Show a positive attitude …

"We all know that employers want to select people who have a positive attitude and I know I have one. Unfortunately, I've had feedback to say that I don't come across that way, so what should I be doing?"

Angela R's confidence had taken a knock over this. When you see yourself a certain way, and then find out that others see you differently, it can be a shock if that difference is negative. So how can you ensure that you portray a positive attitude at interviews?

Angela suffers from the same problem as many of us; she is generally optimistic, and therefore positive, but is an individual who takes things seriously, likes to think carefully before answering questions and then replies in a well-structured and logical way. All of those qualities are likely to be positively valued by an employer, so why would she be perceived as not having a positive attitude?

What's the problem?

It's important to recognise that there are two potential problem situations when being interviewed:

  • Portraying a negative attitude.
  • Not showing a positive attitude.

Whilst the latter is simply a missed opportunity to show the best of ourselves, the former is invariably disastrous.

How the hell would I know?

We all recognise a negative attitude when we see one. It's characterised by general pessimism flowing from the words, "No," and, "I don't think so," or, "That'll never work," or, "That's a lot of trouble," often coupled with an attitude of, "Why would I / What's in it for me?" Even five minutes with a negative person can be waaaaay too much to bear, so who'd want one locked into a key role inside their organisation, constantly poisoning the atmosphere and depressing everyone around them?

If an interviewer doesn't see your positive attitude, the worry is that they might have a negative individual on their hands, so it could just be safer to steer clear of you. At the very least, you'd be missing a major opportunity to stand out from your peers.

So the message for you (and for Angela) is clear - make sure to show that you have a positive attitude.

How do you portray that positive attitude?

  1. Engage firmly. Make eye contact with the interviewer, listen attentively, smile, 'like' them.
  2. Show the real you. You do want to look professional, but you're not a robot. Relax, show emotion.
  3. Be confident. You might be nervous but you can still show confidence in your own abilities. Value your past experiences and future capabilities. Believe in yourself. If you don't, why would anyone else?
  4. Lighten the mood where you can. Yes, it's an interview and you do need to take it seriously but a bit of gentle upbeat levity now and again gives everyone a lift from what is a pressured situation for both sides.
  5. Never criticise, never complain. EVER! Even if your last boss was a humourless, power-crazed, misogynistic, baby-eating monster who ended up doing time for sacking absolutely everyone and bankrupting the organisation, let it go. Running people down, banging on about how hard done-to you were and criticising colleagues for causing your unfortunate failures is the surest way to show that dreaded negative attitude.
  6. Agree with the interviewer. The words, "No, that's actually wrong," should never come from your mouth. Even if it is wrong, work around it gently. If you can show that you agree often with what the interviewer is saying, you will be seen as positive.
  7. Actually be positive. Talk about what you CAN do, not what you can't. Never say anything negative about yourself at any time.

Let's dig into that last point in more detail.

Positivity through belief

To portray a highly positive attitude that you can use to stand above your peers, I have some very strong advice.

When discussing the role you're aiming for, if you're not sure whether you'll be able to do something or not because your past experience is a tad thin in that area - just say you can and plan to worry about it later.

Isn't that madness? Aren't you setting yourself up for failure?

No. The whole of your working life will engage you in unknown situations. You've spent God knows how many years learning at school, college or university how to analyse and solve problems. Have confidence that you'll be able to do just that in a real job and facing a real situation at that time. You're not a vegetable; you're a sentient learning adaptive being.

To really hammer your positivity home, recognise that nothing shows a positive attitude better than, "I can do that," whatever it is.

Believe utterly, at the very deepest level of your being, that you can do absolutely anything that you choose to set your mind to, even if it's way outside of your comfort zone, field and experience. Believe absolutely that the limitation would never be whether you can do something or not, it's just down to how long it might take you and whether that would be practical in a real-world situation.

Here's an example that used to get me through. Earlier in my career, I believed, utterly, that if push came to shove, I could single-handedly design, build, launch and man an alternative Saturn V space rocket that would take me to the moon and back. It might take me a while from where I'd be starting from (slight understatement there), but if someone else can do it, why not me? I could learn to design. I could learn the manufacturing techniques. I could train to a required fitness standard. etc. etc.

The limitations might be time and resource, but never my capability.

So, when someone says, "Can you do ..", your answer must be, "Yes, of course!" Not, "Maybe," or, "No," or, "I don't think so," or, "I'm not sure," or, "Perhaps," or, "Well, can I have a look at it first?"

If you can believe and show an interviewer that, whatever the problem, you could solve it eventually, you're well on the way towards being congratulated for having a highly positive can do attitude that would be an asset to the organisation.

Think you can do that? :)

Jon Gregory, Editor

For more detail on this subject, read “Winning That Job: A kill or be-killed guide to job-search and interview preparation.” You can pick up it up as an e-book or paperback here on Amazon >>>

Key words: interview, positive attitude, can do attitude