This week we facilitated a class at FIU where we coached Construction Management and Engineering students on how to prepare their best selves when entering the workforce and taking the next step in their careers. Specifically we discussed ‘humble confidence’, which means being able to discuss what you have been responsible for and what you have already learnt from your work, school and personal experiences, all while recognizing what you don’t know, and showing your desire for the opportunity to grow professionally and your willingness to learn.
Prior to the presentation, we were told that active participation from the students may be limited. We were pleasantly surprised to see more engagement and participation than expected, and were appreciative of the students who asked us questions. A special thank-you goes to Professor Brent Huffman for his work with the students, including a presentation on public speaking prior to ours and for participating with us. Professor Huffman and Geno Jaramillo have started a Toastmasters Club at FIU in addition to the club they also lead in Doral. Toastmasters offers a comfortable environment for anyone to improve their presentation and public speaking skills.
Often in interviews, candidates try to convince or sell an employer their initiative, capabilities, and experience… only to find it backfires. Why? Because how someone presents themselves and their experiences are only important to the other party if they think the candidate’s experience and personality will fit within the culture of the company. Using examples during your interviews will not only allow the interviewer to gain clarity on your experiences, but it will also portray your ‘humble confidence’ through your ability to discuss your skills and how you gained them. Giving an indication of what you would need to learn to be able to succeed allows the employer to determine if they have the resources to provide any necessary training and knowledge, to ensure your success at their firm.
Here are three tips for performing well in interviews:
- Always know your audience. Ask for introductions if they don’t provide them along with information on their background. Don’t assume that if they have a particular title such as ‘Human Resources’, ‘Business Development’ or ‘Chief Financial Officer’ they don’t also have construction management experience, and similarly with the ‘President’ or ‘Vice President’ title. If you understand what they understand and know the perspective by which they are evaluating you (for example company cultural fit, technical ability etc.), you can more easily gauge how best to answer their questions.
- Give examples of the exposure you have had to a particular ask. Example: Do you have experience with buying out a project? If you have not fully bought out a project yourself, but you have assisted with one or done so with a singular CSI division on a project; state what you have had experience with. “I assisted Joe Garcia, Project Manager, at XYZ company for a buyout on the hotel project, with the exception of issuing the contracts which Joe did.” Or “Other than the door and hardware package for the Law Firm project which I took care of, all of my other projects were already bought out before I was involved.”
- Do not be taken aback if someone asks you to provide samples, additional references, or take assessments. At the close of an interview, offering additional references or resources to verify your current experience and capabilities will help both of you determine if your expectations align and proper training will be given so that you will be available to upskill in any required areas and meet expectations. You could ask something like “Would you like any further references or information from me to aid in your hiring decision?” If English is your second language, companies may ask for samples of correspondence you have sent in a work environment. If you are going to be responsible for writing scope of work or RFI’s, they may ask for a past example.
We can use dating and marriage as an analogy to interviewing; the more you learn about one another while dating, the better the honeymoon and typically the better the marriage. Interviews represent the dating phase, your first 90 days in the company represent the honeymoon, and beyond that is the marriage.
Keeping humble confidence in mind whilst interviewing and backing up your experience with references and examples will help to eliminate surprises on the technical end, while giving you time to adjust to a new role within the company.
Yes, employers are looking for certain skillsets for certain jobs, but if you are not coachable, trainable and motivated, they will go with a less skilled candidate instead of you any day, because skills can be taught, but attitude and aptitude cannot.
Whether you are just starting out or you are towards the end of your career, bring ‘humble confidence’ to your interviews and workplaces. You have nothing to prove except your commitment to the company and the job if you choose to accept it.