Friday, August 29, 2014

Title: How to achieve an "A for effort" in an interview

What comes to mind when you hear the phrase "You get an A for effort"?  I know I usually think of something that was a good attempt but did not yield the desired result.  Which probably makes you wonder why I would blog about that as something to try for in an interview situation.

This one is pretty simple, however, if you really break it down.  It is the principle of the matter.  Why in the world would you go and interview for a job if you were only going to give a 50-60% effort?  Or as an employer why would you interview a candidate and only be slightly engaged?  Yet I see it all the time.  When de-briefing with candidates and companies alike I hear story after story of an interview that just didn't really seem to go anywhere.  To make it worse we even hear about people who give up on an interview mid-way through.  It is evident to all parties and just leaves a bad taste in the mouth of everyone involved.

Here are three additional reasons why it is a good idea to always give the best effort possible:

1)  Anyone in the room could be your boss some day.  While this could seem like stretch, it really isn't.  Just imagine with me for a second that you don't like the company culture, but you really like the hiring authority.  You don't get that particular job, but six months later that hiring authority changes employers and goes to work for a company you have always wanted to work for.  I guarantee you that hiring authority held onto your information if you left a good impression.  Or even crazier, think if someone in the room that you thought would simply be a prospective colleague gets a promotion three months after you accept a job with that company.  Again, if you gave the best effort during the interviews this person may now be an immediate advocate to your career progression.

2)  You may get another job that wasn't even available at the initial interview.  In other words you come in to interview for a particular job, it gets filled internally, but you nailed the interview.  Another position pops up down the road, and you are the first person they think of because they loved you the first time but timing simply didn't work out.  This actually happened to a friend of mine right after both of us got out of college.  I went to work for a company in a role that my buddy interviewed for and didn't take.  On my second day of work something occurred where another opening was created.  They called my friend after not talking to him for six months, offered him a job on the spot, and he literally started the next day.

3)  You may be meeting with someone that has great influence on the process.  This one is a little more complicated, so stick with me as I unpack the idea.  You get an agenda to meet with five different people at a prospective employer - one hiring manager, one HR person, and three people on the team.  Conventional wisdom may tell you to focus on the person with the most influence.  Commonly thought to be the hiring manager.  But what if one of the team members is the daughter-in-law of the president of the company and her opinion matters a lot when it comes to final hiring decisions?  Even if this seems a bit far-fetched, why not go into the interview with the concept of impressing everyone equally because you just never know.

There is no reason why you shouldn't go into an interview with the sole purpose of being memorable.  You may not always get the job.  You may not always impress the interview panel.  The employer may not always knock the socks off of the candidate considering employment with the organization.  But if the absolute worst case scenario is everyone can agree you gave maximum effort, that seems like a very solid target to shoot for every single time.

Chris Winterboer 
Capstone Search