Looking for a job? Worried about the interview? This article has unique, mindfulness based job interview tips I’ve learned from actual interviews, that help you stand out from the competition.
Assuming you more or less equally qualified for a job as others, the person they like the most will get the offer. The person they feel the best about is a great advantage. That’s the person they want on their team. Your job in the interview is to be that person. In fact, it’s easy to see how someone less-qualified could get the offer if they felt much better about that person than the more qualified candidate.
This article gives specific advice you won’t find other places causes you can’t rehearse answers to questions to get this part right. It’s about who you are, not what you know. If you’re a good person, who wants to do a good job, is well qualified, and wants to be successful in your career – this advice is golden. You can’t fake it to make it using these techniques, but if you can be authentic, present, and use this guidance, they are gonna want you on the payroll ASAP.
As a pre-condition, you should have some grounding in knowing how to be present in a reasonably stressful environment such as a job interview. There’s no shortcut here. The way I talk about this in the Langauge of Mindfulness process is “if you want to be mindful when you are under stress, you have to practice when you’re not. “
The way I talk about this in the Langauge of Mindfulness process is “if you want to be mindful when you are under stress, you have to practice when you’re not. ” There’s a lot to say about the “how” but in truth, it’s really simple. Just practice. If you don’t have mindfulness, meditation, yoga, or other practice that allows you to slow down a bit, notice what’s actually going on in your world, and reflect on how you relate to things – start one. You can still benefit from the tips here, but when combined with a foundation in mindfulness, they take you to an entirely new level. There are a lot of online resources that can help you get started. I also am available for 1:1 coaching.
How I Realized Mindfulness Was Helping Me Ace the Interview
In my last job interview, I walked away feeling great about the interview, and evidently, they thought so too as I got the offer right away. And I was aware that this was no accident. I had consciously participated in creating that success by making decisions that helped to create a great outcome. in real-time, and fully aligned with my values of connecting personally and authentically. That felt great!
Looking back, I remember feeling the same way about the last two big interviews I had. Yes, I was well qualified, but I believe a big part of the reason the interviews went well is due to my training in mindfulness and communication. After all, you may be a great fit for a job, but if you can’t get that across – you won’t get the outcome you deserve.
Remember above all – the people interviewing you are people just like you. They aren’t special and don’t have special powers other than to say yes to you. You can make this easy for you and them, assuming you are qualified, by going in with the intention to connect personally, authentically and making decisions to help that along.
REMEMBER: they not only are they qualifying you for the job, but as part of the process, they are experiencing you as a person, and in the end, that experience can win the day.
#1 Get the right mindset going in
They want you!
What if you knew what your interviewers wanted before you spoke to them. You know more than you think! Would that change the conversation? Yes. It will.
You already know a great deal about the people doing your interview. It’s not the people per se, it’s their situation. USE THAT TO YOUR ADVANTAGE cause your competition likely isn’t. Let me explain.
It’s really important you get this and don’t forget it. They want you to hire you before they meet you. They a longing for you to the right person to walk in the room. All you have to do is be that person.
In a busy work environment, interviewing is an interruption of the normal workflow. They have busy jobs and interviews are taking them away from the stuff that matters day-to-day. Before you walk in the door, they are hoping that you are perfect for the job. So all you have to do is be that person. Everything they are doing is about helping them figure out if they need to interview anyone else. Make that hard for them by being not only well qualified but someone they want to work with.
In this way, I’m very focused on this question “what does success in this job look like to the people interviewing me?” I frequently ask that question. It goes like this “Can you tell me this, let’s say things go great and I get the job, a year from now, what would success look like? What would it take for this role to really excel in the first year?” This is a great question because it tells you what is top of mind to them. Once you hear that, keep using those words, exactly like they same them. “I can help align the teams, it’s one of the things I specialize in.” “I work well in ambiguous situations as I’m not shy about reaching out to the key stakeholders and driving toward a multi-team solution. Their contributions ensure buy-in”
Keep in mind that a big part of your job is to help the people interviewing you be successful in their job. You might even say “I want to work in a way that I can hit all my metrics and goals, and help you hit yours.” That might be a reach, but if you have a good rapport going, do it. It shows you are thinking beyond your deliverables and are team players, plus it makes it personal. Helping the people in the room do a better job. Who’s going to say no to that?
#2 – Steer toward Conversation Mode
There is one more part of a mindset that has served me well in these situations.
The notion of an “interview” brings up a vision of a person being screened with questions and judged worthy or not. This is actually what’s happening, but remember everyone involved is a person, not a machine. If you relate to them as people in your house having a conversation about the job, it helps everyone relax and things go much better. They start to feel like they be less formal with you and that is huge.
Remember, you are there to decide if they are a fit for you, as much as you are a fit for them. I don’t mean to play “hard to get” but I do mean that you should show some thoughtfulness about “is this the right job for me.” I have said no to more than one place after experiencing people who were really unorganized and stressed out during interviews. So be clear that this is a two-way street and it will help you claim some authority when the times come. In my interviews, I ask a lot of questions, if given the opportunity, cause it lets me direct the conversation in ways that are likely to have favorable outcomes and shows that I’m really thinking about the role. Of course, these need to be quality questions, and not “how often do you have sexual harassment cases filed?” I mean, that’s a legit concern, but not something you want in an interview.
#3 – A Proper Hello
You’re put into a small office with a table, whiteboard, and Smart TV on the wall for meetings. There’s a speakerphone on the table. The whiteboard has been erased but shows signs of heavy use. All this spells “active business.” That’s good. If it’s all pristine, perhaps it’s a new office or new business” That helps you orient to the state of mind of the people you’re speaking with. You can reference that as well in your opening.
Your interview team arrives and introduces themselves. This is an important moment. The first few seconds everyone is forming first impressions, which science tells us are fast to form and hard to change. Don’t be fumbling with your phone so you have to put it down to greet them. Be ready to engage. Make eye contact. Smile cause you’re happy to meet them. Say that. “I’m happy to meet you. I appreciate you taking the interview. I’m excited about the opportunity.” The very best thing to do is relax and treat it like you were meeting people over dinner or something. Casual. THEY ARE JUST PEOPLE and they are on your side. See point #1. Step into the role of “I’m glad to meet you, can’t wait to start, I’m gonna make you look really good.”
This may seem mundane, but what your saying is “I am aware of your job context and want to respect your time.” That tells them a great deal about you. You’re paying attention. You’re friendly. You’re kind. Which is all true, right? 😉 Make it true.
#4 – Say something nice about the place immediately
Walking into the office area, you have the opportunity to notice and be influenced by many things. This builds on a practice of noticing your sensations, thoughts, feelings, and emotions that occur during a mindfulness mediation. But instead of meditating alone, you’re walking through their office, still noticing your sensations, thoughts, and feelings. What does it feel like there? Are people relaxed? Tense? Are there lots of people in private offices? Open space? Are people business casual or casual? What’s hanging on the walls? Is there a view? Are there pets around? Is it well lit? What was it like to get there? Is parking a problem?
How does it feel to be in this environment all up?
For example, if there are great windows everywhere, be sure to express an appreciation for the view – I mean feel it in a mindful way – then comment on “wow, these views are great!”
Be present for the response. They could light up and go “yeah, it’s great!”
You’re off to a good start in establishing authentic rapport.
Now, this may seem silly in some ways, but it helps more than you think. Psychologically, by noting something about their day-to-day environment, you demonstrate that you’re paying attention. In addition, and this is a bit of neuro-marketing sleight of hand, but getting them to think of something they like (great views) while they are meeting you, associates a positive neural network with you. That’s huge. Their opinion of you will be formed very, very quickly and you have only a few moments to influence those all-important first mental associations. If views are the thing, find something you can comment on. “New digs?”, “Love the meeting rooms”, “nice decor”, “great open space vibe” – something.
#5 – They will tell you exactly what they want to hear. Tell them a story about it.
This is huge. In every interview I’ve had, the interviewer has stated very clearly several key things they are looking for in order for someone to do well in the job. “This role needs someone that can respond quickly to issues, without escalating everything”, “we really need someone who is good with customers face-to-face”, “this job has a lot of moving parts and you must be able to keep them all moving without a lot of help”.
Statements like these are jewels. Be present. NOTICE when they speak these word. Listen. That’s the mindful part. “Oh, they are telling me exactly what kind of person they want for this job. Huh, I should probably use that!” Pick up these gems cast at your feet, look at them and reflect back to the interviewers “yes, this a great gem, I have one just like it.” REMEMBER the exact phrases they used and repeat them throughout the interview.
For example, they say “we’re looking for someone who can deal with important customers who are having a problem.” Perfect setup.
What you do is actually quite simple. You tell a story. Stories rule. People will forget the details of your resume, but they will remember a good story. So tell a story about how you worked with a customer and turned it around. Defused the ticking bomb. Made things right. Keep it simple and it has to have a happy ending. Never tell a story that has a muddled ending.
But don’t stop there cause your competition will.
Always remember: you want to address TWO SIDES of the problem. This way you show the depth that other candidates won’t. “I’m someone who is a strong customer-advocate. I’m known for representing the customer point-of-view in meetings and in my work and looking for the customer experience.” That’s side one. But you don’t work for the customer. You’re being paid to look for the interests of your company so you will make this home run by stating that is top of mind.
So you proceed: “At the same time, customer service has to be balanced with company policy and objectives. So I’m always going to work for the best solution possible and advocate for customers internally while enforcing company policy and messaging at the same. That’s the balance needed, based on my experience. Mic drop
Perhaps they say “we’re looking for someone that can hit the ground running and work with little supervision.” They may as well write a check on the spot, right?
“I’ve always been someone that picks up details fast and due to my research work in school (or similar project), I learned to access resources across organizations that were critical to my projects success, but not part of the main team. I had to do so some research to find the right people and it proved very valuable to the project.” That’s part 1.
Part 2: At the same time, it’s important to know when to reach out for help when that’s the best way to move things along. I like to spend a reasonable amount of time to get things done on my own but when I have done due diligence on my own and help is available, I’m not shy about reaching out.” Boom! You told them you were not only happy working alone, but it’s not an ego issue. You’re more than willing to reach out for help when that’s the next best step for the project.
When you get it right, they will agree enthusiastically non-verbally as well as verbally. When you get that confirmation, let it land in you that you’re nailing this and they are liking what they are hearing. I tend to smile at moments like this cause it feels right. Let yourself have these little feel-good moments when they come together naturally during the conversation. It leads to authentically saying “this seems like a good fit!” later on.
This leads to the next point:
#6 – Tell stories that illustrate EXACTLY what they are looking for
You can completely own an interview by having great examples. If you’re new in your career, you won’t have a lot of professional experience to draw on, so you have to rely on personal experience and project confidence that you can manage it. If they say they want someone who is great with customers, you can refer to the time you managed to navigate a controversy at school or a group you belong to, highlight the way you dealt with different kinds of people effectively. How people always tell you that you’re good with people, etc. But you need to demonstrate that in this very meeting.
Anything you can say to prove that you can get up to speed quickly is great. “One time I started a job and the boss was away for two weeks after I started. We had a big issue come up that required all hands on deck. I really dug in and sorted out some of the main issues to help guide the team through the process. It was tough going but I learned so much, they gave me special recognition afterward”
Questions like “how do you manage disagreement with your boss” or other questions of that sort are like laying money on the table when you approach them this way – ALWAYS mitigate honorably. Never talk about openly challenging colleagues. Instead, if you have a disagreement with your boss, your line is “I would state my case and provide the evidence I have for it as best I can. I believe in advocating for my positions (they are going to love that). If there’s still no agreement, I’ll of course align with the guidance provided, after all, I’m not the boss. I’m always going to look for ways to make things better. I can’t help. That’s what I do.”
No one can argue with wanting to make things, better, after all, that’s what they are hiring you to do. (If they do argue, consider carefully moving forward with the job. They are going to hold you back).
Conflicts happen. We’re people. It’s a business. There will be differences and you are not a peer with your boss. People other than you decided what’s going to happen in most cases. In truth, if your boss is making a crucial mistake, all you can do is be respectfully on record that you think there is a better way. That said, don’t be afraid to push for your ideas. I have been called out before for not standing up forcefully enough for things that turned out to be right. “Why didn’t you push harder?” And they were right, I could have.
The key point here is that stories rule, so have great stories from your personal or professional life. If you don’t have much experience, draw on your personal, school, or organization life. It’s ok to use stories from your life if they make a point about your character. Best to use a story about an accomplishment such as winning an award, competing, being on stage, or fighting for your cause. Something from school or organizations work with are better than family stories, but you can make whatever you have work. The point is to prove beyond a reasonable doubt by way of a memorable story that you have the exact quality they told you they asked for.
“Clearly, I’m just getting started in my career, but I can tell you that I definitely am a problem solver [replay their exact words when possible] and like to drive for solutions, as you said. There was a time when we were all on vacation, and we had traveled overnight to Thailand. We got a hotel and they did not have our reservation. There was a conference in town so we were in a bad way as everything was booked. We were exhausted and more or less homeless in a foreign country. I knew this was the hotel’s fault because I had seen the reservations so I called up Travelocity and insisted on escalating with them. Then put them on the phone with the hotel customer service manager. Travelocity told them they needed to make this right and they did. We had a great trip.
#7 – Avoid guarding language
This is one of my pet issues. I’m horrible, just horrible about making firm commitments. I want to hedge my bets and put all kind of qualifiers on any agreement because I like to keep things open-ended. That works for me, but there is a price to pay for this as other people find it hard to get to a clear agreement. In business, this is a real problem as uncertainty makes decision making hard. At Microsoft, they told stories of people who made big bets that went wrong, lost lots of money, and utterly failed – and those people were often promoted because they were willing to make big bets. It’s hard to find people who take a principled, well-informed position and defend it. So in an interview, be declarative. “Yes, I really like to work in environments like this.” rather than “If the environment is right, I can really enjoy it.” (always, of course, assuming this is true. Authenticity always!). Avoid “mushy” words like “usually, often, sometimes, possibly” that qualify your convictions or intentions. Be declarative when you can be. This communicates that you’re confident, believe in your own words, and will stand up for what you believe. Who wouldn’t want that in a company (and if they don’t, do you really want the job?).
How is this related to mindfulness? I came to this when I noticed that people took me more seriously and I was having a bigger influence when I changed my habits to use less guarding language and shifted to being more decisive than I am naturally. For example, let’s say you are trying to decide among 3 choices and you’re not getting anywhere with it in conversation with a colleague. Being mindful that you’re not progressing, you can decide to say “Let’s just start with #2.” You may not think it’s any better than the other choices, but it gives you something to work with, lets you proceed and it’s no worse than the other choices. If it’s a poor choice, you learn and that helps you make a better choice next time. Your colleague is likely to be happy to agree and align with the suggestion. If not, you can explore why which could be informative. So there is little downside when all the choices seem about even.
So in your interview, demonstrate your decisiveness and belief in yourself by avoiding guarding language. They will love it as long as authentic and not over-the-top.
To practice, read the stuff all over the web on questions you may be asked, and re-cast them in the ways I’ve suggested. Tell stories. Be conversational. Think about what it’s like to work at the place everyday. Relate to the interviewers as people just doing their jobs looking for good people to work with. Remember, they would love for you to be the right person.
Practice you stories. Notice what it feels like to tell them. Notice “guarding langauge” you use automatically and experiment with more declartive lanaguge. Know what you’re about and be able to tell people. What’s your mission in life? Have that at your fingertips. Mine is “to be a claryfing force.”
When you walk away from an interview, and you have used these notions in the conversation, you leave with a good feeling. If it’s a great fit, both you and they will know it. That has to be a good thing for your chances. If it’s not so great a fit, you will also know that and you can feel great about being clear that you won’t waste your time in a dead-end job where are don’t fit and aren’t appreciated. You can rest assured that these mindfulness-based communication skills will set you apart from others in the loop and help you land a great job. It sure did for me.