Claiming the right to sell yourself to people you know

Q: Next week I’m going for a job where I’m being interviewed by three people I know very well. I work with all three, and in fact one of them is a previous boss of mine. All four of us work in the same company and sometimes socialise together. My fear is I will not be able to perform due to being self-conscious in front of these people who know me so well. I almost feel like they won’t take me seriously. (DR, Email)

A: This is not an uncommon scenario, and I can well understand why you will feel self-conscious – but you must also claim the right for yourself not to be distracted in any way by the panel.

They are assembled to find the best candidate. It’s a serious business, and expect them to treat it that way too. On the day, they will hear plenty of people talking themselves up, mumbling their words here and there, relaying their experiences in full, and all the other things that interview panels hear – and they are unlikely to be as tickled by your contribution as you may think.

The problem with being self-conscious is that the more we try not to be, the more we become just that. I would urge you to focus on something that you can hang on to during the interview. Many broadcasters think not of the millions of listeners or viewers, but of just one person sitting alone in their own front room.

When working with a client recently, we devised a method to get around the problem you’ve outlined above. She was being interviewed by four people, three of whom she knew very well.  However, she didn’t know the fourth person and we got her to focus on that person in her mind’s eye as she prepared for the interview, and, indeed during the interview itself, she kept thinking about educating this fourth person about her skills, strengths, and enthusiasm.

In your case there may not be a stranger in the night, so to speak, but you may need to invent one. As you go in to the interview think about another person who is there – for example think that it’s being recorded to be played back to somebody else later on – and this will help you to get into the kind of zone you need to be in to allow yourself to give full account of yourself. Don’t forget to maintain eye contact, of course.

It’s a serious business. You must ensure that you do whatever you can to get the job. The time for a giggle and a slag may come later. For now, go in there and sell yourself to the people in front of you – and perhaps even to one imaginary person not there at all. Good luck.

Sli Nua Careers offer CV preparation, interview training and mock interview services at their offices in Galway, Dublin and Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo. You can also obtain their free eBook providing Job Searching Tips by emailing with Job Searching eBook in the subject line. More: