A strong presence is about how others around you feel. It could be called managing perceptions as your behaviors allow others to draw certain conclusions about you. If you are attentive, they feel acknowledged and may conclude that you are considerate of others. If you listen well, they feel respected and decide that you would be a wise and thoughtful leader. If you demonstrate emotional detachment, they feel safe and assume that you can stay cool under pressure. When you are looking for employment, you can capitalize on these positive responses and stand out from the other job applicants.
Instead of a long article in which I blab at you about exceptional presence, I thought it might be more accessible and more amusing to respond to questions from the hypothetical disillusioned job seeker. This job seeker is a composite of several people I have met lately whose combination of hopelessness and snarkiness is forgivable when we consider their frustration in this job market.
The article is divided into three parts: Preparing for the Interview, Speaking & Listening, and Tough Situations.
Preparing for the Interview
It isn’t really possible to exude a strong presence when you are in the position of asking–practically begging–for a job, right?
I would respectfully disagree. A job interview is a tremendous opportunity to bring your strong presence out and show it off. First impressions last, and you want yours to be positive and memorable.
But confidence is a key factor in someone’s presence, and that’s exactly what I’m lacking these days!
You’re right, so restart your job search with a pep talk. No matter how long you have been out looking, you still have a level of education, skills, and work history that have served you in the past. Focus on what qualities you bring to the table and remind yourself of the successes you have experienced in your career. I find that some of my clients are engaging in negative self-talk. You need to cut that out, and shut up those little voices. They are not helpful to you and will affect your confidence. It would be preferable to spend that energy on positive visualization, uplifting and healthful activities, and exercise.
I haven’t had an interview in six months. Has something gone wrong with me?
It tears me up to see a solid employee with a history of steady employment get so rattled during this terrible recession that he or she worries about the ability to be employed. Your unemployment is not your fault. It is currently estimated that 20 million people are chasing 4 million jobs. This is a very tough time.
Differentiating yourself is the only way to overcome those odds. This you can do through your exceptional presence, building a coherent ‘story,’ getting out there, and following up. There are a lot of job seekers who don’t know how to look for work. Why should they? That wasn’t how they built their careers. Unfortunately, in this environment, they need to broaden their skills to cope with job-hunting adversity.
I’ve got five different resumes. Do you think that’s enough?
I would prefer that you create a great resume that you know by heart and stick with it, but if you want to tweak it a little for the particular position, make sure that your changes are minimal and you can remember what they are. It’s confusing to the interviewer when you use different words and descriptions from the resume to describe your background. Try to keep things simple for the interviewer. It’s a sign of courtesy and honesty.
So many people have made changes to my resume that now I’m just really confused.
I am hearing about advice about disguising things on your resume that sounds definitely very questionable. Here’s the bottom line: don’t lie on your resume. Your resume should be an accurate and complete description of your work history and background. As job seekers have become more desperate, there has been a surge in resume dishonesty, but it will affect your confidence in the interview if you know that you have presented a document that is less than truthful. Dodgy descriptions, gaps, and parts of your resume that don’t add up give an impression that you are less than ethical which has a terrible effect on your presence.
It seems like everyone is an expert but me.
The focus on personal branding and grandiose self-promotion has led to laughable descriptions and puffery on resumes and profiles. Please scrutinize your documentation for silly terminology that reflects a bloated ego or naïve buzzword adoption. I would think hard about words like “thought leader,” “expert,” “change agent,” “innovator,” “visionary” and make sure those are words that others would use about you. Otherwise take them out–very few positions require those qualities. Most companies just have a job that they need to get done. Using and encouraging others to use plain English leads to good communication, a key attribute of those with a strong presence. You don’t need to over-sell. You’re good enough.
I’ve finally gotten an interview. If I don’t get this job, I don’t know what I’m going to do . . .
Congratulations! Getting an interview is a notable accomplishment right now, so use that to build your confidence and keep perspective. This is a very good sign. It means that you meet your potential employer’s needs on paper. You don’t need to overcome any shortcoming or knock their socks off in the interview. You simply need to not blow it. Thinking in this way will help you stay collected during the interview process and not try too hard. And if you’ve gotten this interview, there may be others right around the corner. That happy thought will keep you from treating this one as life or death.
Won’t engaging in small talk detract from my professionalism?
Some people would think that only a fool would care how the Texas football teams were doing, but part of interviewing is to build community and show that you can get along. Consider the local news and events, so you can chat easily with the receptionist or others. It shows approachability, a wonderful component of your presence, and a little humor wouldn’t be out of place. Remember that you want to impress EVERYONE. So if you’re going to Dallas, check out the Cowboys.
I’ve read the company website, and they sound like a really good employer. I’d be lucky to get a job offer–maybe I should just ask to volunteer there.
Whoa! Every company has pros and cons. Be sure that your research on the company includes sources other than the company. Take a look on Yelp and Glassdoor.com. Google the company and look for employee lawsuits, patent infringement, product recalls, financial problems. trouble with the DOJ or SEC, and other negative news. Keep that information in perspective (good employers get sued too), but you do want to go in as informed as you can be.
You don’t want to decide before the interview that you would take a job offer. You lose negotiating power (in your own mind), and you need to be listening hard during the interview to make sure this is the right place for you. After all, you don’t want to take a job, discover that it was the wrong move, and now have an event on your resume that you have to explain. Demonstrating that kind of professional restraint and wisdom is a great commentary on your presence and maturity.
In Part Two of this article, we will consider ways to differentiate yourself during the interview. Please feel free to leave a comment if you have other thoughts for job seekers.
Copyright © 2013 Jennifer K. Crittenden
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