The Interview: How to secure a call back…and possibly the job!
Posted by Molly Wendell // in Job Search
In the interview, is it appropriate to ask for the job right then and there? Sometimes. Think about it from a sales perspective. A great salesperson will look for the right moment to ask for the order. Sometimes this is in the first meeting. Other times it’s after a few meetings. Gauging when the right time to ask is crucial.
But really, it’s more like the concept of dating. When you first meet someone, you’re not necessarily trying to get married. You’re simply trying to get to know each other to determine if this is someone with which you want to spend more time. The object of the first date, then, is not to determine your future for the next umpteen years. It’s to see if you can (and want to) secure another date (which really takes the pressure off both of you!). The only way to determine this is to ask questions. Listen to the responses and see if you’re interested in taking it further. Give too much information, share your entire life story, and risk not being asked out again. Talk too much about your past relationships…and I guarantee you won’t get a call back! Give just enough to whet the appetite, and say hello to a second date!
The same goes for you in the job search. When you first go to an interview, don’t be so focused on trying to land the job. You should be more concerned with getting to the next round (or determining if you’re even interested in getting to the next round). You need to learn more about the company, the hiring manager, the leadership. Are you on board with where they’re going as a company? Do you fit with the company culture? Does it seem like an interesting place to work? Are the people fascinating? Will you be challenged?
Before you do that, however, why don’t you start with a better understanding of the hiring process, so you know where you stand. Get this out of the way right away, so you’re not rushing to ask at the end (or worse, forget to ask!). And be sure to take great notes the entire time! Take notes even if you think you’ll remember. Taking notes makes it look like you’re listening.
I remember interviewing with a company. I met with the hiring manager. My first question out of the gate was this: “Tell me about the hiring process.” He told me in the first round he was talking to about 25 people. “And how many people have you already spoken with?” I asked. “Eight,” he said. Then he was going to talk further to the top five candidates. Out of that, the top two would meet the President of the division. Good. My goal out of that meeting was not to land the job. It was to be one of the top five.
I wanted to get a handle on my competition. So I asked lots of questions relative to the type of person that would be a perfect fit. What are you looking for in a candidate? What do the other candidates have that I don’t? What do I bring to the table that others don’t? Which of those attributes (what others bring to the table or what I bring?) are more important? You never want to walk out of an interview and not know where you stand relative to your competition.
Satisfied that I understood the process, I started asking questions about the type of responsibilities this role would be given. What are the key initiatives that need to be tackled immediately? Beyond that, what would you like to see this person accomplish. In a perfect world, where would this person take this role? What responsibilities would you like to hand off so you can free yourself up for other things? And what would those other things be? (Think about the preferred attributes…and try to tie them together with responsibilities. Based on this, are you moving up or down on the scale?)
Do you think he’s asked me a question yet? No, I haven’t given him a chance. Do you think he cares? If he does, he’s not showing it. He just keeps on talking.
By the end of our discussion, I knew that the role would be a fit. I was certainly well-qualified (by my assessment) and was pretty sure he thought so as well. Of course, how would he know? He never got a chance to ask me a question! Was I in the top five? I decided to find out. I dropped what’s known in sales as a “trial balloon”. I asked him “When would you like me to meet the president?” He said “Let me set that up for next week.” Here’s what’s great about that. I walked out of that first meeting knowing that I was one of the top two candidates. I also knew that for the right candidate, he was willing to bypass the process (and in case you’re wondering, this is not uncommon).
A week later, I met with the President. The meeting with the President was similar. I asked all of the questions. He gave all of the answers. They offered me the job. I turned it down. I wasn’t satisfied with their answers to my questions.
Another time I was meeting with a CEO for a VP of Marketing role. This CEO was obviously brilliant but just about the worst interviewer I’d ever met. He was distracted by everything. His answers were uninspiring. Even his tone of voice was blasé. I was so unimpressed with him that midway through the interview I told him “You know, I’m interviewing you just as much as you’re interviewing. You might want to step it up.” He did, and we had an interesting conversation. But, at the end of the day, is this someone I want to work for? Is this someone I’ll learn something from? Is this someone who will inspire me? Probably not. I thanked him for his time. I didn’t care if I heard from him again. There was no way I’d work in an organization with him at the helm.
You’re probably wondering how I was able to turn these jobs down. I must have had another job lined up. Well, I didn’t. It was more important to me to find the right fit, than just take something that I knew I wouldn’t be extremely happy with. When you do that, those jobs don’t last, and you’ll just be looking again in a couple months (and possibly miss out on the right fit because you were busy working in the wrong job). So don’t do it to yourself, or to them!
So back to the question. Do you ask for the job at the interview? I’d say quit trying to get married, and focus more on trying to get that second date. Ask a question like “Where do we take it from here?” And then let them respond (even if it takes them a while). If they still feel like they have to talk to a million more people, maybe you’re not the one. In which case, it’s better to move on. If they want to get back to you, be sure to ask when you can expect them to get back to you. Nail them down to a date and time. Make sure they see you write that date down. Ask them if they’d like you to follow up or will they? And then as you’re leaving, thank them for their time and let them know you look forward to speaking with them on that date.
It’s less threatening but still gives you an idea of where you stand. If you are a good fit, and you’ve had an interesting discussion, it should be pretty easy to secure that second date. If not, don’t worry about it. Go find another company where the interest is mutual!