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For many folks, especially those on the ADHD/ASD spectrum, interviews can be both challenging and stressful.
This is completely understandable in that many of us have spent our lives struggling with social interactions, explaining ourselves to others and building relationships, all of which come into play in the interview experience.
To begin, let’s look at the interview from the perspective of the interviewer. He needs to fill a role or position in his organization. He needs someone to meet certain criteria.
If he’s agreed to an interview based on your resume, it likely means he already believes you have the technical qualifications for the position. So, the interview is to see if you have the personal and social qualifications for the position.
These qualifications may include the ability to communicate clearly and effectively and the ability to work independently as well as part of a group or team. They may include qualities like leadership, confidence, the ability to handle pressure, the willingness to accept criticism, and the desire to succeed.
With some preparation and practice, most folks, including ADHD and ASD can easily demonstrate to the interviewer that they meet these criteria as well as others if needed.
The first step in the interview process is to come prepared. You should have copies of your resume, cover letter, and samples of your work. You should have reviewed the companies web site and Facebook page and, if possible, information on your interviewer.
You should arrive for the interview in a relaxed and focused state. This means preparing yourself mentally. A daily program of stress reduction and sensory processing exercises can greatly reduce your stress and improve your focus. Our book, “Waves—Not Spoons”, includes a number of strategies and exercises for relieving stress and improving focus and attention.
During the interview, you want to clearly demonstrate your ability to communicate clearly and effectively. This means listening to and understanding what the interviewer is saying and responding appropriately. For ADHD and ASD persons, we developed a set of strategies we call “Visual Speaking” and “Visual Listening”.
The foundation for Visual Listening is to use our imagination to visualize what the interviewer is saying. This not only helps to truly understand and digest the content, it helps us stay focused and engaged. This engagement is simply not possible if we’re trying to listen to the interviewer while we’re thinking about what we’re going to say.
In almost every case, we will answer far more confidently and effectively if we use our Visual (eidetic) thinking to see what the interviewer is saying/asking, and then extract from that imagery our response. We want to keep our responses brief and concise but not overly terse. See “Waves—Not Spoons” for more information on our “Visual Communication” strategies.
The interviewed will undoubtedly ask one or more historical or hypothetical questions. These may include: In some past event, how did you handle a personal conflict or dispute? How did you handle a personal failure or criticism? How did you show leadership or teamwork?
Again, preparation is the key. Write a 1-2 paragraph description of 5 or 6 events which demonstrate your experience in handling these situations with a focus on teamwork, leadership, perseverance, and self-awareness. NLC Coaches are available to help with these and other interview skills.
Without question, the most important part of the interview process is to achieve both conscious and unconscious rapport with the interviewer. Rapport is an amazing and powerful phenomenon in which the physiological state of two or persons can actually synchronize.
Establishing a state of deep rapport virtually guarantees a more relaxed and focused state and opens the door to empathy and ‘likeability’. There are several well-established paths to establishing rapport.
The first is observing and sharing things you have in common with the interviewer. If you researched the interviewer, you should be able to find one or two things in common or at least something of interest to him or her that you can discuss.
This is also an area where you can aske questions. You can ask about his interests, what he likes most about working for the company. A question I like to ask of a potential supervisor or owner is, “If you were to hire me, and I was working for you, how do you see me successfully supporting you in your role in the company?”
To answer this question the interviewer must imagine that he has already hired me and that I’m working successfully to support his needs and interests. This is powerful question because even in the unlikely event that interviewer sees through the technique, he should no doubt be impressed by the elegance of the question and my use of its linguistic mechanics.
The second is to mirror your physiology to that of the other person. This is a POWERFUL technique--not just for interviews, but for almost any social interaction or personal relationship. Simply matching a person’s breathing pattern or posture can connote a sense of empathy and commonality.
These and other strategies are discussed in detail in “Waves—Not Spoons”, Chapter 19: Establishing Rapport.
A word on eye contact and special interests. Eye contact is just one of several ways of communicating a sense of interest and trust. In meetings and interviews, I will frequently make brief eye contact and then use other gestures such as nodding my head or touching my chin. Even a light furrowing of the eyebrows and looking off into space can convey deep interest in what the person is saying.
A special interest is one way to express passion and depth of knowledge. It is especially helpful if some aspect or quality of your special interest supports your interest in the position or company. It is important to be brief (30 seconds to a minute for your answers).
Perhaps the most important take away is that all these skills can be learned. Learning to relax and focus is possible for all human beings. Establishing rapport is possible and natural for all human beings. Feeling empathy is a natural phenomenon for all human beings.
Remember that, learning any new skill can take time and practice. While some of this may seem complicated or overwhelming, taken slowly and one piece at a time, all these skills can be learned and with a success and repetition, become habit.
Finally, keep in mind that its is very likely that the interviewer is also feeling the pressure of the interview. He needs to fill the position and is hopeful that you (or one of the other interviewees) will meet the requirements of the position and the more you can help put him at ease, the more likely he is to truly appreciate you and want you as part of his team.