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Dealing with Difficult Situations at Interviews

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Interviewing requires poise even in ideal situations. When you face additional psychological obstacles thanks to difficult situations, staying poised requires perspective.

Laid Off or Fired

Losing a job disrupts a worker's sense of stability and career plans. For people whose work is a source of personal pride and value, sudden loss can be disorienting.

That's how Jim felt when his pharmaceutical company laid him off to reduce costs. Despite his understanding of the financial reasons for eliminating his position, it still seemed as if his company had rejected him.

Since he had managed multiple teams and thrived on the ability to influence others, he felt frustrated by his loss of power and the sense of significance that it had brought him.

Then Jim refocused. After all, his layoff was not the culmination of his professional history or an evaluation of his merit. Instead of dwelling on his loss, Jim made a list of his professional and personal accomplishments.

For example, he had successfully launched a new medication, taking it from experimental testing through marketing. He had initiated and developed a new employee mentoring program, effectively training other mentors to provide guidance to employees. As a result, the morale of the office and communication flows improved.

After highlighting several other accomplishments, Jim made a list of the constructive feedback he received from his team, colleagues, and managers. Several people had noted his initiative and his organizational abilities, others had thanked him for his encouragement and accessibility. Still others saw him as an excellent negotiator. Two of his managers had commented on his attention to detail in quality standards. He could see on paper that his colleagues respected him.

As Jim considered his career at the pharmaceutical company, he began to gain an appreciation for his experience and contribution there. In addition to helping him feel better, the process refined his goals. Jim saw more clearly what kind of position enabled him to flourish. With a renewed sense of confidence in his objective achievements and value, Jim launched himself into the search.

Prolonged Job Search

Jim searched for an extended period. His layoff had occurred during an economic downturn that dampened the entire industry, and now he found himself networking, searching job banks, and dragging himself to job fairs. Discouragement began to seep into his psyche, and his enthusiasm for his skills and achievements began to dissolve. Knowing that he had previously overcome sapped confidence, Jim pulled back from his immediate emotions to reflect on his overall situation.

Jim identified the facts: he had usable skills and qualities and a proven history of adding value to his company. He wanted a job that would challenge and grow with him, enabling him to build his career. He knew himself well enough to realize that he thrived in large companies rather than small ones, and in positions in which he was able to assume significant responsibility for outcomes and people.

He also had specific salary goals and minimum requirements. He did not want to settle for any open position. His circumstances would have been discouraging for anyone, but he needed to find the right fit. His extended search did not reflect upon his worth as a viable candidate or person.

Eventually, an attractive company invited Jim for an interview. Since his resume indicated that he had stopped working at his previous company five months prior, he anticipated that the interviewers would question him about his employment gap. He carefully prepared an answer, focusing on his desire to find a job that matches his specific abilities and goals. He could guarantee his skills, but he could not control the availability of positions.

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