For interviewers and candidates, mindful interviewing can help accurately assess the quality of the fit
Long before I began making my living as an emotional intelligence coach, I was a “headhunter.” I taught candidates how to ace an interview, and to prepare to meet the hiring managers (whom I was simultaneously teaching to dig beneath candidate résumés to uncover behaviors that were likely to repeat).
Unfortunately, those techniques were more about increasing the likelihood that a candidate would be hired than about mindful and authentic matchmaking. I’ve come to realize that the process of interviewing is much more rewarding when candidates and employers approach the interview without focusing exclusively on the outcome, much like those lucky few who are able to go on a first date without trying to assess whether they’re eating linguine tonight with the person they’ll be eating linguine with for the rest of their lives.
Approaching the interview with self-awareness, transparency, openness and authenticity gives both parties a chance to learn about important attributes that they bring to the table, and creates a conversation that can go deeper than the usual formulaic “Why-are-you-leaving-your-current-job/Because-I-am-looking-for-a-better-opportunity” Q+A.
What constitutes a “mindful” interview?
Typically, mindfulness describes a way of paying attention to the present moment, being in a state of awareness that has the purpose and intention to be fully engaged in one’s present experience, without judgment or attachment to a future outcome.
During an interview, it means having an awareness of the thoughts and feelings that arise without making immediate decisions about what those thoughts and feelings mean, and without judging yourself harshly for having them. In a mindful state, for example, you may notice that you’re feeling nervous or impatient, and you simply allow the anxiety or annoyance to exist without resistance or wishing it away.
You may have heard the phrase, “what you resist persists,” and nowhere is it more true than in situations that provoke our fears or make us want to just “get it over with.” Instead, you’re able to connect to the information that the emotion is conveying, whether it’s “I really want this person to like me,” or “I am believing that I absolutely have to nail this interview, and it’s getting in my way of paying attention to what’s being said.”
By remaining in the present moment, suspending self-judgment and remembering to breathe, you can grab some good lessons out of any interview, whether it results in a hire or not.
Demonstrate your emotional intelligence and reduce interview stress with these 10 mindful interviewing tips from a former executive recruiter
So how does one achieve this state of mindfulness in interviewing? And how can you turn the interview into a meaningful conversation that will help both sides assess the likely long-term success of the relationship?
- Do your soul searching ahead of time. Have a clear idea of why you’re on the market, and how you got where you are today. Make written notes about the important lessons you’ve learned from prior work experiences, and note examples of how you have implemented those lessons. Run them by a trusted friend or colleague to make sure you can articulate this information clearly and concisely.
- Know what you’re looking for. Be clear about which skills and qualifications you most want to develop in your next job, so you can determine how well the tasks you’ll be required to do match up with how you prefer to spend your days, and align with your goals for further growth.
- Nourish yourself. About an hour before the interview, eat a small, healthy meal or a protein bar, and go easy on the coffee. The rumbling of an empty stomach is distracting, and caffeine jitters are not conducive to mindfulness.
- Quiet your mind. Get to the interview at least 15 minutes early and use that time to release negative thoughts and calm your anxiety. Meditation or visualization exercises can bring you to the open and relaxed state of mind that will help you connect during the interview.
- Stay present. Notice when your focus is pulled away from the conversation by the voices in your head that are judging your performance. Gently return yourself to the conversation so you can pay attention to the interviewer’s spoken language, body language, and facial expression.
- Tell the truth. Be professional in your honesty about whether you see a fit, what your concerns are, and what excites you about working together. If you don’t understand something, ask for clarification.
- Be honest with yourself. Is the notion of working for this person a big “Hell, yeah!” or more “Meh. It’s a job and I need a job!”? Do you see a good match with your employer’s personality and preferred style of managing? Is your excitement about the job coming from your core, or is it manufactured? Is the work engaging?
- Check your alignment. Do the job and the culture align with your core values? Is there anything that makes you feel physically uncomfortable? Check in with your ‘body compass’ to make sure you’re not talking yourself into, or out of, something. Physical discomfort may be a sign that something’s not right for you.
- Explore possibilities. If the job description isn’t an exact fit, but you are excited about the company’s mission and culture, ask the employer if they’re willing to talk about more options. “I’d love to work with you in another way, is there room for that?” Mindfulness helps create opportunities.
- Express gratitude. Gratitude is an indication of mindful living. Write a heart-felt thank you note, including what you observed about the conversation during the interview and what you learned. And give the universe a nod for giving you the opportunity to experience another way to learn something about yourself.Take a moment to appreciate what you’ve accomplished. It’s a satisfying way to enrich your life—connecting with others while you discover essential new awareness that will serve you in the future.
- Do your soul searching ahead of time. Have a clear idea of why you’re looking to fill this particular position. Make sure you have integrated the important lessons you’ve learned from prior hiring experiences.
- Know what you’re looking for. Be clear about which skills and qualifications you most want in your candidates, and leave room for the attributes and qualities that make a good employee. How flexible are you willing to be in order to include someone who would be an asset to the entire team?
- Nourish yourself. Eat well, drink plenty of water, and make sure you leave ample time between interviews to refresh yourself with a stretch or some fresh air.
- Quiet your mind. A brief period of quiet reflection, meditation or visualization can help you clarify your needs so you can focus on how well the candidate fulfills them.
- Stay present. Turn off your phone and computer. Be an impeccable example of full attention. And while it’s not your job to eliminate the candidate’s anxiety, a little compassion goes a long way. Reserve judgment until the interview concludes.
- Tell the truth. Be professional in your honesty about whether you see a fit, what your concerns are, and what excites you about working together.
- Be honest with yourself. Is the notion of hiring this person a big “Hell, yeah!” or more of a “Meh. She’s a marketing manager and I need a marketing manager” sort of thing? Do you see a good match with your candidate’s personality and preferred style of working? Is your excitement about the candidate coming from your core, or is it manufactured?
- Check your alignment. Do the candidate and his/her background align with your core values? Are you offering enough compensation to get what you value most? Check in with your gut—intuition is expressed in your body, so check in with your ‘body compass’ for more information about your comfort level with the candidate. Physical discomfort may be a sign that something’s not right.
- Explore possibilities. If the candidate isn’t an exact fit for the job description, but they’ve got the hard-to-find qualities or skill sets you’ve seen in successful employees, look for possibilities for things to work in a way you hadn’t expected. Take time to talk about a somewhat different vision that leverages those qualities or skills.
- Express gratitude. Part of the practice of mindfulness is to be aware of the blessings and honors, the abundance and opportunities in our lives. You’ve just connected with another human being, and if you were mindful, you learned something about yourself as well as the candidate.And, just like life outside the interview room, that’s ultimately what the whole experience is about.