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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Tips for Assertiveness in a Job Interview

In these tough economic times many people are experiencing job loss. This morning I read a post on about a guy who after losing his job as a mortgage broker, then beat out 300 people to get a job he found on Craigslist. He is now busy and thriving.

In a time of so much unemployment, the job interview has to be an assertive event for the interviewee. Not only do you really need the job, like Josh in the CNN interview, but also you are competing with a lot of other people who equally really need the job.

You therefore MUST be good at having a successful job interview.

Asserting yourself is key to a good job interview. Assertiveness is about having respect for yourself as well as respect for the other person. Respect for yourself means knowing that you are worth hiring enough to make sure that the interviewer knows that as well.

I love listening to politicians. Often an interviewer will ask the politician a question and he/she answers the question in such a way that he/she gets information out that sells her/his platform. In a job interview, your strengths are the platform on which you stand. Assertively inserting this information into the job interview is the essential element in a good job interview.

Here are several ways you can assert your strengths in a job interview:

1. Take with you not only your resume, but a typed list of accomplishments you think you achieved in your last job. This should be a simple list:
  • Created a new program focused on X
  • Brought XXXX people into the firm
  • Timely in accomplishment of tasks

The details of these positive accomplishments can come out in the interview and give you an opportunity to talk about yourself.

Hand this to the interviewer saying assertively, "I made a list of what I achieved in my last job."

2. Bring with you a folder in which you have copies of emails, thank you notes, articles - anything you have to support your list of accomplishments. Note: If you haven't been keeping these type of things, it's a good thing to start doing going forward

3. If a question is one you can answer well, answer it and find a way, as a politician might, to insert something else you'd like the interviewer to know.

Interviewer: "Tell me about your computer skills. Are you familiar with Excel?"

You: "I am quite familiar with Excel and used it everyday in my last job. Your question about Excel reminds me of an Excel project I worked on involving XXXX in which I did XXXXX."

4. Be prepared to assert positive aspects of you into every possible question. And bring with you support for your assertions.

Simplest example:

Interviewer: "We are looking for someone who can write newsletters. I notice on your resume that your last position was an administrative assistant. I'm not sure you have the experience to do this writing job."

You: "Part of what drew me to apply for this job was the opportunity to write newsletters. I often had the opportunity to edit for my boss in my admin post. As a matter of fact, I brought a copy of XXX that I wrote for her when she was too busy to do it herself. In addition, I assumed that you would wonder about my qualifications to write that newsletter so I have written a mock-up of what might be the front page of a newsletter. Here it is."

A more complex example:

Interviewer: "What did you learn as an administrative assistant that would apply to an internal communications post at an environmental engineering firm?" I imagine the interviewer's eyebrows knit together as this question is asked.

Note: This question (and the possible body language with it) pulls for you to be defensive - it's not assertive to be defensive and will put a block between you and the interviewer. Instead you start by making a connection between you and the interviewer and then tailor the question to your advantage.
You: "I can imagine that it seems like a leap to you that I would want this job, but I've always wanted to write. I brought a folder with samples of my writing and in addition to the samples, I also made a mock-up of what might be a front page for a company newsletter here."

Note: The first statement is an empathic assertion - you try to imagine what it's like to be the interviewer and then make an assertive statement: "I've always wanted to write."

The interviewer takes your folder, thinks, "Wow, this person is really eager," reads your material, is impressed and you get the job!


Anonymous said...

Hi Linda,

I'm currently looking for a job and one of my weaknesses is that I don't come across as being assertive. I believe that I'm assertive when I'm doing my job but when it comes to interviews I just don't convey it.
It was very interesting to read your post.

Thank you


JennifromtheBlock said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Linda T said...

Of course take printed out LinkedIn recommendations. That would add to your file folder of positives!

JennifromtheBlock said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
JennifromtheBlock said...

(comment re-posted...)

Hi Linda,

I'm an Executive Assistant recently unemployed and have been on 5 interviews with some pretty big companies in my area in the last 2 1/2 months. The feedback from the recruiter or even asked directly in my interview is, you're really soft spoken, do you think you can be assertive enough for the job?

I don't know why I have this "interview" tone, but my "friends and family" tone strong, even aggressive. I don't know how to change this about me. My response to this question is, I may come off a little timid or shy in an interview, but I'm far from it. When it comes to my work abilities I do what it take to get the job done. In one interview I even added, my references will attest to my assertiveness and abilities. On my interview yesterday, because it was going so well the CEO brought in 2 other key players in the company to sit in on the interview, and when once again asked the question, I answered as I normally do and then added (with a smile) if you hear running coming down the halls, you might want to step aside because that's me getting somewhere, trying to get something done. They all chuckled at that bit of advice.

Your blog was very helpful. I do have printed letters of recommendation that I've never brought with me on interviews. I'll definitely put that list of accomplishments together for my next interview. I also have recommendations from some pretty big people in my past companies on LinkedIn, would you suggest that I print those and bring them as well?

As you can see I've been told enough times that I had to "google" what does assertive look like in an interview. Believe me when I say, your aticle is much appreciated ;)

- Jeanette S.