You’ve researched the company, met up with employees who work there, prepped your answers so you can answer the key questions you know the interviewers are going to ask, put on your “power suit,” and done everything you can to be ready to deliver the best job interview that company has ever seen.
Yet, now that you are in the middle of it, things aren’t going so well and deep down inside you know that it isn’t you – it’s them. So what do you do when you can tell another’s prejudice might be getting in the way of your opportunity?
You ask one simple question:
“You seem disappointed in me (or disappointed with my interview). Can you clarify where that is coming from?”
The fact that you pointed out the elephant in the room will shock interviewers – most people will never have been asked a question like that and may feel exposed because you have called their bluff. The response you’ll likely get is a complete change in demeanour and tone from the interviewers: they will start apologizing, changing their attitude, and will give you the kind of interview that will help you leave with a sense of accomplishment even if you don’t get hired.
And what if this isn’t the result, and you are met with opposition instead of apology?
Try another question:
“From my perspective this interview is not going very well – looks like prejudice to me. What’s the real issue here – accent, skin colour, religion?”
Huge shock value again, and if we are being honest, you really have nothing to lose. If the interviewers really are prejudiced and don’t want to hire you, they will certainly remember that their intent was entirely clear to you and (hopefully) they’ll consider how they can change their beliefs and behaviour to act more appropriately in the future. If the interviewers didn’t realize they were presenting themselves in a prejudiced way and that truly was neither their motivation nor intent, they will change their tune pretty fast.
Either way you win.
At the very least, you win respect. Taking a lesson from the playground, the only way to beat a bully is to show you aren’t scared. To find the courage to stand up for yourself, you have to call in your “A team” of inner strength that reminds you of your inherent human dignity and the fact that you deserve to be treated with respect and offered the same opportunities as anyone else applying for the position. (And if you want to learn more about how you can turn your accent into an asset, read HERE.)
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The final frontier – sex
There is one more forbidden category where a stick will be required. Let’s say the interviewer is sexually attracted to you. Again, the best way to deal with it is to name that elephant in the room:
“You seem a little hot and bothered. What’s that all about?”
Or, the next step:
“Looks like this interview has some attraction issues; can we get that out of the way?”
Or, in extreme cases:
“This interview is not going to the bedroom. I’m here for one reason: a job interview. Is that why you’re here?”
There are 2 reasons these “big sticks” work:
- They name the real issue in a way that goes straight to the truth of the matter. People cannot resist the sword of truth. They always have a visceral reaction.
- They put responsibility where it belongs. Ending with a question creates accountability and puts the onus to make corrections right back where it belongs – in the court of the person who needs to do something about it.
A final word of advice about your delivery: when you choose to use one of these “word bombs,” know that they strike to the heart of someone’s ill intent. There can be a push back. You will need to stand firm, hold the gaze of the other person and remain silent until you get an appropriate response. If the response is not appropriate stay silent longer. And you need to be prepared to leave if the situation does not improve. If you act like you are not confident, look away, or keep talking, you will not get to your goal: to get the interviewer to either change their attitude or fess up and let you get on with your life.
So let’s recap…
To be irresistible in an interview:
- Prepare yourself to increase the know, like, trust (KNT) factor.
- Create a climate of interest in the interviewer that increases the KLT factor even more.
- Be aware that certain gestures and behaviours will increase trust; use them appropriately and in small doses.
- When faced with prejudice, remember that you too have prejudices even if you can’t think of any right at the moment.
- To combat prejudice initially, pour on the charm and do it sincerely. Authentic goodness is hard to resist.
- Next, name the hidden negative intent and follow-up with a question. Wait for a response.
- Your final strategy is to make the attitude or behaviour really obvious by naming it more strongly, then end with a question, hold the gaze, observe silence and wait for the answer.
- When faced with sexual attraction from an interviewer, follow the same procedures of naming the issue, asking the question, holding the gaze, remain calm and observe silence until you get an appropriate response.
- Leave with your dignity and pride.
As a final story, the two times I was most courageous in naming the prejudice I experienced, I was offered a job. I was certain that I would never have anything but trouble from my straight-shooting words toward the two jerks who interviewed me, but the fact that I received the job offers is proof of concept.
You probably won’t be surprised that I did not accept either of those jobs, and even though I didn’t know it then, better offers were just around the corner. You see, not too many things are more important than walking out of an interview with dignity, purpose and courage, and if you find that you have to fight for that, imagine what it may be like to engage in that battle everyday of your working life within that organization.
Always be as irresistible as you can, but never compromise your basic human dignity.