We are going to make an assumption here. We assume you think you have been on, or plan to try to get INTERVIEWS. Right?
What you have actually been on or will be going on are AUDITIONS. Someone has a new part in their “play” they are auditioning for, and that is what the process is about. They have a good “picture” of the ideal player, and they want to get as close to that as possible. If we approach the problem with this in mind, it changes how we prepare.
For instance, if you were an interpretive modern dancer, and we (as the recruiter) were actually the talent scout, how would you react to the following scenario? I know from meeting you in the past that your biggest dream is to dance in a Broadway play.
I have been a scout on the local dance scene for many years. One day I come up to you and say,
“I have good news for you!! I got a call yesterday from a troupe that is putting together a new Broadway play and they want to audition for dancers next week. I can put up four or five local dancers and I thought of you right away. I have been watching you in the local scene and I think you are ready to try out for this. Unfortunately, the theme of the project is still a secret, but I do know there is a lot of JUMPING in their plans. I have set a time of 2:00 p.m. next Friday, bring your own music and give us your BEST 20 minutes. See you there.”
Now, what are you going to do?
My guess is that you would practice, practice and practice some more. And what would you include in this routine? Jumping of course!
Then, next Friday, you would show up at the audition, plug in your music, take a deep breath, dance your very best for 20 minutes an finish as a quivering mass of muscles on the floor at the end. Then you would get up, dust yourself off, take your music, thank them for the opportunity, and go out the door knowing what?
You have done your best!
They hire you or they don’t. You are too good looking, too slim, too fat, too happy, too serious, too tall, too short, whatever. But you have done your best to get a shot at your dream.
Why would anyone put in less effort to get the next job that may be leading him or her to their dreams? This job that will provide money for your family, support necessities and holidays, be the place you go to EVERY DAY and spend more waking hours than you do with your family. This is a place that will have both opportunities and challenges and for many people, lets them express and practice the things they love to do every day.
We am here to tell you that it surprises and scares us to see how unprepared, casual, willing to do the least preparation, and how totally naive most people are when they find themselves in the position of hunting for a job. Your purpose here is to change that in every way possible.
We are sure the next exercises will make more sense when done with this understanding.
The Interview – Preparation
It should now be becoming clear how you will utilize the preparation work you have done. You have a great list of your achievements that you are going to read over and have fresh in your mind. This preparation will make you feel calmer, more confident and ready you for the “audition” to come.
We want you to take a minute and re-read the comments on Terminal Honesty in the Step 1 – Getting Started section.
You are approaching the moment where you will be speaking to one of the hiring manages or human resource people, most often on a one-on-one environment. Long before this, you should have gone through the pre-interview checklist
PRE-INTERVIEW CHECK LIST
- My outfit is appropriate. If in doubt, dress more formally than more casually, unless you have specific instruction
- “Business Casual” means the best outfit you own that is not business formal
- I have a notepad or daytimer with me in case I need to write something down and it is NOT messy in any way and has no papers sticking out etc.
- I have done the inspection in a mirror, and even my shoes are in great shape
- I have clear directions to the location
- I know how to reach them and who to ask for in case of emergency
- My plan is to be in the neighborhood at least 30 minutes ahead of schedule and scope out where I have to go.
- I have a copy of my resume with me to give to them if requested
- I have a copy of reference letters to give them if I choose to.
- I am planning an hour for the interview and I am leaving another 30 minutes available in case we take longer. I DO NOT want to have to rush and leave.
- My car is clean in case they walk me out to it at the end of the interview, This is ery common for sales people.
- I have read and reread all of my achievements
- I have done as much research as possible on their company at the library, on the internet or calling to the company (without identifying myself and asking some questions)
- When I arrive, I sit calmly and wait, maybe read the magazines, but I am not “nervously talking” to anyone
- I have practiced my handshake so it is firm without being too strong. It is NOT limp and soft
- If I am a woman, my top is in no way revealing, even when I lean over, and my skirt is not too short
- If I am a man, my after-shave is light and NOT freshly applied, maybe an hour or two old at least
- I have double-checked there are no buttons undone or loose ends left. I am ready to interview
So far so good.
Now you are at “The Big Moment”. But, how are you going to “Act”? This is where most people start to fail, and it goes rapidly downhill from here. There is a common misconception that have to put on a phony face to do well. It is usually the contrary. Instead of “acting” try being excited, professional, well informed, enthusiastic, willing to exchange, somewhat fearless
It is my experience that most people ask this how will I Act question. What we will do now is give you the picture from the other side, so you will see much more clearly what you have to do to be successful.
Typically, the first interview, whether done by recruiters or company staff, have the same purpose. Applicants have been reduced from the LONG List to the SHORT list and are being reduced to the finalists. Your resume or phone interviews have gotten you this far, now its up to you.
THE LAWS OF INTERVIEWS
One: As you are in the interview EQUALS how you will be in the job.
If you are confident, pleasant, self assured, curious, thoughtful, demonstrate leadership if the job calls for it and interview like you are ALREADY on the team, that is pretty much how you will be on the job. This applies to every situation and the skills and attributes they want may vary, but they want to have seen them in the interview. This is much easier to do if you have done the preparation!
Two: At this point, the interviewer is looking for what’s Wrong with you versus what is Right
You wouldn’t be here if there weren’t a lot Right with you for the job. They are looking for what is wrong. You are too junior, too senior, want to manage when I want a worker, are not a good fit for the team, not the right image, not the right combination of detailed skills for the job, not as promotable as needed, would be in too big a hurry for promotion, not organized, not prepared, not interested, overqualified, under qualified
Let’s face it, not every job is perfect for you. There are a lot of jobs you want and don’t get and this process will improve these results greatly in you favor.
This is one of the weakest skills in interviews. The candidate is so busy trying to play the game or guess what is going on, or wondering what these questions “mean” they do not have time to listen. Most of the answers to these questions are given or available from the interviewer if you know what to ask or what to listen for. More detail in next section.
Four: Ask GOOD Questions
This is very important. Good questions illustrate you know something about the job, the pressure, the secret needs, or the company itself. It is the “partner” of Listening.
Anatomy of an Interview (from the interviewer’s perspective)
PHASE ONE – Greet and Intro
A lot goes on in the greeting and introductory phase. When an interviewer first meets you, they have looked to see what my their impression is, because that is the same first impression their boss or the next manager or my customers will get when they first meet you. They look for impressions. Were you anxious or calm? What were you dressed like? Was it appropriate to the job, overdressed or underdressed? Too casual, too sexy? Did you make eye contact right away? Was your handshake positive or weak? Too strong, too soft? As we went to the interview room were you chatty or quiet? Were your shoes clean and polished? (one of my personal favorites). You both get to the interview room and sit down.
PHASE TWO- First Conversations
This usually starts with what sounds like idle chatter or simple ice breakers like the traffic or the weather. The interviewer usually has a story to tell about the company. Do not be fooled. They are vigilant about everything. They are trained interviewers and they do these hundreds and thousands of time in their career. You nearly NEVER do this! Knowing the rules is critical to your success. There is possibly a space for a GOOD question or two. They are watching how you sit, listen, talk, react and continue to read how you will fit in the role and on the team. Listen for clues. They will talk about the job or company but may add problems they face (that the new hire will solve) Good questions for you are “why is the position open? (replacement, expansion promotion?) What is the current team like?
PHASE THREE – THE HEART OF THE INTERVIEW
There are two types of interviews, the standard question and answer type and the behavior type. We are prepared for both. The behavior interview asks questions such as ” When you were in your last position, describe how you managed a situation when there was a lot of emotion or anger” or “How did you train your summer replacement?” or “How did you deal with your boss when an assignment was incomplete or late?” What they are watching for is how you react and what you say. You will be very prepared, confident and ready because you did your homework. Further, you can pick the most positive situation or the least damaging, because you know yourself and your history VERY WELL.
In the standard interview, they (the interviewer) tend to review your resume and ask questions. What they are looking for are “holes” or “inconsistencies” They tend to spot concerns or ask you to elaborate on areas. Listen very carefully. Many of the questions are clues to their needs, so listen carefully and use the information later. There are several favorite questions. You will regularly be asked for the months you worked from and to. This appears to be simply clarifying data, but it is a key test. If you list your dates as follows:
ABC Company 2011 – 2014
It could be January 2011 to December 2014 which would be 48 months OR it could be December 2011 to January 2014 which would be 36 months, a full year less and still be true as written. The interviewer is trying to determine if there are long gaps in employment. You need to be bullet proof. If there are some gaps be ready to explain, but don’t be defensive, there are reasons and situations. They are watching for how you handle the sticky questions. Remember, this is an audition.
PHASE FOUR – CRITICAL MOMENTS IN THE INTERVIEW
Strengths and weaknesses
This is an area that challenges most people. You should have a list of strengths prepared. This is much easier, given all of the work that you have done in preparation. The tricky part seems to be when people start to talk about their weaknesses. Mostly, they exhibit large quantities of “Terminal Honesty” and find themselves out of the running. My strategy is to give them three strengths, two disguised strengths and a Neutral weakness.
Our response would sound something like this:
One weakness would be my communication skills with the support people. Whenever I have a problem with service to my customers, I think they might tell you I have been a little annoying at times, pressing for results or resolution, and I guess I could improve in that area.
A second weakness could be considered my tendency to be too attentive to all of the details in the sales process. I could learn to delegate more than I do and I might be more willing to trust the process instead of checking every time that things have been completed on time. We have been working on a new system to inform the sales people, which will be a great help.
And thirdly, I confess that given the choice between carrot sticks and a carrot muffin, I have been choosing the muffin more often, but things are improving. I have lost 15 pounds this year and I am being steady with my attendance at the gym.
Now, what have I REALLY said? One, I go the extra mile to see my customers are satisfied. Two I am focussed with a high attention to detail in a manual system and I have a little fat on me but I am working on it. Now, what would you have said?
REMEMBER, it’s a GAME. They not only want to see how you answer this and how well you play the game and whether you will reveal things that will disqualify you or reduce your attractiveness.
We have come to THE MOST IMPORTANT MOMENT IN THE INTERVIEW.
Sometimes formally, and sometimes informally, they will ask you what you have achieved, what you have done you would be proud of and what is it that you have completed that would be important for them to know as the interviewer. It is at this moment this you can “Pull Ahead” of your competition, and its all thanks to the preparation work you have done.
Your competitors will almost invariably respond like this:
The interviewer will ask them about their achievements, they will look up and to the right, set the finest computer on earth (the human brain!) into turbo search mode and try and come up with three items that will best suit and say them so they can get on with this nice chat.
Not You and NEVER Again.
You now know this is a pivotal moment. This is what you have been preparing for. Of course it has been helpful in other moments of the process but this is the time when it all comes together.
The method and way we answer this is going to accomplish two things at once.
One: We will EVENTUALLY answer their question about our achievements
Two: We will demonstrate right before their eyes, what kind of a team member we are, how we will handle tough questions when we are on the job and demonstrate what kind of communication skills we have that will be an asset to the team.
Here is how it goes (I am going to use an example of someone applying for a sales job):
Interviewer: Let’s talk about your last few jobs. What would you consider to be your three best achievements? (silence)
You: Thank you for asking. There are a number of things I have done that I am proud of, but before I go off talking about my own personal favorites, would you like to know about my achievements in getting new business from accounts we never did business with or how I have been able to grow business at existing accounts or , perhaps some of my achievements that are technical in nature. (This would be different for every type of job hunter.) (Wait for response.)
Interviewer: How about achievements about growing business at accounts you have never had business.(Now you have been clued into what THE MOST IMPORTANT area of performance is key in the job you are applying for!!)
(You are not going to answer yet. Press for more clarification) You: Well, in that area there are two different groups, leads that I have been given and leads that I generated myself. Where would you prefer I begin?
Interviewer: How about leads that you have generated yourself.
You: Fine. And then you begin to list or explain them. Why do you know them so well? You have practiced and prepared, and so they roll off of your tongue. When finished, and be fairly brief, you ask, “would you care to hear about other business from leads I was given or go back to New business or existing accounts or my technical achievements?
The Interviewer either picks one or says, ” Oh anyone that you would like to talk about”
You: (optional) Well, there are a few things I could discuss, but I was wondering which area might be more important to the job I am applying for?
Interviewer: They will either pick something or they do not. In any event, you proceed to discuss one or two more areas.
Review: Consider that you and I are competing for the same job, and your response was the first one and my response was the second, who is ahead? Me of course!! And I am using this technique to tell your story not my own.
In addition, I have discovered VERY valuable information from their choices. When I let them pick what I will talk about, the order they choose is usually their most important considerations in descending order. It points at their main needs or interests. You will be going back to that area later in the conversation and you have no idea (although you may guess). You now know what they want, and because of your preparation you will deliver it to them before you go.
Also, how did you appear to them using this technique? Calm, confident, organized, professional, a strong communicator, well prepared. And how did you look last time you did it your old way??
Let’s consider the Giant Slalom in the Olympics as a competition and compare it to job hunting.
In the giant Slalom, the best racers in the world try to come down the mountain as fast as they possibly can. And what separates them in the end, measured in time -seconds? Tenths of seconds? Hundreds of seconds? Even Thousands of seconds?
Now imagine one racer lifts their head when the shouldn’t, and lose a few thousands of a second, or they take too much air in a jump or not enough air, and fall back a little or they lean too far into only one corner and lose some time.
Now, as it turns out, the Olympics are kinder than the jobhunting scene. At least in the Olympics there is Gold and Silver and Bronze. In job hunting there is no Bronze, No Silver, ONLY Gold and the rest go home. One person wins and the rest keep trying.
The whole point of this program is to “Move You Up” in the standings by eliminating or avoiding a long series of small mistakes and keep you at the top. Combine this with a few techniques that set you apart and move you ahead like the Interview techniques we discussed above, and we are making progress ahead of the competition in many ways.
Trial Close or Where do we go from here?
The trial close may be unfamiliar to many of you, as it is a sales term. Simply, it means that we ask questions near the end of the interview that will let us know how we have done and possibly how likely it is that we will take the next step.
An example would be: Thank you for the opportunity to meet with you today. It has been very informative and I am looking forward to the next step. Where does the process go from here and do you think I will be included in that group?
Simple enough, but it makes a very positive impression with the interviewer. In most cases they have more people to see, many factors to consider and can rarely tell you anything conclusive at this time. However, the act of asking the question gives them an opportunity to be somewhat encouraging which, in turn, sets you in their mind as a finalist. As odd as it may sound, they like the fact that you would ask. It confirms confidence and strong communication skills and indicates someone who likes to know where they stand; all of which are good qualities.
PHASE FIVE – CONCLUSION AND FOLLOW UP
Then you thank them again and you leave. At home you compose a short thank you note and send it by Email preferably, thanking them for the opportunity to interview and expressing your continued interest in taking the next step. Send a copy to the recruiter if there was one who sent you.
Congratulations on getting this far! So they have called you back to meet them again or go on to meet other people. What have you accomplished so far?
You have been selected out of the long list. (quality of resume)
You have been asked to audition for the part and you went and were successful in making the short list.
You have been invited back, which means you have made the short list.
You are in the final two or three candidates from which the finalist will be selected
Often, what has occurred is someone, either Human Resources or the outside recruiter have short-listed the best available candidate and from that series of interviews they have selected some finalists. This is typically two or three individuals. All of the preliminary details have been weighed and measured and all of the finalists are possible hires on every count including experience, education, money and fit with the team.
The next step is to let the hiring managers and the teams meet the candidate and make a final decision based on the results.
Golden Rule for Second Interviews DO NOT CHANGE MUCH!!!!
How you are, how you answered questions, how you asked questions got you to this point and it is a natural assumption that continuing that will lead to success. Remember, you do not know if you are the “leading” candidate, but they don’t always win anyway! It is a new race.
Go through the same checklist you did for the first interviews
Get there well ahead of time
When they invite you to return ASK WHOM YOU WILL BE MEETING. This is very important. You will get another sense of how it will go in advance if you have that information.
There is no predicting the routine. Sometimes you start with the hiring manager, get passed around and end with the hiring manager. It really does not matter, because it will be the same for all of the candidates.
WHAT YOU CAN LEARN IN THE SECOND INTERVIEW
Remember – You are ALWAYS selling! Do NOT relax and “Be Yourself”. There will be plenty of time for that. You are still in competition mode until you have a signed offer in your hand that YOU also accept.
All of the same rules apply especially, Listen and Ask Good Questions.
You are freer to ask more about the job and to whom it reports to and with whom it works, what are the key responsibilities and skills involved, but do not get detailed to the point of annoyance. It is a good time to learn more about the team, is there cross training, how many direct reports are there, if any?
Why the position open should be determined
How long the position been open will give you some idea of a possible big backlog awaiting the luck winner
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO BE READY TO CONFIRM
They will, in all likelihood, ask you about money and available start date.
You MUST be willing to give your current employer suitable notice. If you are willing to leave them with little or no notice, you will be willing to leave US in the same way if that ever happens. NEVER volunteer to shortchange your current employer on notice. Unless they can make you an offer today you can rest assured it would be done in the next few days, then you have to review the written offer, sign and return it. THEN you have to give notice -AFTER YOU HAVE A SIGNED DEAL
Notice is normally two weeks, and these usually end on a Friday so, if you resign this Friday, the company is entitled to two weeks notice, so you could start two weeks from this Monday. See how it works?
Use the Trial Close mentioned in the First Interview Section
Getting an Offer – Negotiations:
There are several areas of negotiations:
You know your current salary and you have an idea what you want to make, but it comes in many forms. Let’s look at a base salary of $50,000. Perhaps you have been making $45,000 and you have it in your head that you want to make $50,000. What you must focus on is how much money do I get to KEEP!
Is the job farther away which means more time, more gas and more wear and tear on the car?
How many holidays do I get?
Do they have a contributing pension plan? At 4% that would mean an extra $2000 they contribute for you and that it has to be counted?
Are there any other benefits like full medical etc.?
It is not always money. You need to know when the first salary review is. Typically it is 12 months from hire. Sometimes everyone gets reviewed at the same time. You may consider a lower salary than you had planned IF they will consider a Salary review in six months so you can prove yourself and demonstrate why they should pay you more.
A word about the actual salary numbers. Most jobs are advertised with a salary range or the fact that it is in the right range is cleared up early.
A GREAT question particularly to Human Resource people is ” What is the Mid Point for the position”?
The Mid-Point is a Human Resource term. It defines the number midway between the lowest salary they would pay for this position in their company to the highest salary they would pay for it. This means while you are in this capacity they have a range of money they would pay. They expect that each year you would be reviewed and given a merit raise and rise within this range. If you are promoted, the new job has its own range.
Why is this important?
Let’s look at that $50,000 job again. It probably has a RANGE of $38,000 to $64,000. On a new hire, Human Resource wants to hire at about 40% of the range. If the mid range for this job is $50,000, they like to hire at about $46,000 to $48,000 to allow for raises and reviews. However, a $50,000 start is acceptable whereas a person trying to get $60,000 is nearly at the end of the range before they begin.
Imagine the problem that exists if you are thinking $50,000 and they tell you the mid-point is $42,000. This means that you are nearing the high end of the range and you just started! They will be hard pressed to give you decent raises with this plan in place. This is just a tool to try and help you figure out what is the most you can get.
DO NOT FORGET while you are negotiating you still DO NOT Have the job yet.
ANOTHER GREAT QUESTION
When they ask you what salary you want, a good possible response would be “I am very interested in your position and I can assure you I would give serious consideration to your best offer.” Then keep quiet. They may tell you or they may not. If they ask you again, you have to respond with a number. At this point you are afraid of two things; Pricing yourself too low and leaving money on the table, AND appearing too greedy or overpriced and not having an offer extended.
A GREAT RESPONSE
When asked about your salary requirements you can respond “Thank you for asking. I believe income and salary are made up of many things, like benefits, ease of access and promotion potential, bonus or commission potential and how happy I will be in the job. I would have to know all of the elements of the offer before I could tell you if it was acceptable.” “Could you be more specific in the overall package and what start salary you have in mind?” Then keep quiet again!
DEALING FOR DOLLARS
At this stage there is usually a little flexibility, but often not much. If they offer you $50K and you want $70K it’s probably not going to happen. But look at everything. Are there commissions or performance bonuses? Are there prizes to be won? Company trips in which you can participate?
This is now much like real estate. When they make you an OFFER you have a firm, legal, binding agreement which you could sign and accept. If you choose to request changes IN ANY FORM, the offer is changed and they have the right to re-offer according to your request or to NOT RE OFFER AT ALL.
You must decide if you will risk the loss of the offer for the changes you want. There is never a rule to apply to these things EXCEPT -Will I be happy if I accept this Offer? If yes, sign it and go on to the section about resigning successfully.
It’s hard to give you hard and fast rules. We can tell you that many companies have ranges of income for particular positions and mostly, they have no choice but to follow the guidelines.
We have had deals go wrong because they were $2000 apart and no one would budge. We also had a senior executive that KNEW the best offer was $110,000 U.S. base plus three objectives that were achievable in the first year and EACH paid $25,000 (for a total achievable of $185,000). In the final negotiations, the candidate said “You know, this is really a $150,000 base job, I would like to re-open the salary discussions before I accept.” So, I left them alone in a room and waited. He might loose the job altogether, or he may sway the hiring manager, but he was willing to take the risk.
When I spoke to the President, who had been advised by me beforehand of his intentions, he said ” He really was stuck on the fact that this was a $150,000 job. I really need this guy, and he is the right one alright, so I settled with him and changed the start base to $137,500 plus all of the other incentives which are in place.” This candidate just increased his first year’s earnings by $27,500 and went on to earn over $200,000 in his first year. That is a lot of money in anyone’s books!
Now they will make you an offer or they will not.
When You get an Offer:
We are not done yet, unless of course, it is exactly what you want. If it is, then accept in writing. If not, then you must decide to accept it as is, reject it or try to renegotiate. A good question to the offering party is “I was wondering if there was any flexibility possible in the area of (state area like holidays, etc) They will either try to clarify or tell you there is no flexibility. By asking you have opened the door to some more refinement or you will discover that is all they can do. Then you must decide. It is not unusual to ask for a day to think about it. Some people like to get a lawyer’s opinion, especially if it contained clauses that limit you ability to work if you leave this company.
Only two outcomes are possible:
You accept and the search is over
You decline and keep looking. If that is the case, wait for more offers.
If you accept, you move on to the final phase.