Can your ‘explanatory style’ help you to find your next role? And keep it? Part 2.

How do you raise the odds of interview success?

In my last blog we explored the effects of an optimistic or pessimistic explanatory style, and if you missed it first time around, I recommend you read that first before continuing here. More optimism? All well and good, but when faced with a stressful situation it can be very difficult to summon much of it to face the future with. Equally, if you try to behave and talk in an optimistic manner when you feel anything but, it can come across as insincere and unconvincing – obviously not qualities which are likely to land you your next job.

Learn your ABCD.

11682874 - manager interviewing a male applicant in her office

Thankfully, there are techniques to help, and one is learning the ABCD…

Adversity  =  that which has happened, the event which cannot be changed:

Belief = how we react: why it took place; what it is about ourselves that caused it;

Consequence = how the event makes us feel and the impact it will have on our future;

Dispute – Beliefs are just that and no more than that and should be challenged.

If you can imagine you are arguing with another person, what is the evidence for their (or your) belief? Do you know that to be the case? Can the situation be changed? Are there other plausible interpretations? Can we look at this another way?

An example in action…

Recently, I was coaching an Operations Director – let’s call him David – of a subsidiary of a larger Plc. David had done a good job of sorting out a problem site and, as a result, had been asked to carry out a similar turnaround on a sister site. Sadly in the current economic climate, the Plc was having a difficult time and, after he had completed his work at the second site, he was made redundant. Since leaving the original factory where he was working its performance had again deteriorated. And even though he had left the site some 18 months earlier, David felt his reputation had been tarnished.

When I first met him he was obviously in a pessimistic frame of mind. His body language was negative with evident lethargy, lack of eye contact and almost a slouching manner. Though he tried to hide it, his voice and what he said reinforced the feeling of negativity and pessimism.

Looking at David’s situation in terms of ABCD…

The Adversity was obviously the loss of his job – the decision had been made and there was nothing he could do to change it. As a result, his Beliefs were: that his reputation in a small sector was damaged; being over 50 made it difficult to find work; the marketplace meant there were few jobs… The Consequences were going to be dire: he would not be able to pay his mortgage; he would lose his home; it would cause strain in the family; he would have to relocate… David was telling himself all sorts of stories which had no basis in fact. He Disputed those beliefs and after a while he began to feel more positive about his future. He recognized that his reputation was not damaged this was largely in his mind. Being over 50 did not necessarily make it difficult to find work but he would probably have to change his approach. He also appreciated that ups and downs of the market place were an economic reality, he would have to be more creative in his search.

How did it end?

Thankfully, there was a happy ending. In fact, David found himself another opportunity after only a few weeks and, as a result, was able to put away most of his redundancy package as a nest egg. A positive result to what could have been a difficult situation.

It ain’t always that easy. David’s story had a rapid and positive outcome, but sadly it doesn’t always happen as quickly. Nonetheless, there is no doubt in my mind that an optimistic explanatory style is far more likely to secure a new role than any alternatives. It may be that patience is also required.


Who am I? A chap living in Nottingham, United Kingdom who perhaps has a much higher level of enthusiasm than ability leading to an interest in many things but mastery of none. A father of three no longer dependent children, or so they tell me, and husband to a one-time nurse who now works with me (or rather I work for). I attempt to take photographs and occasionally fluke half decent shots though thank goodness I no longer have to buy film. I endeavour to practice karate but with advancing years spend more time instructing them participating but actively participate in the more gentle tai chi. Professionally I have spent the last twenty years in recruitment – not always the most highly regarded ‘industry’. For my part I take great pleasure in helping companies to find the right people and a lot of satisfaction out of seeing them thrive and succeed. More recently I have spent a lot of time helping people who have, or fear they may, lose their jobs. For many putting a CV together is so difficult and then finding opportuniteis can be a major challenge. Interviews can be a different problem altogether but with a little help most people can perform a lot better than they otherwise would.

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