We’ve recently completed a two-month long process of interviewing people for a job. Over 300 hundred people applied and, as usual, it was as much of a learning process for us as it was for the people who we interviewed.
Over the last 10 years, we’ve developed a process of screening applicants that addresses both our needs and a common complaint heard throughout the world: “No one ever communicates with me to let me know where I am in the interview process!”
For the record: we communicated with each applicant during every step of our screening process. The benefit: we all learned from the experience and we found several people who, while not right for this particular job, are perfect for other jobs and projects we’re working on.
Here’s some tips to win a job:
Apply Your Research
Everyone who was invited to our face-to-face interview had clearly researched our project. We knew that well in advance through E-mail and telephone conversations with our semi-finalists.
But research isn’t enough. The people who really shined through were able to apply their research. In essence, they were able to tell and show us how they fit within our project and our organization.
Practice, Practice, Practice. And then Practice some more.
As human beings, we understand that if you’re looking for a job we’re not the only ones who you’re interviewing with. But, as business people, we don’t have time to be concerned with what else you have going on. The only way we can determine if you’re the right person for us, and for you to determine if we’re right for you, is for you to smoothly deliver what you’re going to say–you need to practice until it’s muscle memory. This applies to any job in any field.
Then we can move beyond the predetermined agenda of a face-to-face meeting and really ask in-depth questions of each other. When you know who we are and we know who you are, everyone is in a much better place to determine if we’re likely the right match for each other.
We communicated very clearly about who comprised our team and what our positions were in our organization to everyone who was invited to join us in our face-to-face interview. We also invited everyone to ask as many questions, on any topic, as they liked. Only two people took us up on our offer. And while they asked good job-related questions, no one asked us any questions related to our team. That was a missed opportunity because we all have our individual views on what’s important for winning the job and knowing our views could have helped several people.
Even if we hadn’t offered the opportunity, always ask questions in advance. You’ll give yourself a competitive advantage by simply asking.
I remember in grad school, my professor telling me: “…make sure that one of your first questions prior to an interview is: when you say ‘I like the color blue,’ what do you mean by that statement or question.” It helps to give everything that comes later context.
While you may not need to ask that particular question, in a good job interview you will get asked open questions. The point of an open question is to learn more about you and help you to shine through. But, an open question by its nature is very broad. So ask clarifying questions so you understand the context. It’ll help clarify your response and show that you can think on your feet.
Part of the reason why I got my first job was by researching who the hiring decision maker was and asking him if he had time to meet for coffee prior to the interview. In my case, it was a large company and I had to first determine who the decision maker was and then get through all of his gate-keepers who didn’t want me to talk with him (he was very busy). He agreed to having coffee and I learned a huge amount about why he needed to hire a person. Then, when I met with him and his team for the actual interview, it was essentially a friendly conversation between people who already knew each other.
A decision maker is the person who has the final word about who gets the job. They’re the ones who have the most invested in finding the right person and hiring them. While you’ll likely be interviewed by a team of people, and it’s important to find common ground with the team because they’re likely the people who you’ll be working with, there’s always the one person who has the final word. In the best organizations, it will be a team decision and the decision maker will simply let you know what the team’s decision was. But if that team has a great recruiting and screening process, the final candidates will all be excellent. It could come down to the smallest things that help you to get the job. Like learning during a pre-coffee meeting or E-mail conversation that you and the decision maker both have a love for the arts. Given three near-perfect candidates, why wouldn’t the decision maker choose someone who they have something in common with outside of the company? It makes both people relatable.
Ask for the Job
This has been said by just about every recruiting team in every industry so here’s the short version: at the end of your face-to-face meeting, tell the team that you want the job.
Thank You Notes
You want to have the last word so you’re fresh in the minds of the people who will hire you. Nothing will leave a better impression than writing them to say “thank you” and listing a few things that you enjoyed about the people and process. Given a close race, the act of following-up could put you ahead of your competition.