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Great advice from The Lawyer Whisperer

September 26, 2018

A colleague asked me for feedback on his “personal presentation” for interviews. He doesn’t present well so I’m not sure how honest to be. What should I do? Ugh.

Julie Q. Brush

To be, or not to be: that is the question. An increasing number of professionals are soliciting career feedback from colleagues, friends etc. in an effort to compete more effectively in today’s market. The recipients of these requests can often experience anxiety due to the lack of confidence in managing an effective response. Requests for personal presentation critiques are among the most dicey to address because of the emotional component and downside potential. But with a gentle approach you can succeed in helping your colleague…and preserving goodwill. To determine the best path, you will need consider and prioritize the following factors:

  • The quality and nature of your relationship
  • Your desire to provide truly useful feedback
  • The importance of preserving a harmonious relationship
  • Avoiding offense to your colleague
  • Mitigating hurt or defensive feelings
  • Your willingness to provide neutral feedback in order to avoid further discussion
  • Your desire to avoid the situation altogether

Most people in your situation genuinely want to help, but don’t want to cause offense or hurt feelings. And while some professionals may ask for “brutal honesty”, the reality is that everyone has their sensitivities. So a fine line exists…and navigating it smoothly can prove difficult. Regardless of what path you choose, your words and messaging should be carefully selected. Below are a few options:

Direct And Honest Feedback.

“Dan, there are many qualities you have that I believe will reflect well in an interview. You are very confident, smart and have a lot of great things to say. I did notice a couple things that might be helpful though. During our conversation, you jumped in a few times with your opinion when I was speaking – so I didn’t have the opportunity to finish my thought. In a casual dynamic this is more common, but an interviewer might perceive this negatively. Also, part of your likeability is your casual nature. But in my experience, interviewers value a slightly more formal, and less “familiar” approach. They may interpret a casual demeanor as arrogance, lack of respect or lack of interest in the opportunity. I think it’s important to be yourself, but hopefully these insights are helpful.”

Middle of the Road Response.

“Dan, it’s always hard to know exactly what employers are looking for so I’ll try and give you my general thoughts instead of a personal critique. You’ve got a great background and I view you as a competitive candidate. A good piece of advice I received when I was interviewing was to be prepared, listen attentively, be humble, and approach the interview in highly professional manner. I’ve focused on this approach throughout my career and tit has always been effective. I hope this helps!”

The Polite Decline.

“Dan, thank you for asking for my feedback – I’m really flattered. But I feel like this is a bit outside my expertise and don’t think I would be very much help. I believe the highest and best use of your time would be for an expert like a seasoned legal recruiter or a professional coach to assess your presentation and provide their counsel. These folks work with employers often and know what resonates with them. I know a great recruiter who would be the perfect person to help. I’d be happy to send you his/her contact information if you’re interested.”

As professionals we all encounter uncomfortable situations from time to time. And while you are feeling some anxiety by this current request, this situation need not be a negative experience. In fact, it’s a great opportunity for your own professional development as well. So approach the situation with this mindset…and you and your colleague could both end up benefitting.

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