Monday, July 22, 2013

The Great Equalizer: Being An Active Participant

At face value, it’s obvious the interviewer and interviewee are not positioned equally. So, when you get the call and it’s your turn, you can either step up and show your best, or just show up. If you think you will have little influence over the situation, then you won’t. An interview is an opportunity over which you can and should exert influence. After all, this isn’t just about them and their company, it’s also about you also. If you attend the interview only as a bystander, just there and only reacting to that which is asked of you, the reality is that you’re not even trying. 

If you seek to maintain your dignity and to be treated with the same respect you show to the interviewer, there is one sure way (among many) to raise your stock in the eyes of those considering you for potential employment. During the interview, actually be a participant in the process. 

By listening and asking well-formulated questions you are demonstrating another dimension of your qualifications for consideration. Oddly, there are many people who, for a variety of excuses, are reluctant to do more than answer only that which is asked of them. It’s not only the interviewer who determines the course of the meeting; you, too, have the power to influence and you owe it to yourself to do so. Perhaps there is something about which you require more clarification, additional information or you feel compelled to investigate and further probe an aspect you think is being glossed over or overlooked. You have a responsibility to not only yourself but also to the company you may end up working for to speak up and ask.

Being an active participant isn’t always easy, it requires effort; your brain shouldn’t be set on cruise control but, instead, be watchful for twists, turns and potential obstacles and react accordingly. Believe it or not, some interviewers are accustomed to people who sit there and nod in agreement; FYI, companies don’t usually hire someone who is like everyone else, they want to hire the person who is best qualified, suitable and stands apart somewhat from the rest in a positive way. I have heard hiring managers comment about someone they interviewed, who “really paid attention and asked great questions”. Compare that with, “Ah, they were okay but no different, no better or worse than anyone else I’ve interviewed.”

I am confident at one time or another most everyone has heard, near the end of an interview, “Do you have any questions?” You absolutely should have questions, both those you’ve brought with you and others you’ve formulated during the interview. In fact, it is odd and a bit awkward when a person replies that they have no questions. This kind of flaccid response might cause them to pass you by, in favor of someone else who is more interested and demonstrated their interest.

So, instead of being little more than only physically present for an interview as too many people do, be an actual participant, leverage the event as best you can, get the information you need to make an informed decision. At the same time, you’ll clearly define yourself in the eyes of the interviewer. You don’t have to be a bystander or a victim of fate, it all depends on your commitment and willingness to invest in yourself; to what extent you want to gain control of your own individual circumstance. And if you do encounter some occasional unpleasantness for the simple act of asking questions you think necessary, best to find out during the hiring process, before you begin to work for such a person or company with so little concern about what matters to you.

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