Coaching on the job? What do I need it for? I have all the skills and competencies which are required for the jobs I apply for. And I am ready to answer all of those typical questions like: “Where do you see yourself in your career in the next 5 years?”
This may probably be the first spontaneous reaction if you are invited to prepare for an interview through coaching. Honestly: a pretty long time I also felt this way, as if coaching on the job were some form of superficial tinkering, which has no connection with authenticity.
This bias against this kind of coaching was valid until a client of mine asked for it. During the first and all of the sessions which followed I made a surprising discovery: my clients are stunned how little they are tuned in to the situation of a job interview. And they are surprised about the huge impact which only one coaching session had on their performance. Very often it is indeed simple questions, which are difficult to answer: Why are you applying for this position? What would you do differently in this job? How do you handle conflict?
Because job interviews are rather infrequent for an individual, many people approach that situation with a sense of fear. Their inner critic whispers: “You are incapable!” But the reverse is true. Because those situations are rare, we don´t need an autopilot to succeed. We don´t need excessive training, to internalize complex behavioral mechanisms. Instead, we are able to prepare ourselves purposefully.
In my experience it is easy for my clients to step into different roles spontaneously. This is because coaching on the job is not memorizing, but balancing goals, internal attitudes and external expression. It is relatively easy to gain clarity on these three keys for a successful interview: What do you want to achieve? What is the internal attitude that supports you the most? How do you want to be perceived?
I have used my coaching experience to create a method, which is effective and fun as well. It is structured into the following steps:
I usually start with a short meditation, in order to focus the attention on the here and now.
In the second step we switch roles and the client jumps into the role of a HR-manager during the interview and brainstorms questions which are aimed at getting to know as much as possible about a potential candidate. I play the role of the candidate, but if necessary I also step out of that role and encourage the role-playing HR-manager to come up with more inconvenient questions. This often elicits surprise and insight in the client. To me it shows how well prepared the client is with the situation itself and the wanted position.
The next step is about finding an internal attitude. The attitude/mindset, which is adopted and internalized by the client during the job interview, is key to success. An appropriate attitude supports the goal and shapes the performance. Some candidates for a specific position are not aware what their verbal and nonverbal behavior communicates: “Give me a last chance!” If I mirror this and ask them to reformulate their attitude or motto for the process, they often appear rather clueless.
A clear answer to the question: “What impact do I want to have?” is a premise for strong and authentic presence in a job interview. The search for an answer is in itself a motivating process. I encourage my clients, to explore different perspectives. What if a client tries to be more like a tree – with shade-giving leaves, deep roots, good overview and a solid stand? Or what could the playful easiness of a child be good for? Being able to courageously embrace new challenges or holding optimism in the face of failure and mistakes? During this process my clients brainstorm through 4 to 5 different perspectives and finally choose the one, which fits best. This decision is primarily influenced by their intuition, their gut-feeling. The stronger their internal “Yes” towards one perspective, the more authentic and convincing will be their performance in an interview. Eventually we explore together, how the intended impact might be expressed effectively in posture, mimic, gesture, voice and reasoning.
The coaching session closes with the dress rehearsal of a job interview. I step into the role of the potential employer and ask my client all those questions, which resulted from step two of the session. In this role-play it becomes immediately obvious whether a strand of reasoning isn´t consistent yet or where the client still lacks convincing answers. From time to time I make a cut and give feedback to the client. For example, if her or his nonverbal communications isn´t consistent with the intended impact. If my client wants to use the perspective of being like a tree to communicate a solid and assertive character, but moves uneasily and restlessly in their chair. Very often only a few hints help the client to get back on track and re-establish the balance between attitude and performance.
This coaching process brings lots of information about an impacting performance during the job interview to light. But most of all it supports clarity about important questions: What do I want? What impact do I want to have? What attitude do I want to adopt?