During a market research process, I was interviewing our customers and had a candidate scheduled in (let’s call her Feng) whom, so I was told, had some communication challenges. She’d failed several job interviews with clients because they couldn’t get her to share much information about her previous role. And this, of course, was a problem. Our clients were trying to assess whether she had the skills to become a portfolio manager at their hedge fund but couldn’t gather enough information from her. Thus, she lost out on great opportunities.  

Surprisingly when I interviewed her over the phone for purely market research purposes, she was happy to share information. She spoke about her challenges at her previous job, how she learned new skills, what she valued at work and how to manage a successful team. She was the most open and sincere candidate I’ve ever spoken to.

How could this be? Perhaps this was a classic example of how one’s mindset in certain situations can affect the way we feel, and thereby the outcome of the situation. If she had only been this honest and open with our client at the job interview, she might have gotten that job. 

This is not to say you have the lay all your cards on the table when you’re interviewing with hedge funds. We all know there are things to keep under the lid. But perhaps evaluating your thought process before going into an interview (and using the following CBT techniques I will be describing) can help boost your interview performance.


What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)?


The CBT Model

Invented in the 1960s by psychiatrist Aaron Beck, cognitive behavioural theory (CBT) is a goal-orientated and short-term form of psychotherapy treatment. The aim of this is to change your thinking pattern and feelings, and thereby behaviour and outcome. According to CBT, it is not the situation itself that impacts the way that we feel, it’s the meanings that we give them.


How does CBT apply to an interview situation?

For example, in Feng’s case, her thoughts and feelings may have gone something like this: I have been to interviews before where it was obvious that I was merely there so they could get information from me and use this to their competitive advantage. This makes me feel used and perhaps, a little vulnerable, and now I’m sceptical of all job interviewers. Therefore, I have my guard up and won’t share very much information with them.

Feng could be and probably is, completely unaware of this thought process. Now she might develop another narrative where she believes interviews are painful because they don’t tend to go well. And around the circle goes again.

The dangerous thing about this model is that when we reinforce the belief it becomes the result. We hold on to the same thoughts and fail to learn anything new.


How you can use CBT to improve your interview performance

To break the spell of a repeat undesired outcome, whatever your thoughts and feelings are around the interview situation, you can use the ABC model.



Interview situation

  • A is for Antecedent (the trigger)
  • B is for Belief (our thoughts around the situation)
  • C is for Consequence (the way we behave or feel)


We tend to blame ‘A’ for the outcome of ‘C’. But if we can change ‘B’ (the way we think about the situation) we can change how we feel (‘C’).

So next time you’re feeling nervous about an in-person or phone interview perhaps because of a bad experience, try changing your mindset about the situation beforehand. Interviews can actually be a lot of fun! With the right mindset (belief) to start.


Takeaways in short

  1. We can change (or improve) the outcome of a situation if we change our thoughts and feelings around the situation itself
  2. To do so it’s important to identify the trigger and what our thoughts and feelings are around the trigger
  3. We can also learn new skills that can help us change the outcome. For example, we can get better at interviewing and thereby achieve a better interview experience