First Date Know-How Leads To Interviewing Success

By Denise Kalm, BCC, Career Coach

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Ever wonder why you lost out on a desired job to a candidate with lesser skills?  Hiring managers opt for people they like who will quickly blend with the team and corporate culture.  You do have to have the skills required, but you don’t necessarily have to be the most talented or most experienced candidate they meet.  In that first meeting, you must make them want to see you again, on a daily basis, reporting to them and delivering on their goals.  You also want to determine if this job is a good match for you. Will you want to be part of this team, part of this organization?

Sounds like something else we’re all too familiar with, doesn’t it?  Yes, the dreaded “first date” where you attempt to figure out if you like the other person, while trying to show up as your best self to them.  Many people view an interview as an interrogation and sit passively, responding to questions as asked and offering little in the way of conversation. But successful interviews ARE conversations.  Like a first date, each party to the “date” is looking to accomplish two things:  determine if this relationship should proceed to the next step and clarify their value to the other person.  Ever have a date where you find yourself running the conversation?  I bet you never called that person again.  No one really enjoys a one-sided conversation.  Interviewers are no different.

To be successful, your interview preparation needs to include more than creating optimal responses to expected questions with a little research into the company.  First, you must be clear on what you want from this job, not just salary and title, but conditions of employment.  Some companies offer great benefits, like three meals a day, services and a health club onsite. But they also expect long hours.  Others are global where you may be working from home with a dispersed team.  What elements of the day-to-day work experience are most critical to you?  Next, you should prepare a list of questions to elicit this information, as well as to learn more about the hiring manager and the team you would be joining.  Seek out social media to help you. There’s a lot of information on LinkedIn.  Use it.  These questions should help you deliver great, extemporaneous answers on how you could immediately be of value to the company. But more importantly, they offer you a window into personal connections you may have with the interviewer. 

Although it may seem irrelevant, finding common ground with your interviewer increases likeability. Just as you would ask your first date what kinds of sports they like, movies, books, etc., finding common connections with the hiring manager can help him or her see you as a good fit.  People prefer to hire someone from their alma mater or local volunteer group, someone who is passionate about a local sports team, someone who has a pet as you do and more.  While these connections should not be the focus of the conversation, establishment of them is critical to likability.  Imagine only discussing your job on a first date instead of sharing your interests.  Do you think your date would want to see you again? 

Asking questions about the work practices, culture and company ethic, as well as asking for a chance to interview with potential colleagues, also gives you an opportunity to look like “one of the team,” even before being offered the job.  Just like a first date, you want to know what matters to employees, what the corporate values are and how people work together.  Beyond skills, what are they really looking for in a candidate?   A mismatch here can signal both parties that this is not a good fit.  

Just as dating moves through phases, the first interview “date” is a time to find the connection and make sure the fit is good, both from a skills and a cultural match standpoint.  You wouldn’t start talking about the number of kids you want or the kind of wedding on a first date. Similarly, you don’t ask about benefits and salary on a first interview.  First and foremost, you need to like each other. That’s the job of a first interview.  Find that connection, create the conversation and ensure that you will have a lock on another few “dates” which will lead to a job offer.

Author: Denise Kalm, for more insights follow on twitter: @denisekalm

Image credit:  yoga - photowork


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