While working with one of my outplacement clients a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to address one of my favorite topics – the “pre interview mindset.”
While game – planning for a first interview she had lined up, I told my client that since she was talking to an actual hiring authority (not HR) she should devise a list of questions that would help uncover some of their needs and issues.
I was met with silence…after a few seconds, she said “No…if they are calling me in for an interview, they can see by my CV what I can do…they are going to tell me about the position, and I will answer questions…every job I have ever had, all of my interviews have been like this, why should this be any different?”
Why indeed…let’s talk about that, shall we?
In my experience as an independent recruiter, I saw one thing that would doom a candidates chances every time, no matter how talented they looked on paper – something called a “bad chemistry match”…to put it another way, the hiring authority just plain did not like the candidate.
Not that they will come out and tell you they didn’t like you, but when you hear code words like “it wasn’t a match” more than a few times, stop and consider how you are coming across to people…think about it…they wouldn’t call you for an interview if the CV didn’t make sense to them, so that means your skills should sort of match what they want…I hate to say it, but the possibility exists that they found someone they LIKED more than you.
I’m not exactly talking about “being a great communicator”…you could speak and write with the best of them, but if you put people off or put their feet to sleep, you”ll still hear a lot of “don’t call us, we’ll call you.”
The question isn’t “how can I get people to like me”? focusing too much on that makes us develop bad habits like insincerity, or trying too hard to be friendly…the thing to focus on is BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS…memorize this – “relationships first, job offers second.”
So, how do we build a relationship within the tight, dynamic confines of the job interview? The easiest way I know is to ASK QUESTIONS.
Don’t ask lame ones, be interesting…do some homework and research, and then ask about problems they are having, or what they are trying to get done by filling the position.
It doesn’t matter if you can guess the answer…or that you are so brilliant, you can finish the persons sentences (don’t do that btw), the idea is that you want the other person to open up and have a real conversation with you…if you respond appropriately (by listening, and asking good follow up questions) you will then have the chance to connect, and once you do that, a relationship can start. If the relationship starts, then you can think about next steps.
The key is to ask in a friendly tone, not with the demeanor of a prosecuting attorney… being friendly and genuine serves to make people comfortable, and lets them know you are OK…if you make people uncomfortable (think pushy car salesman) they will put their walls up, and getting anything accomplished will be much more difficult…and it will be your fault.
I understand that maybe a lot of you reading this are more cerebral than emotional…maybe you think that this “touchy – feely stuff” is beneath you…I guarantee you that it’s not…if you want access to the leadership positions, you have to prove that you can relate well to people…it’s not enough to be a brilliant researcher, or to be a master at writing grant proposals…if you can’t connect, care and get your ideas across, you aren’t going far. The interview is where these qualities are judged, so you have to do well.
While I am on the subject, two behaviors will get you on the naughty list quicker than anything…one is just sitting there expecting to have your hand held, led with questions, and spoon fed information…this is how many people act, and it sends the wrong message…you are saying “I’m not pro active enough or confident enough to participate in this meeting”…folks do this, and expect to be trusted with an important position with responsibilities and budgets and people and, and and….it’s no wonder sometimes that hiring authorities shake their heads and ask recruiters to send them more CV’s.
The other behavior that ruins your chances is acting like a know it all…even if you do know it all, keep it on a leash…don’t walk in, and proceed to tell them everything they are doing wrong…at this point you don’t have a right to an opinion. Your role is to ask questions, and earn the right to be considered for the position.
So the bottom line is, smile, show up mentally, and be genuinely interested in them…If you like what you are hearing, show some enthusiasm and let them know they have your attention…the more you do this, the easier it becomes… the more people you do this with, the more “short lists of candidates” you end up on, and that’s when the offers begin to appear.
Getting back to my client, she agreed to try it my way after hearing me out, and she ended up having one of the most productive initial meetings of her search…she is now preparing for the next round of meetings. To paraphrase the Monkees, “She’s a Believer.”
Do yourself a favor – try this approach on your next interview, and see if it doesn’t make a difference in how far you go.
All the best,
Thomas Patrick Chuna is a certified Five O’Clock Club job search coach.
The Five O’Clock Club is a nationally recognized outplacement firm with a proven job search methodology that helps job seekers get better jobs faster.
The Five O’Clock Club also provides affordable, humane outplacement services to companies who care about the well being of their employees.
Tom is also an experienced independent recruiter specializing in molecular oncology research scientists & MD’s.
Learn more: http://www.fiveoclockclub.com http://www.patrick-international.net