Posted September 29, 2014 by

Increasing Your Concentration to Improve Interviewing Performance

Ken Sundheim

Ken Sundheim, Chief Executive Officer at KAS Placement Recruiting

The ability to focus at will allows an individual to sell themselves more effectively during interviews, to set aside destructive thoughts when engaging with hiring managers and ultimately to pursue career goals with more vigor and accuracy.

Attention allows us to retrieve pertinent information from our memory, evaluate an event or hiring manager’s mood, then react accordingly.  Needless to say, focus is paramount to any job seeker’s success.

However, with the multitude of social media distractions, monetary worries and harsh self-criticism that is more and more prevalent these days, many applicants find themselves stressed out about unrelated incidents prior to commencing an interview.

Soon after stepping into this important meeting, the mere stress of being asked unfamiliar questions compounds with outside worries and quickly can quickly unravel a job seeker’s performance.

Investing Your Attention in the Right Directions

To realize the importance of focus, it is easiest to think of the brain as no different than the hard drive on your computer.  At a single time, a computer can only process so many applications  efficiently.  The more functions you command it to deal with, the less optimally it will run.

Just like your laptop, your nervous system has definite limits on how much information it can process at any given time.  Studies have shown that at most the human brain can manage seven bits of data concurrently, and that’s usually pushing it.

These data measurements can take the shape of sounds we hear, visual stimuli, recognition of emotion, self-judgement, or various thoughts.

If you’re not focusing on exactly what the interviewer is asking, then you are wasting computer space.

Self-Judgement: Public Enemy #1

When an interviewee judges the words they are saying as they speak, they take away from their ability to form cohesive, intelligent, compelling thoughts.

For most job seekers, one of the main forces that affects consciousness adversely is psychic disorder – feelings of pain, jealousy, anxiety or anger.

Thinking, “I’ll never get this job,” or “There are much better applicants than me,” or “That was an awful answer” not only negatively alters your moods during a meeting, but also hinders your ability to answer to the fullest extent that you are capable of.

Begin reinforcing positive thoughts about yourself.  Negative thoughts erode performance.  The more positive feelings that pass through a person’s mind, the more attention they can focus on and react to the interviewer’s real-time verbal and non-verbal queues.

Key Focus Exercises

Everyone gets nervous, tense and/or self-critical during an interview, however only few gain the ability to turn those feelings into productive focus.

Below, our recruiters have listed some key ways to do so.

1. Understand that concern and worry (by-products of low self-esteem) eat away at your mental hard drive and can make you oblivious to reality.

People with low self-esteem do not see themselves clearly and thus are unable to capitalize on complete focus during an interview.

Like a reflection in a warped funhouse mirror, the image they see magnifies their weaknesses and minimizes their assets.

Thus, the moment they begin to think about their shortcomings, their ability to answer complex questions begins to deteriorate.

Learn to trust yourself by combating those negative thoughts with a positive thought.  For instance, every time you think, “this is not a good answer,” replace that with “I am highly intelligent and know what I’m talking about.”

2. Mitigate stress with a few exercises.

First, think less about your immediate needs (e.g. the salary you want).  Rather, focus your attention on what the interviewer is saying, wearing and expressing with their facial movements and body language.

When you find yourself getting discouraged, take a deep breath.  Draw the air deep into your abdomen so that your diaphragm can stretch and relax.

Then, to regain focus, relax your body. Notice and eliminate any tension in your legs and arms, your face, jaw, neck, and shoulders.

Additionally, practice the questions you believe you will be asked.  It is possible do several things at once without incurring significant stress, but only if they are things that come somewhat naturally.

Practice never makes perfect, but it does relieve stress and the mental capacity needed to answer the necessary inquiries set forth by the hiring manager or recruiter.

In the End

Attention is our most important tool in the task of improving our interviewing abilities.  You dispose of a limited budget of attention that you can allocate to activities, and if you stay within your budget, you should see great steps upward in your success rate.

About

Ken Sundheim is the CEO of KAS Placement Recruiting  an executive search firm specializing in sales and marketing recruitment.  Ken is also a writer for Forbes, Chicago Tribune, Business Insider, Globe and Mail, Entrepreneur.com and many others.

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