One of the compensations of flight delays … Last week I enjoyed a conversation with an executive who was traveling home after two days of intense interviewing. In his search for a new sales manager for the Boston territory, he had followed the usual hiring route:
- Reviewing resumes to find candidates who had the fundamentals he was looking for.
- Having an HR associate conduct a phone screen to quickly rule out those not fully qualified.
- Interviewing 5 or 6 people by phone to narrow down the list to the top 3 candidates.
- Setting up in-depth, in-person second interviews to reach his final decision.
As he described this process, it became clear why so many steps are necessary … why companies don’t hire on the strength of a resume or a quick phone screen.
Ultimately, his hiring decision came down to that elusive quality known as “fit.” “Given that all their qualifications are about equal, I need to hire someone I will enjoy working with.”
If you’ve ever been passed over due to the fit factor, I’m sure you found it quite frustrating! You know you’re qualified for the job … you’ve made it to the second, third, or even fourth interview. What is it that makes for good fit, and how can you ensure that you have it? Here are a few tips.
Employers are not selecting a steak at the meat market. Rather, they are choosing someone with whom they will work closely every day. Therefore, strive to establish rapport during your interviews.
People with common backgrounds often have an instinctive comfort with each other. If your background doesn’t match your interviewer’s, look hard for common interests and connections – things you’ll enjoy discussing in between all of the heavy work-related issues. You can pick up clues during pre- and post-interview conversations and from observation.
I’m not suggesting that you fake an interest in football or fine wines if you have none, but be alert to ways you can connect on a personal level to increase your interviewer’s comfort with you.
Work is hard enough without having to deal with a difficult or clashing personality. As you are trying to win a job offer, follow the three P’s of Personality:
- Positive. It’s fine to be realistic, cautious, and logical if those are your natural tendencies, but no one likes a Dick or Debbie Downer.
- Polite. Good manners make others more comfortable.
- Professional. Keep in mind that this is a work situation. Show your work personality, not your weekend personality.
I’ve had clients say, “But I want to be myself at work.” That’s fine – be yourself! But during the interview process, be your best self. Act like someone on a first date, trying to make an impression, rather than the more “real” you that will emerge once you’re comfortable in the relationship.
What are the attributes that make you great at your job? These are the things you want to showcase during interviews. Not everyone interviewing will share the same traits, so this is a great way to distinguish yourself. Be ready with examples that illustrate how your attributes led to your success.
Concurrently, do your best to avoid sharing traits that are usually viewed as negative. You don’t want to communicate – through words, tone, body language, or facial expression – that you are:
- Dismissive of others’ work or opinions
Strive to make yourself appear to be a positive addition to the work team – someone who will be a pleasure to work with as well as being able to get the job done.
In the case of the new sales manager hire, my seat-mate told me how he reached his decision after interviewing his 3 top candidates.
- Candidate #1 – his top choice – was positive, energetic, and had done her homework. She did not have experience in his industry but had researched the company’s products and customers and asked intelligent questions. Plus, “she seemed like she’d be fun to work with.”
- Candidate #2 – previously his first choice – seemed nervous and ill-at-ease during the interview. “Ultimately, I didn’t get the sense that he would represent us well to our customers.”
- Candidate #3 had all the qualifications, had nothing objectionable in his background or mannerisms, but just didn’t strike the same chord as candidate #1. “He would have been a safe choice, because he knew our industry, but I was much more excited about hiring someone who brought new energy and enthusiasm to the job.”
So there you have it – it comes down to fit. Once you get an interview, recognize that you have all the “hard” goods to do the job and focus on the less tangible but equally important aspects of being the right person for the job.