Job interviews are not therapy sessions

Kathryn Crawford Saxer Career Management

I was at a party, half listening to a guy talk about an upcoming interview.

“I’m just going to be myself,” he said confidently. “I’m going to show them the good and the bad.” He’s a newly minted lawyer with no work experience. He’s never had an interview for a professional role.

I sipped my wine, admired the view, and kept quiet.

“There are aspects of my personality that can rub people the wrong way,” he explained. “I want to forewarn them so I know I’m a good fit if they hire me.”

“You are treating this job interview like a therapy appointment,” I observed mildly. “It’s great to explore your shadow side in therapy; possibly less constructive to do so in a job interview.”

That stopped the conversation.

“I don’t want to lie to them,” he protested. “I want to show them who I am.”

I took a last look at the view, and turned toward the guy.

“That is naïve,” I told him. “You can polish your rough edges and still be yourself.”

“I’ll just see how it goes,” he replied, still convinced he was on the right track. “If it goes badly, I’ll just interview somewhere else.”

I told him that flaming out in an interview would risk his confidence, and his reputation. You want to be careful with both, I told him.

“You’re a verbal guy,” I said. “You talk a lot. If you wing it, if you don’t prepare for these interviews, you’re not going to know when to stop talking. You’ll probably want to avoid that.”

“Well, how do I prepare?” he asked.

I put down my wine.

“OK, we’ll go through what I call the Five Dreadfuls and how to answer them,” I said. “These are potential land mine questions you’ll want to prepare for networking meetings and pre-interview chitchat.”

“Got a pen and paper?” I asked.

First published in The Seattle Times. Read my archive of Seattle Times Explore columns.