Tongue Tied

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I am an exceptionally competent and hard-working person. I don’t
know how to work less than 50 hours a week and often closer to 70.
Not for pay, because no sane employer would pay for that. I left my
last job out of stress and overload and am now starting to look for
another professional job. My resume is excellent and I have no
problem getting interviews. But I am realizing that my menopausal
brain (I’m 55) is starting to trip me up. I am having issues around
finding the right words when I need them. Then I get flustered and
red-faced (both from embarrassment and hot flashes) and things go
downhill from there. My counselor is helping me learn how to cope
better with stress itself. But can you help me with the interview
problem so I don’t have to add financial woes to the other issues?

Tongue Tied

Dear Tongue Tied:

The single most important aspect to job interviews, beyond
demonstrating competence in the field you’re being hired to work in, is
that indefinable quality of “fit.” Fit means whether people like you,
want to work with you, feel you are someone they can rely on to show
up and do a good job, and are comfortable around. Unfortunately
that’s led to decades, even centuries, of white males running
boardrooms and on down the corporate food chain; though we’re on
the road of diversity, there’s still along road ahead. Gender
notwithstanding, people don’t feel a sense of fit or comfort with people
who are nervous. It’s contagious, makes folks uncomfortable, and shy
away. So the only thing you should focus on is making yourself
comfortable so they lean in, not away.

Interviews are a way to showcase your history. Do it through stories.
When you’re telling a story about your life, you won’t get tongue tied.
I suggest giving yourself one 4×6 flashcard that is easy to read. Have
two dozen keywords on it in two columns. Left column is a list of
typical interview questions: a big success, failure, challenge, deadline,
etc.. Right column are one word prompts: a name, a project, a date,
whatever will prompt you to tell a succinct and articulate story. Make
them laugh. Make them like you. Make them see your true self. That’s
the best you can do.