Forget the Outcome- Manage the Process to Interview Your Best

March 27, 2009

Shooting Craps

Shooting Craps

Unfortunately, for most companies the choice of whom to hire is a subjective and uncoordinated process with the interview the most subjective part. I have spoken with recruiters from major corporations that use staggeringly expensive formal interview management systems and they report that the final decision still comes down to “gut feel”. The outcome of your interview is in “the hands of the gods” so let it go.

Every job candidate wants to be selected for the job and the belief is that if they do well in the interview they will be chosen. Having worked with hundreds of job candidates and recruiters, I have seen numerous situations where an excellent candidate was not hired due to an idiosyncratic perception on the part of one person on the interview team. The candidate talked too much or too little, they asked too few or too many questions, they seemed too aggressive or too passive, they didn’t have enough experience or they were overqualified, their skills were too narrow or too broad, etc etc. In addition, there are numerous occasions where after interviewing a number of candidates the job is either put on hold or given to an internal candidate.

Subjected to this random subjective process what can a candidate do? There is only one thing to do; make sure you do an excellent job in the interview and then move on. Focus on the process not the outcome. Doing an excellent job in the interview includes the following:

Prepare
Know the company, the industry, and the job. Read the company’s website thoroughly including press releases. Google the company and see what is being written about it. See if you can find information about the people that will be interviewing you. Prepare a list of questions you want to ask in the interview.

Interview Presentation

Interview Presentation

Develop an interview presentation
The most powerful interview strategy is to use a presentation in your interview to communicate how your background skills and experience matches the critical requirements  of the job and why you are an excellent candidate for the position. The presentation is a visual aide which will guide the interview and communicate to the hiring manager all the information he needs to know to make a decision about hiring you.

nuts-and-boltsManage the nuts and bolts
Be there on time (15 minutes early), dressed correctly have a good firm handshake, good eye contact and smile. Be prepared to answer the most common questions such as tell me about yourself and what are your greatest strengths and weaknesses. Carry a leather looking portfolio and be prepared to take notes. Sit forward in your chair, speak assertively, and focus on the benefits you will bring to the job.

follow-through1Follow-through strong
After the interview write a good follow-through letter to each person with whom you interviewed. Don’t just thank them, reiterate why you are an excellent candidate for the position and cite examples from the interview.

debriefDebrief
After the interview  take time to debrief your performance. What went well what do you want to improve? How did you interact with the interviewer. Did you use examples of past performance when answering questions? How did you do with your presentation?

Now you have  done the most you can do for this interview. And the outcome it is beyond your control. Begin to focus on the next opportunity, the next networking meeting, the next interview. Time to move on.

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Read this Rant to Interview Your Best

March 7, 2009

The interview process is broken  and its is time to fix it. From my point of view here are some things about the interview that needs repair:

traffic_cop_7The interviewer has to be control
There is this belief that the interviewer is in “control” of the interview and any attempt by the candidate to assert themselves is usurping the interviewer’s power. When did this get established and what’s the point? This belief causes lots of problems including:

  • A bad interviewer (unfortunately not rare) results in a bad interview and the candidate is powerless to improve the situation.
  • The candidate feels powerless and “one down” and their anxiety is increased
  • The interviewer feels compelled to completely manage the interview, gets nervous, and ends up talking mainly about themselves.

Here  is the way it should be-The candidate should be prepared to sell themselves in the interview and share in the responsibility for communicating the critical information. Candidates should be told to come to the interview prepared to actively present themselves as the best fit for the position. Then the candidate should be given time to “sell” themselves.

How is interview behavior indicative of on the job behavior?
How often and on how many jobs does a person walk into an office and have to answer a series of question with little if any prior knowledge of the questions or the exact situation? Thinking on ones feet is an important skill but doing it with little situational knowledge is rare. And for many positions it never happens. Why do it in an interview? Why not give candidates more information so they can be prepared to interview their best. “Our most pressing issue is XYZ, please come prepared to talk about how you have worked on similar issues in the past.”

diggingThe candidate is asked to do actual work
Some companies actually have the chutzpah to ask candidates to produce valuable pieces of work. “Please put together a marketing plan for the next fiscal year”. The unstated message is “don’t do it and don’t get hired”. Done by  a senior executive this piece of work may be worth thousands of dollars. This is different than asking a candidate to display their thinking about a work related task. If a company wants a marketing plan they should pay for it not take advantage of a job candidate.

cross-examinationCross examination
One of candidate’s greatest complaints is that the interview is like a cross examination; question answer- question answer- question answer- verdict. Two adults trying to decide an important issue should be in a conversation. In an interview conversation there is an exchange of information between two adults that are working together to decide if the job is a good fit for both the company and the candidate. In any good conversation there is a give and take of information as well as the opportunity to talk about what is going on here and now. “So how do you feel about how the interview is going?”

Lack of Trust
A job interview is basically a sales call. Like every sales situation there is an element of suspicion about the sales person, how good is their product/service and what does it cost. Beginning from this underlying belief, the interview becomes subtly adversarial with the interviewer trying to figure out if the candidate is really who they portray themselves to be. The interviewer then uses a series of questions (tell me about your greatest weaknesses) to find any inconsistencies or misrepresentations.

This is a hard one to overcome. The candidate is portraying themselves in the best possible light and trying to avoid any weaknesses or problems. They want to make the sale. However, a candidate should keep in mind selling themselves into a bad situation is worse than no sale at all. After a stressful period of time they will fail,  be back where they started with a short term job on their resume and  looking for their next job.

Untrained interviewers
Since when did interviewing become an innate skill? Many managers think interviewing is a simple “gut/instinct” process and they are good at it. Typically they are deceiving themselves. Interviewers should get training or at least let the candidate be more active and assertive in the interview to balance out their limited interview skill.

Lousy job descriptions
Candidates cannot match their background, skills, and experience to unknown job requirements. Poorly developed job requirements are like saying “I want to buy something to help us with customer service but I have no idea of what I want, I will just know it when I see it”. Hiring managers should take the time to figure out and then specify what skills, experience and personality type they are looking for and then let candidates know.

So those are my thoughts- let me know if you agree or even if you have more to add to the rant!

InterviewBest improves the interview

InterviewBest improves the interview