Optometry Applicant Interviewing Tips ala The Dog Whisperer

Nervousness is inherent to any interview process…

But the nervous vibe is not what you want to give off because it conveys fear and being out of control…

You can be nervous and still control the vibe you give off.  I will use wisdom from Cesar Millan, The Dog Whisperer, to explain how to do just this.

2019-10-11 14_33_49-Be the Pack Leader_ Use Cesar's Way to Transform Your Dog . . . and Your Life -

Cesar Millan is a successful dog trainer with 25 years of experience in the field.  He describes the hardwiring of dogs by explaining that they are by nature, pack animals.  To exist in a pack, a hierarchy of leadership must be established.  To be a successful pack member, a dog must be able to pick up on all cues, which come in the form of both body language and energy.

Pack members get panicky and nervous when the pack leader fails to lead with calm assertion. The pack leader demonstrates his authority through body language and by emitting correct energy. Reciprocally, he must be able to read  and respond to the same silent communication from both his pack members and from threatening outside forces. The pack leader’s instincts are key to pack survival.

Millan points out that unlike other cultures, Western culture does not value the skill of being able to read energy and body language. Westerners rather rely on rational thought to navigate various life situations.

Just because Western culture doesn’t acknowledge the importance of body language and projected energy doesn’t mean it’s not a real and effective force.

I agree with Millan:  we have a lot to learn from dogs when it comes to reading exchanged energy in human interactions.

Let’s Get Into the Applicant Interview…

In the case of the interviewing applicant, your mind is the pack leader and your body the pack.  To successfully lead the pack, your mind has to be able to read body language and energy.  The first step is to be aware that these two forces even exist.

In this article, I discuss what Cesar Millan might advise you to do in the interview setting so that you can remain calm and  assertive.  More importantly, I’ll explain how you can change the energy in an interview encounter from nervousness into a resource that you can successfully apply.

Be the Leader of Your OWN Pack:  

As the interviewee, your role is not to take charge;  but still, you want to immediately convey that you are a force to be reckoned with. This requires finesse because you are not taking charge, but rather you are balancing the power scales. Think of a teeter-totter or the equal sign in an equation where you need to hold up your side of the exchange. You and the interviewer are performing this balancing act together.

First off, I advise you to just ignore your fear that is naturally inherent to the process. Yes, it’s that simple. Acknowledge it so it doesn’t remain an unconscious thought, but then just simply ignore it. Just because your brain has a thought, it doesn’t mean you have to engage it. I could devote an entire article to just this one statement;  but for the sake of this discussion, know that your unconscious-self, when sensing danger, wants to protect you by activating the fight-or-flight response. Don’t facilitate this by engaging your nervousness, which only fortifies the impulse to panic. Instead, tap into your higher self to act calmly on your behalf….

Recognize the nervousness and then simply ignore it.

It was generated by a more primal part of you that wants to rev up your system to fight or flee. There is no enemy here, so reclaim calm assertion by ignoring this errant warning.

Yes, you can and should ignore negative thoughts. Just because they come from your mind doesn’t mean they are worth engaging.

Be Fully Present in the Moment:  

Start by taking a deep breath to a count of one-two-three, exhaling even more slowly. Observe several aspects of your immediate surroundings. Noticing these tangible objects in your immediate surround will help to physically ground you. Breathing calms you down by putting the brakes on your autonomic nervous system (the antidote to fight-or-flight). 

When you get nervous, the tendency is to vacate the present moment and instead start speculating on “what-if’s,” which only heightens anxiety.  Instead, put yourself back into the present moment where there is really is no problems at all, nothing for your nervous system to get jacked up about.


Photo courtesy of

Simply  put:  breathe and at the same time, take stock of your physical surroundings.

As the introductions with your interviewer take place, be fully present in the moment by listening carefully.  Don’t rush the pace of the encounter.  Don’t rush your responses to questions.  Speak concisely and deliberately.  Pack leaders are calm, honest, balanced, respectful, and real.  They take a situation in stride and never give into panic.

The present moment is all we ever have, and without your own full presence in that moment, you will not be able to enjoy its peace and awareness—aspects you want to co-opt to successfully proceed with the interview encounter.

Stand Tall and Claim the Space Around You: 

This is a posturing that a pack leader uses successfully, namely standing tall and claiming the space in your immediate surround.

Elongate your body posture and stand tall.  Shoulders back, head and neck erect, chest out.

Put on a slight, confident smile…

Initiate direct eye contact and hold it.

Speak intentionally from the back of your throat, projecting your voice, and articulating your words.  Speak slow and deliberately.

This is the body language that  conveys pack leadership.


Photo courtesy of

One of my favorite recommendations from Cesar Millan, as a pack leader, is that you should “Claim the space around you.” To imagine this, think about how powerful people are portrayed in media, in open spaces, where they are the purveyor of all they see—like a king on a throne holding court.  It’s obvious to everyone present that the king owns the space he occupies and rules everything he purveys.

Cesar demonstrates claiming the space around you by using his hands to make a sweep in front of him, as a gesture to physically define and imagine the space he claims as he prepares to walk through it.  A dog pack leader does this same behavior by marking a space as his alone— another dog will not enter this claimed space unless invited into it by the pack leader himself.

When I prepare to enter a room where I want to be perceived as someone to be noticed and respected, I perform this mental exercise of claiming the space around me. I imagine a zone in front of me that I command.  I am only 5’2” tall, so this mental gesture is especially important as not only a way  to convey power and intent to my audience, but also to myself as well. It shores me up and serves as personal affirmation that I have what it takes to get the job done.

Claiming the space you will walk through alters your body language and thus changes your energy, telegraphs conviction, and reinforces empowering gravitas. Most importantly, it creates an energy that says you are in charge of yourself and in control of the situation.

In Summary

Practice these techniques ahead of interview day.  What I want for you is to change your behavior and therefore, enjoy the fruits of all the hard work that got you here. No more slumped shoulders or a raspy weak voice!  You are here to claim your place in the profession of optometry!  Shoulders back, head up, be as tall and imposing as you can be….

Then take a deep breath, exhale slowly, ground yourself in the moment, reflecting on all the hard work and planning that earned you an invitation to interview at SCCO….

Claim the space around you and be the leader of your own pack, a.k.a YOU!

The calm that will naturally result from this behavior will not only put you at ease, but will put your interviewer at ease too.  You’ll set the stage for the best possible encounter and outcome.

Did you know that your emotional brain registers anxiety and excitement with the same physical response?  Anticipate a positive outcome from the interview and instead of anxiety, your brain will turn all of the resultant feelings into those of excitement!

That last part was from me and not Cesar Millan!

You can do this!!!!



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