You have the right educational credentials and experience, a flawless resume and a well-pressed suit. You know your resume frontwards and backwards, and can go deep into accomplishments as a professional manager. Think you are ready to interview? Not so fast my friend. So are hundreds of other candidates. Better make one more check. How is your attitude?
By the time you reach the interview stage, you probably aren’t much more qualified or better prepared to answer common questions than the candidates you are competing against for the job. What can set you apart, though, is a good attitude. If you have a positive, upbeat and enthusiastic demeanor, your chances of securing a job offer increase significantly over equally qualified but more negative job seekers. Believe me; the hiring manager has candidate choices beyond belief when unemployment is at 13%.
George Carlin said “the guy driving faster than you is a maniac and the guy driving slower than you is an idiot.”
I may be overstating the obvious, but you’d be surprised. I often encounter job seekers whose attitudes have kept them from landing new positions. These candidates comprised a wide spectrum–from undergraduates and graduates seeking part-time employment or a first real job to those searching for new positions following layoffs or hoping to change careers. Even C level executives can suffer from negativity. I have met a few that are so far into their bad attitudes that they don’t even recognize it themselves. And when you call them to the carpet they can’t believe what they are hearing. A bad attitude casts a pall on the entire positive you bring to an employer.
I know now that a person’s outlook and attitude can significantly influence their prospects. After working with job seekers for a period of time, I am now able to identify which ones will quickly land jobs and who will struggle. One of the keys in differentiating yourself as a job candidate can be summed up in one word – Attitude.
Here are brief descriptions of some of the worst attitudes I encountered.
“I don’t know why I’m even bothering.” or “I give up.” or “There is no way they will hire me!” I tell candidates that they reap what they sow in a job search. The more negative they are about securing a new position, the further away they are from doing just that. Their lack of hope may be due partly to family members or peers telling them there are no jobs “out there” or from reading hard-luck stories about job hunters in the media. You know, don’t dwell on the guy who so wants someone to notice his resume that he rents a billboard and posts his cell number and maybe even get himself on TV. The hopeless job seeker ignores upbeat success stories and focus on sensationalized accounts of highly educated individuals who were working as waiters and waitresses or driving taxis because they couldn’t find jobs in their fields. Here is the real information. The reality of another person is not your reality. You can’t say what your results will be in ANYTHING based on someone else’s experience. Set your own goals. Decide what you are going to do then do it.
Candidates make excuses for not applying for posted, available jobs: “I don’t have the experience,” “The job is too far away” or “I don’t know if I’d do well at that,” are a few I have heard pretty often. They would spend hours paging through job listings, then end the day before making a call. Because they didn’t believe in themselves, they often accepted jobs below their potential.
A good number of job seekers I have worked with came to me after being laid off from organizations they’d been with for years. They believed their loyalty had gotten them nowhere and were consumed by resentment.
Staying angry at a former employer usually will surface and negatively impact your interview performance. Negativity is insidious. For instance, you may criticize your former company, wallow in self-pity, or overly focus on what the prospective employer can do for you. A layoff can be a cruel blow, but no matter how justified your feelings, it’s best to surrender to them and accept what happened before beginning your search. Better yet. Figure it is the company’s loss and an opportunity to pour yourself into a new cup. Think of it as a fresh application for the sum of your skills and experience. With the right attitude, it will change for the better. Dust yourself off. Move on.
One client had extensive credentials and qualifications but a horribly self-righteous attitude. He was demanding and pushy and simply assumed he would be handed a job because he was so talented. During our meeting, he behaved like a spoiled child, contradicting every suggestion I made. When I told him he needed to change his attitude, he became angry. As we talked, he began to understand how he came across, and he thanked me for being so honest when he left.
It’s ironic how much emphasis we place on candidates’ attire, handshake, cover letter and resume and how little we place on positive attitudes. Don’t underestimate the importance of a good outlook. Many job seekers with excellent academic and work qualifications fail to land positions because of negative attitudes, while many with mediocre backgrounds are hired because of great attitudes.
You can change your demeanor. All you need is self-awareness and discipline. Then, if you’re competing for a job against equally qualified candidates, chances are you’ll be the one to receive an offer.