Know Thy Buttons And Ace Your Next Job Interview

2017 July 14
5 min read

Job Interviews Don't Have to Be Scary

For as long I can remember I have been working with people, either by choice or circumstance. Some interactions were, fortunately, good, but most of them had one or many turning points. I could be exaggerating because we all know this is how our memory (and ego) is coping with time passing: I was never to blame, the other one was faulty in understanding what I said, meant or felt.

Understand Yourself

I won’t pry into your personal life, but I cannot help but wonder: is this true for your professional one as well? How often have you set your hopes sky high during a job interview only to close the door behind you feeling that the recruiter hasn’t got the right picture of how awesome you truly are? 

How about your colleague and his constant stepping on your toes, you would have thought he is aware you need some space after all these years?! And that boss of yours, does he keep a record of the amount of pressure and the performance one earnestly attains because of it?

Why do people don’t understand other people and act accordingly? Do you even understand yourself?

Know Thy Buttons

Will you indulge me and focus on the term “buttons” for 5 minutes? My theory is that we all have some and that every once in awhile someone will push the wrong ones. The good news is that almost every day we do manage to get the right combination to be a functional human being.

Congratulate yourself for all the lovely office meetings you’ve attended, for all those times you helped a colleague in trouble, even for that time when you chose not to retaliate on your boss for not giving you the long awaited promotion.

I am assuming by now you have made the not so subtle connection between “buttons” and Pixar’s Inside Out movie. If not, just watch it for the sake of a genuine enlightenment.

A Trial and Error Process

My grown-up theory is that I have to know my buttons to prevent a disaster from happening. All metaphors aside, I picture every human as an incredibly complex pile of data, amassed throughout years and years of trial and error. We respond to our environment and stimulus by reactions.

We strive to express our thoughts and emotions coherently while balancing the workplace relations every day. This is hard work in itself. I firmly believe we cannot succeed in this without knowing what our buttons are. Treat these assumptions lightly; I am not trying to enunciate a complex algorithm about personality and character. Just focus on action and reaction. This is what makes a button. Action and Reaction.

Big Data and Yourself

If you are aware of what’s going on in the world today, by now, you will have heard about big data. This is what we produce every day, contributing to the pile I’ve mentioned earlier: responses.

Somebody makes a political joke, my brain tells my fist to punch that person, or on the contrary, to contract my facial muscles and laugh out loud. I get a mail from the HR about a day off I forgot to check in, I feel misunderstood and lonely, how could they not care about me getting a cold because of this freezing hell?! (It’s -12C outside my office, by the way). What do you do with all this information about yourself? (pause for another 5 minutes and think about it)

Know Your Reactions

A step further into my theory: the better I know my reactions and what causes them, the abler I am to manage them accordingly to my will. You could call it self-control, awareness, mindfulness, or whatever. But the stake is higher: you want people to see you as you do yourself. We generally have a good opinion about ourselves, we’re the good guy of any story, right?

Know Thyself

Let’s visit the job interview example again. You aim for that dream corner office, fat paycheck, nice car. And you’re only one conversation away from it. With a total stranger, who has read a great piece of paper on who you are (assuming you have sent the format, of course).

You’ll get the job for sure, right? The end....well, not yet! That stranger has questions. How did you do on your last assignment? Tell me a little something about yourself. How about your manager, what does he appreciate about you? And why have you stayed for that long on the same job? Why should we hire you? Sounds familiar?

If you have some experience with job interviews, they tend to get on your nerves. You’re already nervous because you really want to impress. And then they start interrogating you as if they don’t believe a word of what you’ve put in that CV. On top of it all, they ask if you can supply some references from your job. Well, you wouldn’t want to change it if you were happy there in the first place!

You should know your buttons beforehand. You do not want somebody else pushing those panic/anger/uncertainty/complain buttons! Before accepting a meeting with a potential employer, please, take some time to carefully dig through the pile of data about what triggers your reactions.

● What are you most afraid of being asked? Ask that question aloud and answer it. Watch you face in the mirror while doing it. Don’t lie, why would you want to lie to yourself?

● What would you like the employer to know about yourself? Tell it like you’d do in a friendly conversation. He’s not your enemy, nor a mind reader.

● Why would you like to work here/there? No, not because you need it. This is an exchange, not a charity. Don’t get offended; they’re not after your life, they want to pay you for what you can bring to the table. Get your poker face on and negotiate!

I guess I should come back to those buttons before you get too excited about your next job interview. Big data goes hand in hand with artificial intelligence nowadays. But don’t forget, you do not wish to become artificial. 

Reactions and spontaneity are part of your charm (admit it, you do think of yourself as charming from time to time). Take it from a recruiter that has messed up job interviews one too many times. The only real preparation you need before going to that interview is to know your buttons.

You have the motivation; you have experience, you did your research. But all that is still in your head. When you are sitting in that comfy chair, you’ll want your mind amped up and you as a safe button keeper behind it!

My only aim with this rant is for you to be kind to yourself, understand and accept who you are. Buttons are my way of telling each candidate that I won’t judge, but I will make a decision upon his reactions.

Best of luck!