How to Face Your Demons at Interview Without Getting Defensive

How to Face Your Demons at Interview Without Getting Defensive

14/06/2019 Off By pauldrury

The best interviews are an exploration of who you are.

Proficient interviewers read between the lines of your application, teasing out relevant strengths, but also seeking to expose potential weaknesses.

If the picture that they piece together is sufficiently rounded, their final decision will be that bit more certain. They will know how to utilise your strengths and understand that they can help you with your weaknesses.

No one is perfect. Insisting that you have no flaws is simply arrogant.

You can be sure that your demons will make an appearance during your interview(s).

The question is how you react when they are there, right in front of you.

Do you humbly admit your vulnerability, or do you put on your armour and go on the defensive?

I know what I would do, and it involves covering myself in 3mm of mental steel and resisting the blow. If I sense an impending attack, my natural reaction is to defend (i.e. hit back with equal force). This might work well on the battlefield, but an interview is not a confrontation – the best interviews are a collaboration.

When you are collaborating with your interviewer to work out whether you want to work with each other, putting up defensive boundaries is not conducive to an open and honest exploration of a potential fit. If they sense that you are getting defensive, it is natural to assume that you have something to hide. They then dig deeper and what should have been a vulnerable “yes, I’m not great at this, but I am working to get better” turns into a forensic examination of your inadequacies.

In my view, the best way to avoid focusing on your demons is to acknowledge their presence and then steer the conversation in a more positive direction.

Getting defensive in the face of your demons at interview simply prolongs the battle.

And it likely won’t end well.

We all have aspects of our personality that get us into trouble at work. We have all made mistakes in our careers that we would rather forget. We know that there are certain types of people with whom we don’t quite see eye to eye. There are always areas of our skill set that we have neglected for whatever reason.

We don’t want to talk about these demons, but if an opportunity comes along to reveal a little vulnerability, that is possibly the best form of defence there can be.

Only the most sadistic interviewer would knock a candidate when they are admitting their faults, and if you openly discuss your demons, it is highly likely that the interviewer will see that you are dealing with them and will move on to more positive aspects of your candidature.

It takes a certain self-assurance to do this, but trust me, it will be worth it. If they decide not to hire you because of a few flaws, they likely won’t have the understanding to stand by you when those flaws appear on the job later down the line.

Going into the interview with a vulnerable “this is me” attitude is the best approach.

Facing your demons and inadequacies at interview is rare, but with new employee retention rates at worrying levels, maybe you are giving yourself the chance to make the best possible start?

Have courage. Be yourself. Let them hire you for who you are.

Be vulnerable.

Let them decide to hire your demons too.


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(If you post career-oriented content and would like to be included here, email: paul@outplacementwriter.com)