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Avoiding Interview Disasters

Is it possible to control our candidates’ behavior during their job interviews?

As recruiters, we’d like to think so. That’s why we spend so much time coaching them how to handle the questions they’ll likely be asked.

But once the interview begins, we’re no longer the ones gripping the wheel. It’s the candidates who must steer themselves squarely in the direction of a job offer — or hurtle, Titanic-style, into the nearest available iceberg.

“Oy-vay” Moments I’d Like to Forget
Bob was a sales candidate with a terrific track record. Best of all, he was perfectly matched for the job I was trying to fill.

“Don’t be shy,” I told him prior to his interview. “You increased sales by 1,000 percent in less than three years, and landed several major accounts.”

“Right,” said Bob. “I’ll be sure to highlight my strengths.”

I was so confident Bob would get the job, I nearly pinned my invoice to his jacket. Unfortunately, things didn’t go exactly as planned.

Just as I had coached him, Bob stressed his accomplishments, plus his mastery of the latest sales techniques. He frequently referred to his powerful closing skills — but without ever asking for the job.

“Sorry,” said the employer after the interview. “We’re going to pass on Bob. We’ve found that great closers know how to ask for the order.”

Okay, so I forgot to prep Bob to be more assertive. Fortunately, I had Jerry, another outstanding candidate, lined up to interview. So as not to make the same mistake, I instructed Jerry to go ahead and ASK for the job.

Which he did. But it seems Jerry also told the employer he really needed the job because he was unemployed, and might lose his house if he didn’t land a position soon.

“No dice with Jerry,” said the employer following the interview. “Enthusiasm is fine; begging is something we’re not real comfortable with.”

More than Animal Attraction
The experience with Bob and Jerry reminded me of what can realistically be gained from a thorough pre-interview preparation session:

1. Confidence. A well-informed candidate will perform at a higher level than one who’s caught off-balance or asks dumb questions.

2. Better use of time. An intelligently briefed candidate will use the allotted interview period more efficiently — and will help save the interviewer’s voice.

3. Insight into the intangibles. Every company (and every hiring manager) has a corporate culture or unique personality. The more accurately you can describe these traits in advance, the better the potential “chemistry” between the parties involved.

At the same time, Bob and Jerry also made me painfully aware of the limitations of interview prep, and how it’s unrealistic to anticipate every conceivable question or script a response for every potential situation.

If the candidate is fundamentally suited to the job and clicks with the company, great. But in the real world of interviewing, no amount of perfume can sweeten the smell of a pig.

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