Here is an interesting and pertinent question: Who is in control of a sales call? One might argue that the purchaser decides the time, place, format, participants in the sales call, and service requirements, and they make the final decision; thus, the purchaser is in control. This is all true; however, a skilled salesperson actively manages the sales process, influencing and guiding the sales decision. When you walk into a car dealership or an appliance store, the salesperson takes you through a sales process, hopefully leading up to a sale. You are in control of the purchase decision, and they are in control of the sales process. If they are good, then even if you spend more money than you intended, you end up feeling positive about the experience and your decision.
So who is in control of the interview? Over the years, I have spoken with thousands of job seekers about their interview experiences. The most common complaint is that the interviewer spent the entire time speaking about himself or the company and didn’t get to know the candidate. I often ask the job seeker, “Why did you let the interviewer get away with that?” Their typical response is, “What could I do? They control the interview.” Well, what would a good salesperson do? A salesperson would take charge, guide the interview, and introduce the information she thinks the interviewer needs to know about her.
A very common misconception about interviews is that the interviewer likes being in control, and any effort to take control will doom any hiring chances. My clients’ experience has been exactly the opposite: Hiring managers love to share control and be “sold” by candidates. Remember, typically you will have an unskilled interviewer stressed by making a critical hiring decision. When a candidate essentially says, “Sit back; let me take the lead and present the information you need to know to make a good decision,” most interviewers are thrilled and relieved. Only once in hundreds of interviews has an interviewer not wanted to see and hear a candidate’s interview presentation. That one time was a human resources representative doing a screening interview; the hiring manager loved the presentation.
This brings us to a related question: Who is to blame for a bad interview? The answer typically depends on whom you ask. The interviewer will blame the candidate for lack of preparation, lack of company knowledge, poor answers to questions, lack of good questions to ask, improper interview behavior, and so on. The candidate will blame the interviewer for lack of preparation, withholding information about the position, turning the interview into a cross-examination, showing up late, and/or asking questions unrelated to job skills. My answer is, the blame for a bad interview is shared, although the problem of a bad interview is unfortunately yours. Good candidates are prepared with a number of interview strategies that will save the interview and win the job.