From an employer’s perspective, interviewing is an inexact method for making hiring decisions. Yet it’s the primary one they use because they’re not hiring robots, but human beings who, ideally, should thrive in their organization.
So you need to remember that interviewing is important because even when you’ve been referred to or know the manager, they’ll want you to demonstrate your excellence to others before you’re hired. Without mastery over the interview process, you’ll just wind up being another “also-ran.” The better you perform in the interview, the more money is going to be offered to you, the more opportunity you’ll find, and the bigger the halo over your head.
In the workaday world, there are normally three circumstances under which you interface with a senior manager. The first one is through praise from coworkers—someone called your boss up to tell them what a terrific job you’ve done. That’s a good set of circumstances.
The second circumstance is when it’s review and evaluation time. This is when your manager appraises your performance, corrects any mistakes you may have made, and probably gives you a raise.
The third circumstance is the problem. Here, your boss calls you in to talk because you messed up something. Someone has called them and complained, and they have to intervene.
These three circumstances come into play during the interview process. Managers are wondering if you’re going to end up being the kind of person they’re going to have to worry about, or if you’re the kind who’s going make them look good. In other words, first and foremost, they have their best interest in mind when they’re interviewing you, not yours.
This is not to blame them. They don’t know your best interests. They know only about what their needs are. They know what the organization needs, and they’re trying to evaluate you because, like a child is to their parent, you’re a reflection upon them.
It boils down to this: a winning interview is one where you demonstrate that you have what the employer needs and wants in a new hire. You can demonstrate the skills, the competency, and the right fit within the organization. Thus, it’s important to be passionate and masterful when you answer questions. Companies try to hire people who demonstrate character attributes beyond the run-of-the-mill skills competency.
I have distilled the way firms hire into a formula, C x 5 = PL. I alluded to the first “C” when I spoke about competence or skills competency. This means, do you have the experience that they’re looking for?
The second “C” here is character. Do you have character, or are you a character? Being a character can be a benefit in some organizations and in some roles; for example, in sales, a character can be endearing to customers.
The third attribute is chemistry. How do you fit in with the culture? What is your personality make up and will you be someone who will be successful working with the other people that they have hired or intend to hire?
The fourth one is confidence. What’s your manner like? Do you appear tentative and fearful, or do you appear as though you’re confident in what you’re talking about?
Confidence cubed is the fifth “C,” charisma. Charismatic people always do better than non-charismatic ones. So if you have charisma, use it to your advantage.
Several of our former Presidents, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and Ronald Reagan, are examples of men with charisma. Whether you agree with their politics or not, these are men who, even though they were on different ends of the political spectrum, America loved. Why? Each had a special quality that made people adore them. Reveal the full range of your personality during your interview, because they will open up better opportunities for you.
These add up to “PL” – personal leadership. Ultimately, a manager wants to hire someone who has the character, competence, chemistry with their group or organization, confidence, and charisma – a person they can trust and can demonstrate the personal leadership to be successful in their organization. And each organization will be a little different in how they evaluate for these attributes.
Often, managers go by feeling. What I’ve found is, if you look at the skills I just listed, only one of the factors involves skill, the rest of them involve you generating a feeling in them. This goes back to a statistic that many of us in the search business know– 20% of all jobs are filled by individuals who in no way, shape, or form fit the original job description. Someone likes them and is willing to give them a chance.
And that’s just the 20% who are willing to admit it, which tells me there’s probably a lot more than 20%. As a result, you have to pause and ask yourself, “What is it here? What is it that allows these people to separate themselves from their competition?” The answer is all these other qualities that allow someone to say, “I like this person. Let’s give them a chance.” And that’s really where feelings come into all of this.
Yet to some degree, in interviewing, most people like to say, “We made a rational decision.” They’re denying that emotion has any sort of impact on their thought process, but that isn’t true. We’re all influenced by our feelings in this regard. And you also have to ask yourself the question, since there are going to be a lot of people that they interview that is just as good as you, why should they pick one person over another? Why should they pick you versus that other person?
More often than not, it’s not based on skill, because a lot of people are going to be working in comparable jobs, using similar technology, or performing similar functions; ultimately, it’s going to come down to the way they made the manager feel: hopefully, more confident that they can be successful in their organization.
I remember this one person I worked with some years ago named Antonio. He was interviewing for a manager’s job with a client of mine, and the client had spoken to me about what attributes they were looking for in someone; basically, they were looking for a firm leader who could inspire the troops to do whatever was necessary to excel. Well, when Antonio walked in to meet with me, a more nervous man I had rarely met in my life.
I was kind of scared at that moment. I spent some time talking with him and I understood that he was just scared of interviewing. So I encouraged him to just be himself because I had heard wonderful things about his work from a former manager of his. I told him to trust his judgment and his instincts, and to apply those attributes that he used in his job day in and day out to his interview. In the end, he walked in feeling comfortable with his presence and with his bearing and answered questions, sometimes with a smile, sometimes with firmness and fierceness that allowed the client to feel confident that he could step into their mess and clean it up. That’s really what they were looking for.
A lot of managers may not have had much experience interviewing. From the hiring perspective, sometimes they make mistakes because they are excessively influenced by their emotions. They may not be not exactly sure why they make certain choices, why they seem to trust one individual over another.
ABOUT JEFF ALTMAN, THE BIG GAME HUNTER
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, all as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching, and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1900 episodes, and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.
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