How to Manage the Fears of the Selection Committee

Job interview skills - Merit Solutions Australia

Behind many job interview questions is a fear that you will not have the capability required to perform the advertised job.

There are two types of fear that are often behind the questions selection committees ask job interviewees.

The first type is the “general fear” that relates to all job candidates because of the nature of the job – it’s difficulty, danger, demands, political nature, strategic focus or complexity.

A job interview question that could fall into this category is, “You will have to deal with a lot of irate clients, how will you handle the stress from this aspect?”  Here you need to assure the selection committee that you have the requisite capability to handle both the irate clients and your own personal stress.

It would be useful here to give examples of dealing with an anger customer and the strategies you employed to help the person meet their needs.  You could also explain how you handled the personal stress.  Explain what you have done specifically in other stressful situations and how your strategies have helped you (and ideally others) manage the stress of the situation.

One of your tasks during job interview questions is to reassure the selection committee (through evidenced-based comment) that you have the capability to handle the more demanding aspects of the advertised position.

The second type of fear is the “specific fear” that relates to the perceived limitations of your particular experience, knowledge, skill and attitudes.  The fear in the mind of selection committee members is that you may lack the capability for the advertised position because of your specific background and current position.

A question that could fall into this category is, “Given that your work experience is wholly in the private sector, how will you manage the demands of this public sector position?”  The fear here is that you personally will not be able to make the transition as you have not yet had the opportunity to develop the capability to manage in a public sector environment.

You could focus on your proven capability to manage prior job transitions, the strategies you employed to understand the different cultures and how you quickly built new relationships.  You could also mention any public sector related roles, e.g. Government Liaison Officer or Procurement Officer.  You could draw on your experience in working with Government Departments in roles such as accounting or in working for not-for-profit organizations.

You can reassure the selection committee by explaining what you believe to be the differences between working in the public sector and working in the private sector.  You could also mention your discussions with public sector friends and what you learned out of those discussions. To strengthen your case, you could mention the strategies you have developed to make the transition as smooth and as effective as possible.

The “specific fears” are the hardest to deal with because they relate to you personally and not necessarily to other candidates.  You can anticipate these fears and plan your responses in advance.  Your task is to correct any misconceptions the selection committee may have so that your capabilities are properly assessed.

If you manage the “fears” of selection committee members, you will have a better chance of making your case as the best job candidate for the advertised position.

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About Ron Passfield

Ron is currently a Director and an Executive Consultant with Merit Solutions. He also collaborates with Julie Cork and Associates in the delivery of the Practical People Management program to Queensland Government clients. Since 1990, he has consulted as a coach to senior executives in leadership, culture and organisational change. Previously, Ron was a full-time lecturer in human resource management and organisational behaviour at undergraduate and postgraduate levels at Griffith University for more than a decade.