Tom Searchy, a master sales person, tells sales people to “sell to the ask”. He is referring to what the customer wants to do next- which may be considerably less than you want. For example you may want a signed contract and the buyer wants to have you present to the next higher decision maker. Or, you may want a full blown program and the customer wants a pilot program. Searchy states that when you sell past the ask you are moving too quickly, asking too much, and you will create resistance in the customer. Moving too fast indicates you don’t understand his needs or the culture of the company and trust is shot.
The same is true in interviewing, don’t interview past the “ask”. In your interview, ask questions to understand the “ask”- what are the next step in the interview process, who will be a part of it, and how long it will take. If the next step is a second round of interviews, don’t try to sell yourself into the position. Getting to the second round of interviews is your “ask”.
Here are some examples:
In a phone screening interview you just have to qualify for a face to face interview. There is no reason to give all the details of your work history and sell yourself into the position, you just have to communicate that you are qualified for the job and you are someone who should be considered further. The screener’s “ask” is simply winnowing down the slate of candidates and then sending the qualified candidates on to the hiring manager. Once you get a feeling that the screener considers you a good candidate, become more relaxed less salesy and more conversational/relational. One way to do this would be to ask question of the screener- how do they like the company, how long they have been there and so on.
In a first round of a multi-round interview process, don’t talk about getting the position, talk about being invited to the next round. So instead of asking, “Am I someone you can see on your team?”, ask “Am I one of the candidates that will be asked back for a second round of interviews?” Asking to be considered for the position is a commitment that you have not earned. However, you may have earned a second interview.
By keeping the “ask” in mind, you will go at the hiring manager’s speed, you will not come off as pushy or arrogant and you will develop a winning level of trust.