One of the first things I try to gauge when working with a new client is their attitude. How do they feel going into active job search mode? Do they have a positive attitude?  Or, could a negative attitude put their goals at risk?

“So, how did it go?” I texted when I was certain the interview was over and Kathy* would be in a position to chat.

Kathy* and I had been working together for just a few weeks when she was called for an interview. She was excited. I was concerned.

Kathy told me she had been struggling with a negative attitude since the layoff. She allowed the events of the day – whatever they might be – determine her mood and her outlook.  If she didn’t get a response to an email, for example, she went straight to “I’m not qualified for anything anymore!”

A negative attitude vs. depression

Now, to be clear, I’m not talking about depression. Depression is a regrettably predictable reaction to a lay-off. And the longer one is out of work, the more at risk for depression we become.  This is especially true for men. (If you or someone you know is struggling with a recent layoff, read this.)

“So, how did it go?” I texted. No response. It was three days later by the time I finally heard from her. “…They said ‘what makes you think you can do this job after 20 years in finance?’…I’m not interested anyway…”

This was one of those times when I was so glad that Kathy had hired me. If you’ve ever wondered why you should hire a coach, here it is:  It was now my job to hold up a mirror and remind her with warmth and kindness what she could control and what she couldn’t. It was my job to ask her questions, to learn more, and to help her understand how she can move forward with confidence in future interviews.

Don’t take it personally

It was also my job to remind her of one of Don Miquel Ruiz’s Four Agreements: “Don’t take it personally.” In life, and in a job search, nine times out of ten, it’s got nothing to do with you. Interviewers are people just like us. People will ignore emails and phone calls. People have been know to ask stupid questions. Even recruiters and hiring managers. They may ask you a “mean” question on purpose to see how you react.

I’m guessing that question, “What makes you think you can do this job?” was asked with purpose to determine how committed Kathy was to changing fields. (For some great insight into how to answer this question, click here).  Her attitude though,  her negative predisposition, set her up to hear it as an accusation instead of an invitation to show her passion.  

Sure, some of this is a natural defense, and some self-protection. But there’s something dangerous about negativity. It affects everything.  

Imagine this: If Kathy was operating from a positive mindset, might she have seen an opportunity in that question, no matter how it was asked?  I believe she would have, and we are working on that together.

If you’d like to know how to answer difficult interview questions while maintaining your cool – click here.