I read your book and I understand now about the five basic interview questions, and I’d be happy if that’s all I needed to do. But the job interviews I’ve had have been a lot more complicated.
I just read a report on Glass Door that confirms my own experience. Tests, phone screens, more tests, role playing, group interviews, off-the-wall questions. And if that’s not bad enough, according to the report, the time it takes to go through the whole process has increased to an average 23 days in 2013 compared to 12 days in 2010. You give great advice for maintaining equilibrium while going through the job search process, but how do you stay sane when you finally get an interview and this is what they put you through?
Frazzled Interview Candidate
I started to notice around 10-15 years ago that organizations were taking much longer to hire. The increased hiring process always seemed to accelerate right after a recession, especially after 2008-2009 and 2001-2002. The big investment banks were an exception; they have had long, involved interview situations for a long time (one of them calls it Super Saturday, where there are perhaps eight in a row, AFTER several preliminary meetings). In general, though, what used to be around 2-3 rounds of interviews at most somehow has evolved into 5-6. More hurdles have gradually been introduced into the equation. Assessments. Interviews with potential subordinates. Group interviews. Initial phone screens (more and more common). Delays. Lack of response. Much longer overall process.
I'm not sure that the increased hurdles have yielded better results, but one thing is certain--organizations are afraid of making hiring mistakes, and want to ensure successful hires. It's expensive to hire the wrong candidate, but It's not clear whether the new, extended interviewing has guaranteed the desired results.
Unfortunately, job seekers frequently will now encounter these labyrinthine processes, and it's important to try to get through them by avoiding some of the pitfalls.
Let's take a look at a few possible steps you might face in a protracted process:
- Group interviews are tough. You never know whether to address the questioner or behave as if the interview is supposed to be a performance, where you try to address an audience. I always think it better to address the answser to the person who asks the question. That way you can avoid the anxiety of having to perform for a group; the others in the group will hear the response, too. Responses to individuals are also more personal.
- Interviews with potential subordinates are tricky. You're always wondering whether the subordinate has already applied for the same job and been turned down (and may be a political problem later on). Or, you're thinking you need to impress with your command of the situation. I think the best way is to treat it the same way you would treat any other interview situation. Be prepared with those war stories that are addressed in the interview chapter of The Fun-Forever Job ("Would You Please Remove Your Blouse?"), to demonstrate that you know what you're talking about, and you've done your due diligence on the organization.
- Phone screens are tough. I will recommend what my senior sales clients have suggested, which is to have some scripted bullets in front of you, so that you don't go too far off target (time is limited and you want to make best use of it). Use a headset, so you can gesture, which adds energy to your phone manner. Stand up and walk around, which will add some depth to your voice. Don't worry about not getting much feedback; few phone screens yield any significant feedback, and you can't read the body language. Just accept that, and realize it's more typical to walk away from the interview not knowing anything than feeling optimistic about it.
- I think it's an unwritten law that hiring managers and/or human resources professionals will not respond when they say they will. I can think of many reasons for that, but it is important to understand it's not usually about you; it's about not being able to get a decision together among many decision-makers. Or a requisition signed. Or funding secured. Or a person terminated (yup). So the applicant ends up reading tea leaves, endlessly ruminating and interpreting the signs, which is rarely useful, while sitting by the phone or at the computer. My general thinking about this is you never let more than 5-10 business days go by without reaching out. A simple email or phone call restating interest, or restating what a great fit this job is--and why, and a request about the status of the situation. At this point, I love to ask my clients or students, what do you have to lose? Self-respect doesn't matter anymore. You just want an answer. Years ago, when I was doing heavy recruiting at a large bank, if I didn't hear from a prospective employee, I would assume the person had lost interest, or found another job. So what's the harm of expressing interest, in a low-key manner? No desperation, of course, and no accusations of "You said you'd call me…" Bottom line--be proactive.
- Don't try to "close the deal." Closing the deal means a change of behavior. That's the exact opposite of what should be done. If you've been asked back several times, that means they're interested. Why change your tactic? Be the same adorable, charming, brilliant person you were all along, because that's the person they've asked back--not the person who changes tone and becomes someone different (the deal closer). There is an old baseball adage that applies here: Dance with what brung ya. In other words, use the same strategy that got you that far.
- Assessment seems to be gaining some traction in some companies. That's a topic for a whole other blog, soon. Tricky issue.
To find answers to your questions on job search and career transition, get your copy of In Search of the Fun-Forever Job: Career Strategies that Work