I found it helped when we showed them a movie in which a Marine drill sergeant puts a recruit through his paces. Tell them to use as many of his tactics as possible. Finally, combine the verbal abuse with physical abuse that is designed to never do real damage to the person being interviewed. While questioning you the interviewer should shoot a water gun in your face, shake your chair, play a radio very loud while you’re answering questions etc. Once again throughout this ordeal you have to maintain your composure. During these sessions, not only should you appear calm, cool and collected but pleasant and friendly.
I realize this is very difficult but it works for 97% to 98% of those who take the time and effort to run through the steps. However, if you’re one of the handful for whom it doesn’t work, the solution is simple, go back and do it again. It will take practice but sooner or later everyone becomes if not a great interviewer a good interviewer, particularly those who are by nature calm, cool and collected.
If you can manage to appear friendly and pleasant through a dozen of these abusive interviews, the real interview should seem like a walk in the park.