TOO SHY TO SHINE! INTERVIEW TIPS FOR THE RETICENT ;-)

18 Jan

TOO SHY TO SHINE . . .INTERVIEW TIPS FOR RETICENT PEOPLE

Being reticent and slow to boast of one’s achievements were once considered virtues. To show restraint when talking about the self was evidence of someone instilled with a quiet sense of purpose, good manners and an understanding of their small but nonetheless significant place in a much wider universe. Showing off about one’s achievements was considered vulgar and a sign of excessive narcissism coupled with a contradictory deep sense of inferiority. It’s great that those attitudes have faded but has the pendulum swung too far in the other direction? It would be interesting to hear people’s thoughts on this issue.

SHYNESS & CAUTION VERSUS CONFIDENT PERSONAL BRANDING!

 Nowadays the ability to talk confidently about your abilities and achievements is crucial to shining at interview and securing a good job. Once, master craftsmen painted and carved masterpieces anonymously. These artists’ lives and personalities went unrecorded, beyond those expressed in the artwork. They did not have to play football for the king’s annual charity soccer team event. The weekend tavern exploits of merchants didn’t rule them out of lucrative trading deals on the Rialto. Today indiscretions posted on Facebook and other Social Media outlets have led to the faltering of many promising young careers. Twitter has caused the decline and fall of high profile people. There is a conflict sometimes when the need to display one’s vocational wares and social skills, and the necessity of maintaining a positive online brand is pitted against a natural and wise sense of caution. Which is worse – a bad online profile or no profile at all? Sometimes caution and shyness can become intertwined. In interview and other performance situations shyness often goes hand in hand with excessive caution and a fear of failure, to the detriment of the applicant.

Twyla Tharp, one of America’s greatest choreographers, has written about fears, or as she calls them ‘the habitual demons that invade the launch of every project,’ in her fine and straight-talking book The Creative Habit. She mentions the following fears and describes how she combats them:

  • That people will laugh at me – not people I respect!
  • That someone has done it before – Honey – it’s all been done before!
  • That I will have nothing to say – Irrelevant! We all have something to say!
  • That the executed idea will never be as good as the one imagined – Toughen up! ‘Better an imperfect dome in Florence than cathedrals in the clouds.’

These are the sorts of anxieties that can plague us all, not just creative people. Dwelling on them too much can lead to a sort of paralysis – not helpful to someone who is inherently shy.

ARE YOU A DEBONAIR, FAST-TALKING, CONFIDENT, AMBITIOUS RISK TAKER OR JUST ANOTHER DREARY JOB APPLICANT WITH NOTHING INTERESTING TO SAY?

In job applications and interviews, recent decades have favoured the brash, the confident, the smooth and the overtly ambitious. Financial risk takers, for instance are often much in demand (though perhaps less so, recently) and historically, boom times have always favoured risk takers. But sometimes the search for such qualities in candidates and the interview process itself can lead to recruiters overlooking the merits of less outgoing candidates. Prudent people may be regarded as hesitant and unsure of themselves and the world. But this is to overlook their often sharper, truer eye for situations, developments and people. Introverts can also often fail to find favour in interview situations because they sometimes come across as lacking in confidence or seem to be unnervingly humble. Good organisations with well developed recruitment policies, and employers generally, will harness a broad spectrum of occupational attributes so that the debonair risk-taker, the slick networker, the reticent strategist, the shy graphics artist and the prudent accountant will collaborate effectively for the overall good of the company.

ARE  YOU TOO SHY TO SHINE?

There is no doubt that shyness can be a handicap at interview. Many shy people have faltered on their chosen career path because the process of projecting their abilities, skills and accomplishments in artificially constructed interview conditions is simply too daunting or they are frustrated by the artificiality of the process. To have one’s career sliced and diced and vivisected on an interview performance sheet can be especially uncomfortable for shy or modest people. Studies have shown that for men in particular, shyness can be especially problematic when making vocational decisions or transitions.

WHERE DID ALL THIS SHYNESS COME FROM? WHY DO I BLUSH, SWEAT, GET TONGUE TIED? WHY DOES MY MIND GO BLANK?

Shyness can result from a traumatic experience or social phobia, or from less opportunities than others to socialise (eg if you grew up in a remote place). It may be a self preservation mechanism or it may simply be part of your own genetic inheritance. Teachers will sometimes remark that a particular family of students are inclined to be shy and need encouragement to engage with the class.
 

OK THAT’S ENOUGH WAFFLE FROM ME . . .IF YOU’RE SHY – HERE ARE A FEW PRACTICAL TIPS THAT MIGHT HELP YOU MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR INTERVIEW PROCESS

1.      Bring stuff into the interview – a visual, a product you designed, a chart outlining your record of achievements, a video of you scoring that winning goal, making that world changing speech, falling off that surfboard and managing to get back on again to complete the course. It will act as an aide memoire, a point of connection/engagement with the interview board and a tangible example of your achievements / ability to persevere / be on a team etc.

2.      Make a list of your proudest achievements, trickiest projects, most successful innovations; bring the list with you for reference. Be ready to talk about them.

3.      What was your hardest day ever? Why? Describe it. How did you get through it?

4.      Make a list of examples of accomplishments, results, awards, recognitions, deadlines, targets met or exceeded.

5.      Practice telling these as brief stories with a beginning, middle and end.

6.      Smile with the teeth – so make sure they are smileable with 😉 Smiling relaxes everyone

7.      In between interviews, spend time identifying and addressing the particular fears that add to your shyness or reticence at interview.

a.      Are you unsure of your knowledge & skills, afraid that your mind will go blank if you are asked how many passengers travelled through Dublin Airport this year? Get sure and if you are required to refer to figures and graphs, it may be an idea to bring some of that information with you on your aide memoire sheet.

b.      Afraid to look foolish? Prepare. Trust in your education, your skills, training and expertise. Trust in your professional know how.

c.       What is the point? I’ve passed the aptitude tests. My CV says it all! They want to get to know you. In some careers an ability to get on with the rest of the team is crucial. An interview is a way of checking out your social skills, how you react to criticism, under pressure, what are the things that make you tick.

d.      What’s the point? I won’t get the job! It can be difficult to remain positive on a treadmill of applications and interviews that lead nowhere. It can help to set separate and distinct goals at interview: (i) Perform well enough to get the job! (ii) Perform well enough to get yourself in line for the next job / internship / Contract (iii) Use the interview as an opportunity to learn more about the company and as a chance to fine tune and perfect your interview techniques.

 

PLAY THE GAME!

A man who went on to become managing director of a large engineering firm, told me that he learned to overcome his shyness and reticence at interviews by treating the process as a serious game – with rules, limits, participants, conflicts, choices, a strong random element, and of course fun. Once he visualised the interview as a game (not Call of Duty though!) he began to enjoy the process and his true, best self clinched his first good job and all the promotions that followed.

© Mary Hosty

 IT’S NOT BRAGGING IF YOU CAN BACK IT UP!!’ MOHAMMED ALI

 References:

Twyla Tharp The Creative Habit Simon & Schuster Paperbacks 2006

 

 

 

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