“Have We Met Before?” Transference And The Job Interview

“Have We Met Before?” Transference And The Job Interview

Have you ever left an interview room and felt completely baffled about your reactions to the person you have just met?

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Did your personalities ‘clash’ right from the start? Did you become defensive, intimidated or over familiar in a very short space of time, without any hard evidence as to why?

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It maybe that in some small way the interviewer reminded you of someone else.

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Perhaps their behaviour seemed inexplicable and it’s you that seems to represent another person they know or have known previously.

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Transference is a psychoanalysis term first described by Freud. It has several definitions one being:

“The redirection of feelings and desires and especially of those unconsciously retained from childhood toward a new object” Leonard Kapelovitz (1987)

Now Transference has many different layers and been studied and theorised over extensively. I claim no such knowledge and would certainly not attempt to discuss its complexity (also Freud makes me nervous and I bet there’s something Freudian to be said about that) Yet, I do believe it has the potential to play an important role in how you could react in an interview situation meeting new people for the first time.

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In terms I understand it makes sense that if a person even vaguely reminds you of an old school bully on a subconsciously level, you may find yourself more on guard than you would usually be. On the other hand if they resembled a close trusted friend you may disclose more information than you would with another individual.

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Challenge yourself. Ask what it is in particular that is eliciting a response from you. Look at any pre-conceived prejudices you may have and break down any assumptions you have drawn. How do you group people and how do you then respond to them?

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I’m a big believer in ‘gut instinct’. In most cases I say go with it. However, in an interview situation in which judgement are made and stress levels can run high I would always err on the side of caution. Monitor your reactions; try not to take anything too personally. Remind yourself you do not know this person and watch out for extremes.

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Of course if on the 2nd, 3rd meeting you still have a very negative response to an individual’s behaviour and you can’t trace it back to yourself then stop analysing.

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If you liked this post you may find the following interesting:

The Ultimate Interview Research Checklist

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Sarah Cooper has over 14 years Recruitment experience gained in both an internal and agency environment. As one of the founding Directors of McGinnis Loy Ltd, specialist Finance and HR Recruiters, she is still actively recruiting in the marketplace today. Follow her tweets @approachmarket

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