role play

Three interview fails you definitely want to avoid

Interview Fails You Want to Avoid.jpg

Ahhhhh, the dreaded job interview.

It’s funny isn’t it, how we interview so rarely yet it's a critical skill in terms of landing your next big role and getting it right can add 10's or 100's of 1000's of dollars to your career over time?

Investing in interview planning, strategy and role play for those serious about their career, is not just a necessary evil, but a superbly smart play.

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, I was taken aback by a particularly memorable interview performance.

  • Me:  "Tell us about a time when you've had to handle a difficult customer situation - what did you do and how did you handle it?"

  • Candidate: (standing up, dramatically thrusting their hand out towards me like a stop sign) "Talk to the hand!"

Later during the course of the interview the candidate reflected that maybe they were interviewing for the wrong role.


I didn’t disagree. 

We might not all make that particular mistake. But nerves are cunning, and the stakes are high, so anything could happen. Here are three of the most common mistakes I see, yet I know they are difficult to nip in the bud.  

  1. Treating the interview like a performance.

    You’re so rehearsed, polished and slick that you come off as inauthentic. There are no stumbles (unless deliberately and dramatically placed) and you sound as though you've learned rote responses off by heart. Pauses for dramatic effect, the over animated facial expressions or hand gestures, or the bigger than Ben Hur "presence" as you command attention from the panel are dead giveaways. A dramatic talk to the hand might get you laughs in a drama class, but was really inappropriate in the context of the interview. While rehearsal or role play is good, you aren’t a performing seal. People want to know they can work with you, not necessarily that you have dramatic flair. And while a certain polish and a panache can go a long way, this is not the opportunity to give the performance of lifetime. Keep it real people. Keep it real.

  2. Feeling as though you need to prove yourself.  

    So you end up coming across like an Eager Beaver or a People Pleaser as you jump through hoops to answer questions - leaning forwards, speaking fast, asking if you gave enough information, or alternatively providing far too much information as you try and demonstrate how great you are for the role. This makes others feel uncomfortable and as though you don't believe in yourself.  Instead, bring some executive equity into the room with you, some confidence, some self belief and a willingness to back yourself as a peer.

  3. Behaving as though it’s a test - enter the Energiser Bunny! 

    Signs you think it’s a test?

    - You respond so fast after you’ve been asked the question, that you barely had time to think

    - You take a deep breath, then grin in a self congratulatory manner at the end of each response

    - The answers come out in a rehearsed even pace, they are word perfect with business speak more suitable for a written report

    - Yet if someone asks you a question that you've not prepared for, you don't know which answer to give, because you didn't prepare for that question

    - You’re poised on the edge of your seat with a bring it on attitude, and

    - Finally, when you provide a particularly good response you then finish with an arm pump and a #nailedit comment. And you’re incredibly scary. (Okay I'm over exaggerating here, but you get the picture.)


  • Back yourself

  • Sell yourself and

  • Express your expertise in language the panel values and understands

Treat the interview like it’s a conversation. The quietly, confident candidate leans back slightly in their chair - they converse, connect, reflect and ask questions that demonstrate their interest in return. They use the three "feminine" super powers of emotional intelligence, active listening and clear communication to find the Goldilocks sweet spot of energy - not too much, not too little, but just right. They provide real and specific examples of where they've done something similar before - based in fact, grounded in context and backed up with impact. This helps them to not only look and sound credible and believable, but also helps the interview panel feel secure in their decision making.

A well-educated mind will always have more questions than answers
— Helen Keller


In case you're feeling bad about yourself, don't.  I once heard a story of a super smart candidate wearing a onesie to a corporate job interview and bringing his mum into the interview room with him to help him negotiate.  But that's a story for another day. 

However, if you identified with any of the three above, the easiest way to improve is to practice with someone who is prepared to give you feedback. The interview might not be a performance, but it is a skill you can develop. And the more you interview the better you'll get.

Thanks to everyone who completed the 2018 Career Strategy Survey last month. I've been working through the responses and will contact you shortly if you asked for more information.  Drop me a note if you missed out and would like to take part.

Feeling frustrated and overlooked?  
Know that you do awesome work but others are taking you for granted?

Why not book in a 30 min one on one  phone call to learn more. 1st in best dressed rules apply.

#interviewfails #interviewpreparation #womenofimpact


Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months

Eight practical win win strategies to help you negotiate a raise

“Work out what you’d like, double it, then add 20%.  That’s your asking price.”

I heard this line recently in an online forum.  It’s obviously a throw away line and not exactly science. But I wonder if every now and then we shouldn’t revisit our own perception of what we’re worth through the above lens? 

Certainly I use this formula as a discussion starting point with female clients as they start working on “levelling up” in their career.  Their reaction to the statement is probably the biggest window into what motivates them, their current perception of their own value and worth, along with where to focus next.

This is the third article in a series to help women negotiate better outcomes for themselves. 

  • The first was all about being able to articulate your own value. The reality is that people who “get ahead more easily” are far more likely to be great at speaking in language of value.
  • The second article brought together a range of pieces of research about women and negotiation and the issue of likeability (or lack there of).
  • And this third article is your “how to” guide – specifically how to prepare.  So instead of;
    • avoiding because you don’t want to rock the boat, or
    • giving up because you can’t deal with the thought of disappointment, or even
    • going in combatively and upsetting yourself and the other party,
      you simply go in with a plan, some options and a clear understanding a range of strategies that have worked for others.

The reality is though when we are negotiating our own salary or raise there are a bunch of assumptions, perceived and real, that we need to work around including:

  • Biases both conscious and unconscious including likeability or lack there of
  • Salary banding
  • Previous incumbent in the role
  • Industry standards
  • Recent financial performance of the organisation as a whole
  • Directives from the C-suite

And when you are a fair minded individual who likes to consider the well being of others, it’s difficult to know whether or not to challenge these assumptions when you go in to negotiate on our own behalf.  So this particular article is a combination of the different strategies that I’ve learned from negotiation experts and researchers around the globe to help you negotiate more easily, and successfully, on your own behalf.

1.     Why not adopt a growth mindset?  Growth mindset – when you believe you can learn to do just about anything. You’ll just need to note the three provisos:

  • You’ll definitely feel uncomfortable,
  • You might even get it wrong or make mistakes along the way, and
  • You’ll probably have to do some work. 
“We like to think of our champions and idols as superheroes who were born different from us. We don’t like to think of them as relatively ordinary people who made themselves extraordinary.”
— Carol S. Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

If you understand the growth mindset then it somehow makes each negotiation conversation part of a learning curve, just part and parcel of getting ahead, rather than a personal slight or affront when you it doesn’t all go your way.  My suggestion? Win some, lose some, keep a cool head, then have another go.

2.     Reframe the conversation from a fight or justification conversation to a collaboration and problem solving activity.  You are helping your manager solve the problem of remunerating you as you would like, plus meet organisational objectives! When we do this it becomes more of a win win. It’s really hard to think that someone is “hard nosed” and “greedy” when you are helping them solve their problems.

3.     It’s not all about the dollar value:  In speaking with recruiters they tell me that sometimes people get hung up on the Big Number when in fact they might be better off emotionally and/or financially with asking for flexibility in working from home or starting/finishing late, or an extra week’s leave per year or additional training/mentoring or coaching included in their package. Flexibility around your thinking about these things might be more rewarding for both men and women all around.  I’m not advocating for women to accept less money than men doing the same role. Instead I’m advocating an honest analysis of your current situation. It may in fact be worth more to you to ask instead for other solutions.

4.     Do your research and align yourself with others:  Find out what industry benchmarks and standards there are, how you compare, what else is going on in industry and other case studies where things have been successful. According to Sheryl Sandberg of Lean In fame – if you refer to other perspectives it somehow lends legitimacy to your argument and demonstrates that you’ve thought this through.  When you refer to “we” it somehow adds credibility – you are part of a bigger picture.

5.     Cite Sheryl Sandberg: yes there is such a thing as a “Sheryl Sandberg effect”.  Apparently after the release of her “Lean In” book women were hitting up their boss for raises with lines such as “Sheryl Sandberg would be disappointed in me if I didn’t ask for a raise”.  Fact or fiction? I don’t know, but it does point to the fact that you’ve done your homework, you’re taking your career seriously as well as aligning yourself to a cause (the success of women everywhere).  It certainty can't hurt.

6.     Do it all at once: When you do negotiate (or renegotiate) do so all at once, not in dribs and drabs throughout the year.  Sounds counterintuitive doesn’t it?  When you are asking for things throughout the year you are trying to “win each battle” one issue at a time.  Apparently when you negotiate a package all at once you are more likely to be able to come to a solution that meets the needs of both parties.

7.     Make a plan and test it: Work out what your non negotiable items are and test your thinking as well, then document a range of scenarios in case they say yes to this item but no to that item. How might you respond?  How might you counter? How might they respond? How might they counter?  Negotiation expert, Carrie Gallant has a great template you can use.

Dan Pink in his book To Sell Is Human uses the term buoyancy and how important it is in remaining optimistic and agile in a sales environment. Well negotiating for yourself is in part a sales environment – you are influencing others to your way of thinking.  We an learn from this as we approach forming our plan.

“Ask yourself questions beforehand (“Can I succeed?”) rather than pumping yourself up (“I am the best”); they encourage your brain to come up with answers, reasons, and intrinsic motivation.”

8.     Eat, sleep, rehearse, repeat: Yes, you heard me, rehearse/roleplay/practice. 

Thinking about an apple, and planning what will happen when we eat the apple, is EXTREMELY different to actually eating the apple. 

You need to rehearse saying these things out loud. 

Long story short – many years ago when I was making my first foray into asking for a six figure salary my coach asked me to role play that “asking”.  She gave me the language and invited me to say it out loud.  I baulked!!  Then squeaked it out with a high pitched voice and an upward inflection which undermined my credibility immediately

Don’t assume you’ll be fine on the day. Find a trusted friend, coach or mentor and say these words out loud. Get feedback and say them again until you are comfortable and agile around the language.  Eat, sleep, rehearse, repeat.

I love Carol Dweck’s growth mindset work. She has inspired me so much when it comes to tackling goals and ambitions that are well outside of my comfort zone.  And I reckon her ideas on the growth mindset become almost like a self fulfilling prophecy – the more you believe you can make yourself extraordinary – the more you in fact become extraordinary.

So when it comes to tackling salary package negotiations for ourselves, which many people find uncomfortable, it's probably better to do it with a growth mindset and an understanding that you’ll simply keep on getting better at it the more you do it.

Vive la révolution!  #ambitionrevolution


 If you missed it - The F Word that Keeps Us Playing Small

  •  I am the creator of The Ambition Revolution – the science and  art of amping smart and savvy. 
  • I mentor busy professionals to ensure they remain strategic, agile and focused on the bigger game. 

  • I also work with organisations who are trying to increase the profile of women in leadership, but struggling to do so

Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months