Job Hunting Tips: Accepting Judgment
Applying for work is stressful, no matter the circumstances. Even if you are already working, and merely looking to see what else is out there, you still want to be offered the position. If you realize, half way through an interview, that you would be miserable working for this company and you wouldn't let your dog take the job, you still want it to be offered. If the hours are unsuitable, the job duties demeaning, and the salary a joke, you still want to be made an offer.
Why is it so important to us to have an offer made which we already know we will reject?
It is important because we are aware that we are being judged. We talk about skills and experience and prior accomplishments but that has already been outlined in a resume. A face-to-face interview is for the purpose of judging you as a person: Will you fit in? How do you express yourself? How do you look? Are you pleasant to have around? Are you likable?
If a job offer is made, we feel validated and worthwhile -they liked us. We never think "He really didn't like me but my skills are so great." We want to be liked, we want to be wanted, we want to be appreciated for what we are.
If no job offer is forthcoming, we take it personally: "I guess they didn't like me." Regardless of our whether our skills were a fit, our salary in the ballpark, or our experience applicable, we feel a personal failure. The negative messages of a lifetime, stored in our brain, start playing: "I'm just not good enough. I'm worthless. People don't like me. Why do I always mess up? I'm such a failure. Why can't I be more like . . . "
We mentally beat ourselves down by listening to those constantly recycling tapes. Our spirits sink, our energy evaporates, and our self-esteem plummets. This negativity, and its destructive effect on our psyche, can be contained by three techniques:
1. Awareness of what our mind is doing and consciously interrupting its tirade.
2. A refocus of our mental attention to prior successes and accomplishments, no matter how small, to counter the idea that we are lifelong screw-ups.
3. Reframing our value as a person from the specific employee/worker role into the total personality that we are: in our intimate and social relationships, in our family, in our community.
Applying for work sets us up to judged but we need to remind ourselves that only a small discrete portion of who we are is being examined. As a whole person, we are far more than a worker and no employer can judge us on our totality.
Virginia Bola operated a rehabilitation company for 20 years, developing innovative job search techniques for disabled workers, while serving as a respected Vocational Expert in Administrative, Civil and Workers' Compensation Courts. Author of an interactive and emotionally supportive workbook, The Wolf at the Door: An Unemployment Survival Manual, and a monthly ezine, The Worker's Edge, she can be reached at http://www.virginiabola.com
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I received the following questions from a visitor to my website recently: "How should I respond to inappropriate questions such as: (1) Do you have a stable home life? (2) Tell me about your personal situation. Are these inappropriate questions? It has been so long since I interviewed for a job, your suggestions about the most helpful responses would be appreciated!" Those are, indeed, inappropriate questions that should NOT be asked at an interview. Various federal, state, and local laws regulate the questions a prospective employer can ask you. An employer's questions - on the job application, in the interview, or during the testing process - must be related to the job for which you are applying. That does not mean, however, that you will never be asked inappropriate questions. Some companies have poor HR support, some interviewers are untrained and unaware of inappropriate or illegal questions, and some even ask them knowing they should not. You won't have much chance of getting the job if you respond to such questions by saying, "Hey, that's an inappropriate question. You can't ask me that!" So you have a few options. First, you can answer the question. Even if it's inappropriate to ask, there's nothing that says you can't answer it. If you choose to do so, realize that you are giving information that is not job-related. You could harm your chances by giving the "wrong" answer. Or you could respond with something like, "How would my answer to that question directly relate to my ability to perform in this position?" If you keep your tone non-confrontational, courteous and upbeat, they may realize they've goofed by asking such a question without getting upset at you for pointing out their mistake. Depending on how they respond, you may feel more comfortable answering. The best strategy, I believe, is to figure out and address their TRUE CONCERN. When they ask something like, "Do you have a stable personal life?" they may be trying to protect themselves from a bad situation that they've had to deal with in the past (former employee whose personal problems interfered with his/her ability to do the job). So what they really want to know is, will YOU be a reliable employee who can be counted upon to show up and do your job effectively, regardless of any personal problems you may have. So without directly answering their question, try to address their underlying concern. In this instance you might say, "My career is very important to me. I'm fully committed to performing at my highest level at all times, and don't allow any kind of distractions to interfere with that. I'll deliver the results you're looking for." If you're not sure what their true concern is, ask something like "Could you please rephrase or elaborate on your question? I want to make sure I address your concern." Please realize that many interviewers are untrained and therefore unaware that a question they might ask to break the ice -- such as "Do you have any kids?" -- is inappropriate. Yes, this question may be an attempt to determine if you have child-care issues that could interfere with your job... but it's MORE likely that the interviewer is innocently trying to find something he/she has in common with you. In the end, it's basically a judgment call on your part. If you feel the interviewer has no legitimate reason to ask an inappropriate question, and you do not want to answer it, say "I'm sorry, but I don't see how that has any relevance to my ability to do this job." You might run the risk of losing the job, but if your gut instinct is telling you there's something amiss, you wouldn't want to work for that person anyway. Here's a list of some questions -- the wrong way, and the right way, to obtain legitimate information: Inappropriate: Are you a U.S. citizen?OK: Are you authorized to work in the United States? Inappropriate: How old are you?OK: Are you over the age of 18? Inappropriate: What's your marital status? Do you have children?OK: Would you be able and willing to work overtime as necessary? Inappropriate: How much do you weigh? Do you have any disabilities?OK: Are you able to perform the physical duties required in this job, with or without reasonable accommodations? Inappropriate: Have you ever been arrested? OK: Have you ever been convicted of _____? (The crime should be reasonably related to the performance of the job in question.)
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