interview-1018333_960_720THIS LAST WEEK I had a chance to help out some high school kids in a very special way. Every semester for the last few years they’ve held “mock interviews” for some of the students, giving them a chance to find out what a job interview is really like.

Some of them are terrified.

But of course you’d expect that.  They’ve heard all the scare stories, a grade is on the line, and they’re putting themselves out into totally unfamiliar territory.

This week I interviewed about 15 students, for 20 minutes apiece.  That’s enough time to ask about four questions, then give substantial feedback.  Because that’s what’s really valuable, not whether I actually would “hire” them based on their answers.

There’s some similarities to what you might do in an employee feedback discussion.  First, you don’t want to destroy their morale by detailing every nitpicky little thing that went wrong.

It’s not about perfection, it’s about learning.

And each person had something which would be most useful to hear.  For one, it was letting their personality shine through by smiling and being open.  For another, it was a résumé that didn’t represent well.  For several, they didn’t understand the value of preparing for “Do you have any questions for ME?”

Honestly, if each student comes away with just one or two things they can take action on, that’s fantastic.  Because out here in our (supposed) Real World, we constantly get feedback but take no action on it at all.

So that’s another similarity to employee feedback:  It’s more about action than talk.  It’s the learning and results that matter.

My third focus was on the interplay of emotion and reason.  If you’re not emotionally ready to hear a tough message, then it really doesn’t matter how logical the argument is.  You’ll reject it outright.

In a feedback session, it’s about having a balance of good news and bad news.  It’s about offering suggestions rather than making demands.  And of respecting the other person’s right to make their own decisions about what’s best.

So for interview advice, I focused on helping each person to develop his or her own authentic and powerful voice.  Not making them into a generic worker drone that might get hired but be unhappy.

We’re all human, after all.