Glenford Smith | My secret fear
Q: Mr Smith, I have a secret fear that the interviewer is going to zero in on the Achilles heel of my candidacy. I am a 'forty-something' who doesn't have a college degree, and have not had to look a job for some time. Now this fatal flaw of my candidacy is bugging me. How do I deal with it?
A: Every interview candidate has a secret question or questions they hope the interviewer doesn't ask. They go into the interview hoping they never have to confront it or them.
For you, it is that you see yourself getting old and you don't have a degree. For the next candidate, it might be that they're young, perhaps. Whatever the question, I think this answer will serve to alleviate the trepidation.
The question could indeed prove to be your Achilles heel, but only if you don't know the answer, and you deal with it clumsily. You can learn to answer the question, and, in fact, turn it one you're dying they ask you.
Refuse to be intimidated by any interviewer or question by being overly defensive, nervous or worried. The first thing is to be prepared rather than going into the interview hoping the interviewer doesn't ask. That will put you at ease and allow you to keep your mind on the interview, where it belongs.
Treat the interview like a sale. As you know, as a salesman you will encounter some objections, whether stated or implied, in every sale. So expect it. They're part and parcel of the buyer's anxiety. What you want to do is to not exacerbate the interviewer's anxiety but rather diminish it.
Do not behave nervously as if they couldn't have asked you a worse question. When you come up against a question that you interpret to be a fatal flaw, relax and take a deep breath.
Be completely honest. Be open and straightforward about admitting the shortcoming. Showing you have nothing to hide helps to diminish the interviewer's anxiety. You know you have nothing to hide, so let that come across.
Be relaxed and do not apologise or try to waffle your way through an answer. Be confident. You know this supposed flaw is nothing to be concerned about, and this is the attitude you want your interviewer to adopt as well.
You do not want to be coming from your heels all the time, though. And this question gives you the opportunity to go on the ascendancy. Add that as desirable as such a qualification might be, its lack has made you work all the harder throughout your career and has not prevented you from compiling an outstanding track record of achievements.
You might add that you know they are looking for a certain qualification, but you don't see it as a problem. Give examples of how, through a relentless commitment to excellence, you have consistently outperformed those who do have this qualification.
Don't be on the defensive, act confident and seek to be positive. You should be all right. Good luck to you.
- Glenford Smith is a motivational speaker and success strategist. He is the author of 'From Problems to Power' and co-author of 'Profile of Excellence'. firstname.lastname@example.org.