Monday, August 12, 2013

A Conversation About Business

Last month, on July 22, I posted a blog entry entitled The Great Equalizer: Being an Active Participant. Following an email from a reader I thought I would comment a bit more about what I am suggesting.  

When you interview the spotlight shines both ways, indeed you are under more pressure as they evaluate your suitability for the job, but you are, or should also be, considering their suitability as a potential future employer. Often people fail to think in this way and this posture by itself can lead to poor decision making. I am not suggesting the interview is a you vs. them duel of wits; it’s not meant to be a stare down to see who blinks first and, trust me, the applicant will always lose that little game.    

Interviews tend to be rather formulaic and understandably so, because each company establishes their own ritual and methods by which to evaluate applicants – there has to be a system in order to standardize a process, so everyone can be evaluated fairly and by the same measure. HR will utilize one system or another and among them one popular style is Performance-Based interviews. It is symbolized by a series of questions, such as, “Tell me about a time when you…” “Describe a situation in which you…” “Give an example of…”, the supposition being that past performance is indicative of a person’s future performance. Regardless of the interview style, you’re obligated to answer their questions to the best of your ability, but can I suggest you take it a step further and engage them and turn it into more of a business conversation?  

In actuality, there is very little difference between an interview and a business conversation and I would venture to say they are one and the same. Yes, of course they seek to validate your claims of experience and qualifications as stated on your resume but it doesn’t take long for that, and then what? Will you sit mute, waiting for them to steer the direction of the meeting? Because this is the extent to which most people go while attending an interview. I reject the notion that this is what the interview is meant to be, but it’s an established stereotype in the eyes of most job seekers. Perhaps that’s because the word interview is synonymous with interrogate – go ahead and look it up. It’s no wonder people are nervous; want to bet that if a law enforcement or investigative organization invites you to an interview, they actually mean something else, or perhaps I’ve just watched too many CSI episodes. 

Anticipating an interview should not make you feel as if you are sitting beneath a bright light answering one rapid fire question after another. If you’re only there to answer questions, then what’s the difference? The event is just as much yours to influence the outcome as it is theirs. 

So, as I’ve stated previously it is not and is never enough to simply sit there and answer questions; if you want the job you must do more. A business conversation is by its nature an interactive, two-way conversation; you’re not a lesser person nor participant whose opinion carries less weight. That said, don’t get cocky and remember, when you position yourself as a somewhat equal participant from the perspective of information gathering upon which to base your considerations, you bear the burden of having to demonstrate why they should choose you. If you’ve succeeded in satisfying their expectations it’s time for you to request info from them; here are some questions you can ask: 

  • Beyond the qualifications, what kind of person do you want to hire?
  • What are some examples of traits or personal attributes an ideal employee in this role would possess?
  • Why is this position open?
  • What happened to the last person who held this position?
  • How long were they in the position?
  • From your perspective, what were their strengths and their weaknesses; how would you want the next person to differ, if at all?
  • Who (what company) is your strongest competitor in this market sector and why?
  • How long have you been with the company? 

These are just a few examples. Would you agree these questions and others like them would provide you a more complete insight of the job for which you are interviewing? I recognize the job market’s tough, nonetheless it is not only a matter of whether they want you to work for them, but also for you to decide if you want to work for them. Perhaps what I am suggesting is too bold a step for you? I hope not, because these questions will help you to more completely learn about the company and the person for whom you might work, and provide for you a glimpse of what you can expect, if you were to become their employee.

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