Playing the Negative Tape in Your Head: The Job Interview

At the moment a job applicant is ushered into the interview room, they experience a flood of perceptions. This might include the decoration of the room, the smell of perfume or cologne, family pictures on the desk, the computer monitor sitting on the desk, the state of tidiness in the room, and the appearance of the interviewer.

But the job applicant is also somewhat of a prisoner of something else ? their own state of mind.

At the moment the interview begins, the applicant is the sum of all of their job experiences and life experiences up to that point, positive and negative. And there are other important realities too. How badly does the applicant need the job?

The following list itemizes different states of mind and is worthwhile reading for anyone seeking a job. The applicant?s negative state of mind can be so pervasive that it will surely be difficult to assess the potential of the job.

The State of Mind of a Job Applicant:

  • 1. The applicant really needs a job ? Coming into an interview with a tremendous need for a job can make things difficult. Money might be dwindling, rent might be due, and the sense of impending doom might be crowding out all rational thought in the applicant?s mind. 'I just need a job,' might be their mantra to the point where all negative feedback from the interview is put on a back burner. Then if the applicant gets the job, reality soon begins to set in and there is regret and anger over the decision. Almost always, the state of mind can be traced as the heart of the decision to take the job, overriding any discerning influences. A sense of desperation drives any questions that the applicant asks and any questions that the applicant answers.
  • 2. The applicant is coming away from a very bad experience ? Psychologists talk about post traumatic stress disorder among our armed forces and among those who have experienced a traumatic event. Yet, if the applicant is working at a job that is not panning out at all and they are feeling the rejection of their boss or other supervisors, this might be the one thought most occupying their minds in the interview. Compared to the current job, the new job almost has to be better, doesn't it? Again, any potential negatives about the new job are pushed to the back of the applicant?s mind because of their state of desperation. Furthermore, their sense of failure looms large and may make the applicant subconsciously feel unworthy of the job for which they are interviewing. In any case, all of this baggage will likely affect the way they answer questions and conduct themselves at the interview as well as fueling the chance of making a bad choice.
  • 3. The applicant is coming away from a very good experience but is hoping to move up ? When a person has had the pleasure of working for someone they get along with and with finding acceptance and appreciation, it clouds their judgment as they enter into the interview process. Without knowing how awful it really can be to work in a difficult environment, the applicant is not picking up important cues that might indicate trouble. The boss may be hard to get along with but may manage to come across as a decent person at the interview. That's why the ability to pick up subtle cues, like signs in the break room, might be a giveaway to an aware applicant. For someone who has not had to worry about this kind of a boss, it might again mean making a bad choice.
  • 4. The applicant knows that there is a lot of competition ? Often, the person who calls for the interview appointment lets the cat out of the bag. There are a lot of other interviewees. For one thing, this tends to make the applicant see himself as vying for the job and thus getting into a competitive frame of mind. For another, it might make the applicant believe the job is much better than it really is. In either case, the applicant approaches the interview differently that if he didn't know he was one of many meeting the boss. In the competitive mode, he might subconsciously try to manipulate the situation to his best advantage, as he sees it, but not his best advantage in the long run. 'Oh, no, I don't mind working on weekends,' might pop out of his mouth.
  • 5. The applicant doesn't have much experience ? In this case the applicant already has a negative tape running in his head and he is dreading the interviewer's questions. The lack of experience tends to affect his lack of confidence and thus he undermines the interview. Rather than building himself up by recognizing his knowledge of the subject matter and his ability to work with people, for example, he is already poisoning himself in the job search process.
  • 6. The applicant has a lot of experience ? If the applicant is well versed in the job, overconfidence could actually be a problem. Coming into an interview with a 'know-it-all' attitude is a sure way to get left behind in the dust. Asking great questions and being able to answer questions posed by the interviewer is going to help this person get the job, if that is what they want. Coming in suggesting solutions may make the boss a little nervous and hesitant. The applicant should take a strong dose of humility before entering the interview room and remember that the company is looking for a good fit, not just someone who has been there and done that.
  • 7. The applicant has a difficult home life ? An applicant that is dealing with a tough situation at home, whether it be relationship problems with a spouse, an ill family member, an ill child, financial problems, or something else, it is very hard to leave all of that behind and focus entirely on the interview process. Usually with a negative tape playing in their head, the applicant may inadvertently send a signal of being down in the mouth to the interviewer. It is also important not to mention the troubles at home since this is a good way to get eliminated right off the bat. The interviewer may reason that if the applicant is talking about the problem at the interview, how much more of a problem do they really have and how much work will they miss?
  • 8. The applicant may actually be thinking of leaving the area ? In this instance, the applicant is considering a drastic change but needs a job in the short term. Knowing how unfair this might be to the boss and the company, the applicant may feel very uncomfortable in the interview process because she is misrepresenting herself. This situation is a very difficult one and brings in the concept of ethics. The bottom line is that if the applicant is asked directly about their future plans, the move should be mentioned. If no one asks, then the applicant is not obligated to tell. However, for those individuals who value honesty, the entire interview process may end up being uncomfortable.

There are other states of mind that might come into play. What is the applicant is not feeling well that day? What if the applicant is interviewing for another job the next day that looks to be much more promising? What if unemployment is so bad in the area that the applicant has been reduced to groveling for a lower paid, lower status job to keep his family going?

The situations that require some forethought on the part of the applicant are any in which the negative tape playing in their head is taking over and not allowing the interview experience to provide important information to help make the best choice. Many individuals who have found themselves in confined to prisoner of war camps, found that visualization was one key to keeping their sanity.

The applicant should rehearse for the first question that most interviewers ask, 'Tell me a little about yourself.' This 30 second spiel should be committed to memory. Then the applicant should play a positive tape in their head, picturing themselves being successful and well liked, successful and knowledgeable in the job setting. In short, the applicant should not let their past and the negative tapes in their head to dictate how the interview will go.

If Americans can expect to change jobs as many as seven times in a lifetime, then making the most of the job interview process is worth a little extra effort and preparation, including adjusting the DVD player inside of the head.