Module 4.1: Job interviews and promotions

Module 4.1: Job interviews and promotions

Learn approaches that are supported by cognitive psychology for doing well in job interviews and successfully asking for a raise or promotion. Also, learn how to ace the psychological questionnaires that many job applications require—answer wrong and a human may never look at your application.

Competency: Jump$tart Coalition (2015), Employment and Income: “Standard 1. Explore job and career options” (p. 21).

One of the biggest mistakes candidates make is not tailoring their résumé for the job. Simply spamming your résumé everywhere is far less effective than applying for fewer positions in a strategic manner. Not utilizing existing friendships and business relationships is another big mistake.

Once you are invited for the interview, prepare by getting background information about the company and position. If you consistently struggle with nervousness, I highly recommend joining and giving speeches in Toastmasters. While this will not directly help you with interviews, it will help you get over your fears of speaking in front of people, and you will get valuable feedback on how to improve. It also has weight on your résumé. (The author is the 2015–2016 President of Port Orange Toastmasters, Club # 3410728, in Port Orange, FL.) In the interview, while you are trying to show the value you can provide to the organization, remember that you are also trying to figure out if the organization is right for you. Act like a free agent, not like a supplicant who will take any crappy offer given to you. Being financially literate and actually having a big chunk of money in the bank makes the job hunt process much less stressful.

Merely becoming financially literate can improve your confidence in job negotiations, if it results in you saving money in an emergency fund. If you have three or six months of living expenses saved, you do not have to worry about getting or keeping a job as much. You can turn down offers, or ask for a promotion or raise with more leverage, since you have the option of walking away. This increase in confidence may actually result in you moving up in your career and earning more money.

In job interviews, while it is important to pitch yourself as being able to provide value to a company, remember that you are also interviewing them. Is this job right for you? Would working in this position for this company help you reach your desires for personal and professional development, or would it just pay the bills? Perhaps it would be somewhere in between? Where would you have to live? Which family would you not get to see? Adults who consider these questions are probably going to get more of what they want out of life than adults who are just grateful to have any job.

Remember that no one else is going to be your advocate. While parents or spouses may advocate for you, they do not know exactly what you want.

If you have a personal safety net (e.g., six months living expenses saved), you can completely skip applying for jobs that are not a good fit for you. Instead of spamming résumés far and wide, try tailoring your résumé to different types of job applications. Instead of looking for the firms that are hiring, look for the firm you want to work for. Dive deep: many job opportunities are never posted, and you may even be able to carve a niche for yourself if you can present compelling reasons why a firm should hire you, even if the position is something you invented. Go create a profile, or update and refine your existing profile. Leverage your network by asking friends and colleagues for leads. You may even want to announce that you are looking for a job on Facebook, Twitter, and your blog. Make sure you are projecting a good public image on your social networking sites (e.g., no photos of you drinking or smoking pot).

Jans, Kaye, and Jones (2012) interviewed Americans with disabilities to find out their struggles and advice with job interviews. Opinions on disclosing hidden disabilities were mixed (e.g., chronic fatigue syndrome or diabetes). Some advocated secrecy, because some employers will quietly (and illegally) screen out candidates with disabilities. Others advocated disclosure, because the disabilities will become obvious on the job. Of course, for disabilities such as deafness or impaired vision, disclosure is necessary to request accommodations during interviews.

Many of Jans et al.’s (2012) interviewees offered sound, general advice for interview strategies. “Selling your abilities” (p. 161) was identified as important. Asking questions about the the workplace and specific job duties leaves you better informed and also demonstrates leadership. Interviewers will sometimes ask inappropriate or even illegal questions, and it is important to prepare for this possibility ahead of time. As for job hunting, using leveraging networks, being realistic, tenacity, and making connections through internships or other temporary work including volunteering was recommended.

An overall conclusion was: “people with disabilities must work harder to get a job” (p. 162). Logically, this would also apply to people with criminal history. Presenting a “narrative of reform” might be a good idea if you have a conviction record. Seeking to expunge these records, if possible, makes sense (make sure to contact the courthouse to have their records updated if you are successful in being granted an expungement). Not disclosing convictions can be very bad, because employers will not hire you when they find out, or if they find out later, they will typically fire you.

Beyond obvious suggestions such as dressing well and being on-time, being confident and demonstrating that you have many other options (even if you do not feel that is true) may be helpful.

As for the ridiculous personality questionnaires that many online job applications require, while it may be tempting to just fill in any answer, you really have to read each question. Many of the questions are similar. To pass, you typically must give consistent answers—it’s a red flag if you said “strongly agree” to both “I was a real hell-raiser in high school” and “I was a quite student in high school,” for instance. As to how you should answer, I have heard some people say you should give strong answers, e.g., only “strongly agree” or “strongly disagree,” but I have no supporting evidence for this. Unfortunately, these questionnaires are rather opaque, and if you “fail,” your application may never been seen by a human at the company.

Supplemental reading:


Jans, L., Kaye, H., & Jones, E. (2012). Getting hired: Successfully employed people with disabilities offer advice on disclosure, interviewing, and job search. Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, 22, 155–165.

By Richard Thripp