Job interviews can feel like you're being grilled and prepared for dinner, and there are tactics that you can employ to counter those cutting questions and turn the conversation in your favor. I'm not saying it's easy, but a calm, cool, and collected interviewee can indeed think on her feet and learn to verbally spar with the best of them.
It's About Spin
Yes, the term "spin" is often used in relation to politics and the ways that politicians and their spokespeople try to "spin" a story in a more positive direction. And you know what? They have something there. Verbal sparring or swordplay is an important skill, and job interviews are one place where you need to get out your sword and cut through the negativity with agility and aplomb.
A Case in Point
Your interviewer says:
"So, Penelope, you've had five jobs in your four years as a nurse; we're a little concerned that you may not have what it takes to be a loyal employee. Onboarding a nurse is expensive, you know."
You take a deep breath, smile, and say:
"Thanks for bringing that up, Sandra. As you know, entering the nursing profession can be challenging, and it can take a while to find the right 'fit' in terms of a facility and a position. In my previous career, I demonstrated loyalty to many employers; you'll see from my resume that I was with Company X for seven years, and Company Z for eight years.
"As a newer nurse, I've been searching for a facility where I feel my gifts can be most readily utilized, and I've been looking for a work environment where multidisciplinary collaboration is truly practiced.
"From speaking with other nurses who work here at Hospital Y, I've learned that collaboration and teamwork are central to how you conduct patient care, and my colleagues rave about the workplace culture here.
"I'm looking for the opportunity to dig deep into the company culture and grow as a nurse over time. I feel very confident that I'm the perfect candidate for the Hospital Y team; I'm ready to demonstrate my loyalty at every turn and jump right in."
Let's unpack Penelope's response. She didn't try to explain why she left those other jobs; that could easily turn into slinging mud on her former employers, making excuses, or otherwise being on the defensive. Rather, she calmly and non-defensively explained that she'd been honestly "shopping around" during her first years in a new profession, and she pointed out how she had demonstrated loyalty in her previous career. She didn't dwell on the negative; she "spun" it towards the positive.
In her response, Penelope made it clear that she has friends who work at Hospital Y, that she's heard very positive things about the workplace culture, and she's ready and willing to make a commitment to the right employer, which clearly is Hospital Y. She also boldly stated that she is the perfect candidate, not that she could be, might be, or would like to be. That form of boldness is risky, but it's a calculated risk that's often worth taking.
Minefields Into Goldmines
If you can become comfortable with the art of verbal sparring and spin, you can more often than not turn a potential conversational minefield into a goldmine. It's not always easy, and it won't work perfectly in every situation, but such a skill is one to have sharpened and stored in your interview toolbox at all times.
Interviews can be tricky, and the stress and uncertainty can be unnerving. When you've developed the skill of being able to calmly turn the conversation in the direction that you want it to go, you'll know that you're onto something. Being able to maneuver in such conversational situations is a skill worth honing. This can be learned, and it's well worth your attention.
In your next interview, try some of these tactics and strategies; practice in your head, do mock interviews with friends or colleagues, and learn the art of skillful conversation. Who knows? Your next minefield may very well turn into a goldmine of opportunity.
Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC, is a Board Certified Nurse Coach offering holistic career development for nurses and healthcare professionals. All things Nurse Keith can be found at NurseKeith.com.