Interview adjustments/alternatives

Discuss what to expect in job and course interviews, what topics might be covered, how to manage anxiety, and how to get the desired result!
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Prosopon
Posts: 83
Joined: Wed Nov 19, 2014 9:08 pm

Interview adjustments/alternatives

Post by Prosopon » Sat Dec 22, 2018 11:05 pm

I'm wondering if I could please get some advice/suggestions on interview adjustments or alternatives I could ask for? I have anxiety and autism, both of which I feel put me at a disadvantage during interviews. I feel frustrated at my interview performances and am becoming anxious that I am never going to progress due to my inability to "sell myself". I have an Assistant Psychologist interview next month (my second ever AP interview), and have a few more submitted applications that I am waiting to hear about. I feel I am strong at applications, but weak in interviews. When it comes to talking about myself, I am much better at expressing myself in writing than I am verbally but I feel this doesn't mean I won't make a good Assistant Psychologist! It just means I'm not good at talking about myself! And the way I present in interviews is so incredibly far from how I am in clinical situations, interacting with service-users and colleagues.

My main difficulties are:

- My mind goes blank and I can't think of relevant experiences to talk about (which leads to me babbling, floundering, talking incoherently etc!)
- I struggle to link my previous work/educational experiences to the questions I am asked.
- I struggle to gauge how much information to give in my answers.
- I struggle to gauge what interviewers are trying to assess when asking a particular question, so might end up giving an irrelevant answer.
- I struggle to talk about myself and "sell myself" (I would find this much easier to write than say).
- I find open questions/statements difficult, such as "tell us about yourself...".
- I have difficulties adapting prepared/rehearsed answers to given questions.

These are just the difficulties I'm aware of, but there are probably more!

These are some of the adjustments I've asked for in the past:

- Written questions that I can read at the same time as being asked the question - this helps me process what I am being asked, and it's good to have the written question in front of me in case I didn't take in the verbal question.
- More time to answer questions - this usually results in awkward silences where the panel members stare at me, and I get more anxious and less likely to form a coherent answer. Therefore it is not generally helpful!
- Prompts to give further information in answers if necessary - this is hugely helpful but only a handful of interviewers have done this. A gentle, "could you tell us a little bit more about that?" helps me to understand that I haven't elaborated enough. However, most interviewers ignore this adjustment request and once I was told they would not do it as it would put me at an advantage over other candidates.
-Asking that interviewers are aware that I may not use much body language and that this doesn't mean I am unenthusiastic about the role - I don't know how helpful this one is!
- Rephrasing questions if I do not understand them - this is generally only useful if I am aware I have not understood a question, then I can ask for it to be rephrased. However, I am sure there are times when I think I have understood a question, but actually haven't! This usually doesn't become apparent to me until I am given feedback.

I am at a loss over how to help myself during the interview process and have tried many things. I do lots of preparation and make notes but become easily flustered and anxious if the questions do not match what I have prepared for. I rehearse out loud, but again struggle if the actual questions don't match what I have rehearsed.

I would appreciate any suggestions for adjustments I could ask for to mitigate my difficulties, because I cannot think of any more! I have also tried to think of alternatives to interviews I could ask for. For example, it might be easier for me to give a presentation about my work and educational experiences and how I feel these match the job description. Interviewers could then ask my questions about my actual experience. However, I don't know if that would be accepted. I've also considered asking to be given a job trial, but I know that is highly unlikely. I'm wondering if any employers have been asked to consider an alternative to an interview? How feasible would this be, and would you consider it?

This really is a huge issue for me and something I am desperate to overcome because I am tired of it holding me back. With some important interviews coming up, I need to figure out how to solve this problem. Apologies for the length of this post!
"Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?"

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

~From Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

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lingua_franca
Posts: 902
Joined: Tue Sep 14, 2010 11:29 pm

Re: Interview adjustments/alternatives

Post by lingua_franca » Sun Dec 23, 2018 12:12 am

I seem to remember you posting about a really distressing interview experience you had once that left you in tears. If it was another poster, please disregard this bit, but if it was you, I think there is a possibility that past negative experiences may be intruding and creating extra anxiety for you. It might help to consciously remind yourself that each interview is a new encounter with an entirely new group of people, and just because things went badly once, it doesn't mean that they always will. Secondly, there is a good chance you're actually better at interview than you think. Most people interview for more than two AP posts before they get one, so it's early days.

Beyond that, I have a few suggestions.

1. Think about the similarities between interview situations and your direct work with clients rather than focusing on the differences. For example, when you work with a client you must be drawing on your past experience and education all the time - you just might not be conscious of it in that moment. Answering an interview question with reference to your prior experience requires exactly the same sort of skill. Rather than trying to predict what the questions might be and to prepare specific examples, I would concentrate on trying to develop your capacity to reflect more generally. Since I started teaching in a special school I've been keeping a reflective journal, and it has really helped me to spot the patterns in how I work and made me more aware of the resources I'm drawing on. Doing this kind of reflective ability on a daily basis may make it much easier for you to do it in a situation you find stressful, like an interview.

2. Don't over-prepare. Taking copious notes and trying to memorise answers is likely to make you more anxious, not less. A mock interview with another person might help, as you will have to answer their questions spontaneously. Writing down possible questions yourself will not help you with that. Remember, interviewers are not necessarily looking for the 'perfect' answer, but they do need to see that you can think on your feet and adapt as necessary. Again, that will be something you do every day with clients.

3. Be careful what adjustments you ask for in interview. I haven't done much interviewing, but I know I'd struggle to remember such a long list of requests. Do you need all those things, or are they ideas that you put down in the grip of anxiety, to cover all eventualities? I have Asperger's Syndrome myself, and I'm mindful that any adjustments we ask for have to be reasonable. I think some of yours might make the panel concerned about your ability to interact with clients. Some of the issues you mention are things you could address yourself - for example, by ending an answer with, "Does that cover everything you wanted to know, or would you like me to say a bit more?" instead of asking the interviewer in advance to prompt you. I think it's better only to ask for adjustments when you can't implement the solution yourself.

Good luck with the interview, and I hope some of that helps.
"Suppose a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?"
"Suppose it didn't," said Pooh, after careful thought.
Piglet was comforted by this.
- A.A. Milne.

Prosopon
Posts: 83
Joined: Wed Nov 19, 2014 9:08 pm

Re: Interview adjustments/alternatives

Post by Prosopon » Thu Dec 27, 2018 5:52 pm

lingua_franca wrote:
Sun Dec 23, 2018 12:12 am
I seem to remember you posting about a really distressing interview experience you had once that left you in tears. If it was another poster, please disregard this bit, but if it was you, I think there is a possibility that past negative experiences may be intruding and creating extra anxiety for you. It might help to consciously remind yourself that each interview is a new encounter with an entirely new group of people, and just because things went badly once, it doesn't mean that they always will. Secondly, there is a good chance you're actually better at interview than you think. Most people interview for more than two AP posts before they get one, so it's early days.
Haha, yes that was me! I do feel I have moved on from that experience, but perhaps it does still impact on me on a subconscious level. I think it is the unpredictability of interviews that creates the most anxiety for me though.
Beyond that, I have a few suggestions.

1. Think about the similarities between interview situations and your direct work with clients rather than focusing on the differences. For example, when you work with a client you must be drawing on your past experience and education all the time - you just might not be conscious of it in that moment. Answering an interview question with reference to your prior experience requires exactly the same sort of skill. Rather than trying to predict what the questions might be and to prepare specific examples, I would concentrate on trying to develop your capacity to reflect more generally. Since I started teaching in a special school I've been keeping a reflective journal, and it has really helped me to spot the patterns in how I work and made me more aware of the resources I'm drawing on. Doing this kind of reflective ability on a daily basis may make it much easier for you to do it in a situation you find stressful, like an interview.
Thank you; this is really helpful. I will try to think of it in this way. I keep meaning to start a reflective journal but never seem to get round to it. I do think it would be helpful though, particularly in helping me to make links between psychological theory and practice.
2. Don't over-prepare. Taking copious notes and trying to memorise answers is likely to make you more anxious, not less. A mock interview with another person might help, as you will have to answer their questions spontaneously. Writing down possible questions yourself will not help you with that. Remember, interviewers are not necessarily looking for the 'perfect' answer, but they do need to see that you can think on your feet and adapt as necessary. Again, that will be something you do every day with clients.
I've had conflicting opinions on whether it is better to prepare answers for potential questions or not. I do not generally try to memorise answers as I know that would make it even more difficult for me to be flexible. I have contacted the National Careers Service to get some help with interview skills but have not heard back from them yet. Hopefully I will hear from them before my interview. I do think a mock interview would help but finding someone to help me with that is another matter!
3. Be careful what adjustments you ask for in interview. I haven't done much interviewing, but I know I'd struggle to remember such a long list of requests. Do you need all those things, or are they ideas that you put down in the grip of anxiety, to cover all eventualities? I have Asperger's Syndrome myself, and I'm mindful that any adjustments we ask for have to be reasonable. I think some of yours might make the panel concerned about your ability to interact with clients. Some of the issues you mention are things you could address yourself - for example, by ending an answer with, "Does that cover everything you wanted to know, or would you like me to say a bit more?" instead of asking the interviewer in advance to prompt you. I think it's better only to ask for adjustments when you can't implement the solution yourself.
I haven't necessarily asked for all of these adjustments in one interview but they are different things I have tried for various interviews and I do consider them to be reasonable. They are based on the advice of others such as a job centre adviser, a careers adviser, information from the National Autistic Society and advice from other people on the autism spectrum. I would hope that my job experience demonstrates that I can interact with clients. I also always try to make it clear that interviews seem to have a unique impact on my anxiety and difficulties associated with my autism, but that in a job role, where I have a clear understanding of what is expected of me, I do well.
Good luck with the interview, and I hope some of that helps.
Thank you. I appreciate your response and will definitely take some of your suggestions on board. The job is in an area I am particularly interested in, so I am hoping my passion will see me through, though conveying my passion verbally is another struggle of mine.

Whatever happens, I am grateful to have been shortlisted and I feel proud of myself for getting an interview, particularly as I only received my finalised grades for my degree earlier this month!
"Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?"

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

~From Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

AJ555
Posts: 23
Joined: Thu Jun 16, 2016 5:10 pm

Re: Interview adjustments/alternatives

Post by AJ555 » Tue Jan 01, 2019 10:15 pm

Hey. I'm not on the autistic spectrum but I can relate to how you've felt some interviews have gone.

I have had some awful interviews where I just didn't know what to say and was over in just minutes but I've noticed that I've progressed so much more as I get more experience with interviews. Mock interviews might help you with that?

Some feedback I've been given in the past by interviewers is to just ask them to repeat the question again so you can make sure you've answered the question. I know I end up forgetting what I'm even answering at times.

Prosopon
Posts: 83
Joined: Wed Nov 19, 2014 9:08 pm

Re: Interview adjustments/alternatives

Post by Prosopon » Wed Jan 02, 2019 4:45 pm

AJ555 wrote:
Tue Jan 01, 2019 10:15 pm
Hey. I'm not on the autistic spectrum but I can relate to how you've felt some interviews have gone.

I have had some awful interviews where I just didn't know what to say and was over in just minutes but I've noticed that I've progressed so much more as I get more experience with interviews. Mock interviews might help you with that?

Some feedback I've been given in the past by interviewers is to just ask them to repeat the question again so you can make sure you've answered the question. I know I end up forgetting what I'm even answering at times.
Thank you for your response. I'm terrible for not taking in questions during interviews so I'll try to remind myself it's okay to ask them to repeat it!

I've decided to go into this interview with no adjustments so I don't have to worry about what they are thinking about me and my capabilities in relation to my disabilities. Just found out I've been shortlisted for another AP post so at least I'm getting interviews!
"Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?"

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

~From Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

hawke
Posts: 101
Joined: Tue Feb 07, 2017 11:10 am

Re: Interview adjustments/alternatives

Post by hawke » Wed Jan 02, 2019 6:04 pm

I have a long-term health condition that means there are some environmental things that make a huge difference to me. Lighting is the thing that makes the biggest difference to me, so I always ask for that to be considered. While there are other smaller things, I agree with previous posters that too long a list is off-putting for interviewers. The sweet spot is something that makes a big difference to you while being simple for them to implement - like extra time allotted. I also had one interview where they gave us the questions in written form and paper for making notes during the interview as standard, and found that hugely helpful. I have requested it a couple of times since - one university was happy to provide it, another felt it would give me an unfair advantage.

If you ask for adaptations, I think it's also helpful to be prepared to talk about how autism and anxiety help you in this field. Make sure to balance out the requests with examples of how it makes you a better potential psychologist, or examples of how you make your own adjustments to help yo manage it.

I think there are loads of things you are suggesting that can be done within the interview, rather than specifically requesting them beforehand. In most interviews it's absolutely fine to ask for a bit of time to think, or to check you've understood the question, to ask for it to be re-phrased, or to ask if they would like you to say any more about a particular part of your answer. It's also okay to come back to a question at the end - "I'd like to add a bit more to one of my previous answers, if that's okay with you". I have done better in interviews since I've started viewing them as a flexible dialogue, rather than a rigid turn-taking question and answer session.

I would also not underestimate the role anxiety plays in interviews. And the good news is that as psychologists, we know anxiety management tools inside out. An important one is re-writing the belief that "I am bad at interviews", and adopting a growth rather than a fixed mindset. And never underestimate the power of a few calming breaths. I used to struggle a lot with social anxiety, and the best thing I ever did was retrain myself to focus on what I wanted to say about the question, rather than what I thought the interviewer wanted to hear. I am now much happier thinking outloud, reflecting on the question, posing my own questions, giving my honest thoughts/feelings/opinions on things. It's cliched, but be yourself - and more importantly verbalise yourself outloud, rather than just trying to deliver a slick end-product answer and hiding the more interesting unique thought process that got you there.

I would also recommend practising lots and lots of questions in your head. But don't try to come up with a perfect answer to learn by rote - the idea is to practice coming up with things on the spot. Get friends and family to make up questions for you, and expose yourself to that initial mind-blank anxiety. It's helpful to have some key points to fall back on. For example, know one of your research projects inside out. Know 2-3 psychological theories inside out, and be prepared to apply them to any scenario. Reflect on a couple of your own strengths and weaknesses and be prepared to talk about them. Have a couple of clients in mind that you can use in any examples. The key is to be able to use a small amount of knowledge and experience flexibly, and for me, that definitely came from practice of improvising rather than rote-learning.

Prosopon
Posts: 83
Joined: Wed Nov 19, 2014 9:08 pm

Re: Interview adjustments/alternatives

Post by Prosopon » Fri Jan 04, 2019 2:11 pm

Thank you very much for your input, Hawke. I think this is particularly helpful to me:
hawke wrote:
Wed Jan 02, 2019 6:04 pm
I have done better in interviews since I've started viewing them as a flexible dialogue, rather than a rigid turn-taking question and answer session.
I think it might help to view it as an interesting, reflective discussion about my skills and experience and how they fit the job. I do tend to be very rigid in interviews, giving narrow answers, and I have been given feedback about not going into enough detail. I will see this interview as an opportunity to be a bit more flexible and to talk more about the interesting experiences I have had and the skills I have developed. I think I just have a fear about talking too much!
hawke wrote:
Wed Jan 02, 2019 6:04 pm
I used to struggle a lot with social anxiety, and the best thing I ever did was retrain myself to focus on what I wanted to say about the question, rather than what I thought the interviewer wanted to hear. I am now much happier thinking outloud, reflecting on the question, posing my own questions, giving my honest thoughts/feelings/opinions on things. It's cliched, but be yourself - and more importantly verbalise yourself outloud, rather than just trying to deliver a slick end-product answer and hiding the more interesting unique thought process that got you there.
Thank you, this is great advice. I think this would be difficult for me but I can see how it would be beneficial and would minimise awkward silences. Again, I think viewing it as a discussion, rather than a question and answer session, will help me to do this.


I am going for an informal visit to the service later today. This isn't something I have done before but I really want this job so am doing everything I can to make it happen! I am hoping an informal visit will help me gain a greater understanding of how the service works and how the team is structured. Also, I will be meeting two members of the panel so hopefully that will help me feel less nervous in my actual interview. I'm trying to convince myself that I'm excited, not nervous. ARGH!
"Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?"

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

~From Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

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