You Want the Job. Here’s How to Crush the Interview.

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Hi, everyone, it’s been a minute! I had a cute New Year’s blog ready to be posted on January 7th, but then the events of January 6th made it seem silly and irrelevant, so I pulled it back. Since then it’s pretty much been “the dog ate my homework” when it’s come to blogging. I mean, I’m not in Billy Joel territory. I’ve written a lot. I just haven’t found any of what I’ve written to be “post worthy.” However, I feel like this topic is timely given the somewhat frenetic job market out there, and I hope you find my re-entry into the blogosphere to be a worthwhile read.

During the first half of 2021 I’ve worked both sides of the aisle. No, not Republican and Democrat, but job seekers and employers seeking to fill open positions. This dual vantage point has offered me an opportunity to gain new insight into two areas and confirmed a long held belief in another area as outlined below.

COMFORT

It’s no great revelation that people perform better when they’re comfortable, both physically and mentally. I’ve watched this play out time and again, but it was brought home to me by a client who was heading off for an interview two weeks ago. It was really hot out there. I mean really hot. And, we’re coming off a year plus time frame when pretty much everyone who could work remotely made it a point to do so. So, when my client scored an in person interview for a senior position in a casual industry (i.e. not a law firm, accounting firm, etc.) he wondered if he needed to wear a jacket and tie to the interview. He offered that he is a world class perspiration machine so I figured he should err on the side of being comfortable and I told him I didn’t think he needed to wear the coat and tie. After much soul-searching, he decided to wear the coat and tie. He crushed the interview and excitedly shared with me that he thought wearing the coat and tie allowed him to demonstrate just how serious he was about the job. His decision was about comfort—psychic comfort. He felt more confident and more professional in the coat and tie and that outweighed the issue of physical comfort. As it turns out, he didn’t sweat at all.

RADICAL TRANSPARENCY

I’ve been conducting two high level searches over the last few months. One for a COO of a wealth management firm and one for a CEO of a real estate development firm. As these searches have unfolded, I’ve pushed the envelope on both sides with respect to transparency and openness and the results have been encouraging. A candidate who felt an awkwardness creep into an interview after a specific question gently called it out by asking if she’d given an answer that didn’t resonate for some reason. It allowed the interviewer to, in turn, be more open and the interview quickly got back on track. Conversely, as an interviewer, I’ve been way more open with candidates. If they say something that doesn’t land properly with me, I follow up and let them know where previously I’d have been more likely to have noted it as a negative and moved on. This allows for more honesty throughout the entire process, which makes the process itself way more fruitful. And, since we’re being radically transparent, when I arrived at my client’s office for my first in person interview of a candidate in well over a year, I was greeted by Titus, the cute dog in the picture. Having Titus run in the conference room worked great to put everyone at ease in this particular situation, but not everyone is a dog lover, So, if you are with the company doing the interviewing, it’s best to check with the candidate before bringing along your equivalent of Titus.

Being radically transparent as a candidate requires both confidence and humility. It’s not easy, but confidence and humility are two of the most important traits many employers seek in leaders. That alone should convince candidates that it’s worth trying, Plus, if an interview is going off the rails already, you don’t have much to lose.

FOLLOW UP

I’m frequently surprised by candidates who don’t follow up after an interview with all of the people they’ve met. How long does it take to send a quick email and how is it not common courtesy to thank someone for their time and consideration? Yet, some candidates whom I believe to be among the best when I first meet them, don’t do so much as say thank you. It’s revealing, and not in a good way.

So, let’s suppose we are all in agreement that a follow up/thank you is appropriate. Given that, what’s the best approach? A simple email (snail mail is great but takes too long) thanking the interviewer for her/his time and reiterating your interest is fine. But, you can make yourself stand out as a candidate that much more by including something in the thank you that specifically relates to the conversation. It can be strictly professional, or it can be completely non-work related. Suppose you were having a discussion about something as mundane as what you were having for dinner after the interview and the interviewer mentioned lasagna. Attach a copy of your grandma’s recipe for lasagna and tell the interviewer it’s your favorite. That personal touch goes a long way.

These issues are all important, but they just scratch the surface. I’ve got a lot more to say on this topic, so if you’re not yet bored, and if you’re heading into some interviewing I can be reached at bob@epi.coach.

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