Share this article:
Bookmark and Share

Paralyzed by the Need to be Perfect

Perfection is an overrated concept. Even those who know it’s unattainable try for it when they interview. What’s the result? Nervousness. For example, fear you won’t be liked. Fear you’ll be asked a question but won’t know the answer. Fear that you won’t be asked back. Fear that you might, and they hire the other person instead.

Frequently fear stems from lack of preparation. It can also result from being too attached to the outcome. When you really want the job, but are afraid of not getting it, you try too hard and worry too much about pleasing the interviewer. Consequently, you lose touch with who you are and sabotage yourself, bringing about the opposite outcome from the one you consciously desired. A small incident can take on monumental proportions.

Even when you’ve done your homework, know what you’re looking for in your perfect job, and are fully grounded, things can go amok, scattering your composure. And though you’re not desperate to please, you’d still prefer that nothing untoward happens with which you have to deal.

If Murphy’s Law should rear its ugly head while you’re interviewing, here are a few scenarios and how to handle them.

Can you detect the common thread in these instances? Gracefulness. People tend to make a mistake and be mortified about it. They babble excuses, attempt to be funny, and then silently and mentally dwell on it for the remainder of the interview. And not coincidentally, they don’t get the job.

Interviewers aren’t perfect either. They’ve sneezed and not had a tissue, they’ve been fired, they’ve said the wrong thing at the wrong moment. Keep your composure. It’s not what you do, it’s how you handle it.

- Judi Perkins

Judi Perkins, the How-To Career Coach, was a recruiter for 22 years, consulting with hundreds of hiring authorities throughout the hiring process. She’s seen over 500,000 resumes, knows how hiring authorities think and how they hire. As a result she understands and teaches what other coaches don’t: why the typical strategies in finding a job so often fail, what to do instead, and why. She’s been on PBS’s Frontline, will be in the May issue of Smart Money magazine, and has been quoted frequently in numerous articles for CareerBuilder, MSN Careers, Yahoo Hot Jobs, and the New York Times, among others. She’s also been featured as an expert in numerous career books. Sign up for her free newsletter at!