“What Can You Learn From This?”


Whenever something really bad happens, it seems somebody asks what people can learn from the tragedy. Be it a news anchor, a reporter in the field, a government official, or a grieving parent pleading for just one life to be saved from the senseless death of their own child, someone is hoping there are lessons to be learned. No let’s correct that; someone is hoping the lessons that could be learned are learned.

Not to be forgotten however, is that when things go exceedingly well, there are lessons to be learned in those instances too. Whether it’s a great job interview, the perfect mix of company at a house party, a fabulous babysitter for the kids or camping at just the right time of year to avoid the weekend party crowd, we can learn lessons in the good times too.

Mock interviews designed to help people prepare for upcoming job interviews are valuable in that they are designed to help the interviewee get ready for questions they might get asked. As it’s a mock interview and not the real thing, it cannot be entirely relied upon to accurately reflect what the person will experience, but it can approximate it.

Some questions can be anticipated such as “Tell me about yourself”; the classic interview opener. You can bet on questions that ask you about your experience, why you are applying, and what value or special skills you are offering. Whoever is taking on the role of the interviewer has a big responsibility here to mirror as best they can the real thing, and even more importantly provide some feedback that the interviewee can benefit from in future interviews.

Every interview, be it mock or for an actual job, should be assessed afterward in order to determine what worked, what didn’t and why and how best to improve for the future. And I’m betting that you’ve done a quick assessment of how things are going yourself during any interview you’ve been part of. You know, a quick, “I think this is going well!”, or a “Why did I say that? Come on! Pull yourself together!”

It’s these moments that we are in danger of forgetting as interviews proceed and our minds turn to newly asked questions that interfere with our ability to remember the questions later on. It’s not like we can ask for a break from the interview to jot down a few notes for the future.

At the end of employment interviews, many people say to themselves that it went well overall or it didn’t. That kind of general summation is good, but if that’s the extent of your assessment, there isn’t much to really learn in order to improve for any future interview.

So consider the things you can evaluate and learn from in an interview. If you were late, what can you learn from in order to be on time – even though there was a detour required en route? Well maybe planning for any delay and getting there half an hour early would be preferable to being 5 minutes late. After all, once you are on location, you can always grab an orange juice or coffee, brush your teeth, read an article or two in a newspaper, and walk in relaxed instead of rushed at the last moment.

Troublesome questions are good to write down as soon as possible, as are answers you gave that appear to you outstanding. After all, if the answer was so good you wonder where it came from, you might want to jot it down so you can repeat this with certainty rather than leave it to chance. And the hard question? Do some research and find out how to present a more confident reply.

Think too about how you feel in an interview. Be it your choice of clothing, the comfort or discomfort of your chosen footwear, your posture in the chair provided – what worked and what didnt’ for you? Many people heading into an interview have an interview survival kit with them. Breath mints, stain removal stick, gum, dental floss, brush, spare stockings, a change of tie. While you might leave these things in the car, or conceal smaller items in a purse or pocket, they are things brought along for reassurance and to deal with emergencies. I know of one guy who sweats easily on hot days. A fresh shirt is always in his car on a hanger should he interview on a hot day and feel the need to change just before heading into the interview.

The same man keeps both baby powder in his car and hand sanitizer with alcohol in a small spritz bottle. To ensure he offers a dry hand to shake instead of one dripping with perspiration, he says he uses the hand sanitizer in the Reception area discreetly to dry his skin. He didn’t come across this practice by chance. He shook the hand of an interview once where the person gave an immediate expression of revulsion, and he determined he would not repeat that. He learned.

There is so much we can learn from both our own experiences and the experience of others whom we know first-hand or through others. Experiences – bad and good – have equal lessons to be learned but it is our responsibility to learn those lessons.

All the best to you this day!

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