How to Avoid Losing Out on a Job at the Interview Level

Losing Out on a Job at the Interview LevelEarlier in August, the weather in south-central Wisconsin had cooled off enough that we turned of the A/C and threw open our windows. While the more comfortable temperatures were a welcome relief from this summer’s heat, we weren’t so thrilled that flies started to make their presence known inside our house.

One day when my five-year-old son was sitting at the kitchen table eating a snack, a fly kept buzzing around him. He would wave his arms and make ineffective attempts to swat his unwanted guest. And then, in a sing-songy voice, I heard my son say, “Fly-y! Where are you? I want to kill you!”

I couldn’t help but laugh at how he voiced his frustration, though I’m sure the fly wouldn’t agree.

Now how would you feel if you found out that an HR rep or hiring manager from a company you were targeting viewed you like that fly, as an “unwanted guest?”

Your first thought to the above question might be, “Oh, no. I would never do anything to cause that to happen!” Are you so sure?

When job seekers are invited to be interviewed, they are eager to learn the expected timeline of the hiring process. It certainly is logical to want to know that information, and I encourage clients who come to me for interview preparation to ask that question at the end of a job interview if the timeline has not been clarified.

But what happens if the deadline passes for when a decision should be made for next steps but there’s been no word of what is happening? Follow up is often done, and again, is a course of action that I recommend to clients because it shows that the candidate is still interested in the position.

Now here’s where it can go dreadfully wrong:

An email is sent asking where they are in the decision-making process, and a day goes by with no response. So a telephone call is made the next day, but a message must be left. Not hearing anything, another phone call is made. And another email.

“Why are my emails and phone calls being ignored?” you wonder angrily.

Answer: You’re doing nothing to add value to them.

It is understandable to want to know what is happening, but asking about the timeline again and again puts all the focus on what you want and doesn’t do anything to help the company with their needs.

Answer: You’re not even attempting to understand the process from their perspective.

Delays happen from time to time in business. Key decision makers get sick. Urgent projects to important clients come up. Yes, the hiring of staff members who can deliver solid performances is important to helping the company achieve its goals, but it is a process that can be subject to delays. Putting more pressure on folks there when they can’t do anything about it will only cast you in a bad light. Remember, time moves much more slowly for you than it does for them.

Answer: You’re being needy.

The biggest message that calling and emailing incessantly gives is one that screams, “I’m going to be an annoying pain in the patootie if you hire me!” Do you really think a hiring manager would want someone with diva tendencies on his/her team? Uh, no.

The Solution

So how do you keep from being considered a pesky fly when you want to find out next steps?

1. Make your needs secondary. At no point in the job search process is this about you. It is about the company, so keep your focus trained on that.

2. Find ways to add value to the company in your correspondence. If you are communicating with HR, perhaps you have someone you know who would be a good fit for another opening they have. Ask if they are still looking for candidates for that position; if you are told “yes,” make sure your friend mentions your name and how you are connected to the company when s/he applies!

If you have been communicating directly with the hiring manager, forward an interesting article about your field that relates to a situation that pertains to a conversation you had during your initial interview. This positions you as someone who is helpful and looks to solve problems.

The more you can help them, the more attractive candidate you will be to them. What are some other ways you can achieve this?

Image courtesy of Jonathan Kershaw

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Comments

  1. You make some really valid points here, Melissa. Throughout the entire job search process, the biggest mistake (and often most detrimental mistake) I see candidates make is putting the focus on themselves…only thinking and speaking about how this job will help them, not the company. In fact, if I like a candidate in an interview but they can’t answer the question, “why should I hire you?”, I won’t hire them. A hiring manager needs to hear how you can help their company succeed.

    If you get so lucky as to receive a job offer in the end, it’s because the employer thinks you can add value to their organization. Keep that in mind during your interviews, your follow-up phone calls and your e-mails. I cover this type of career advice all the time on my blog, Past Five, if you’re interested in further insights: http://www.pastfive.typepad.com/

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