The Positive Psychology Of Job Interviewing

The powerful idea behind positive psychology is that we can accomplish our aims most effectively by exercising and building on our strengths, not just by shoring up our vulnerabilities. Reducing boredom on the job won’t create a fulfilling career; engaging in fewer arguments at home won’t make a loving marriage. We perform at our best when we maximize experiences of happiness, life satisfaction, energy, and affection.

As someone who has been centrally involved in hiring for a number of organizations, from universities and medical school programs to financial institutions, I’ve been consistently struck with how often good candidates present themselves poorly in interview situations. There is an important reason for this shortcoming: too many candidates are not keenly aware of their own strengths and thus fail to successfully communicate those to interviewers.

Liz Ryan recently made the excellent point that job interviewers often make the mistake of treating interviews as command performances, as if their task is to please their audience. That external focus makes it difficult for candidates to stay grounded in what they most want to learn and convey in the meeting.

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