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Advice / Job Search / Interviewing

4 Little-Known Facts About the Interview Process—and How to Use Them to Your Benefit

You landed the job interview.

(High-fives and fist bumps all around, for real.)

Now it’s time to prepare. And one of the best ways to do this is to first understand how the game works, and what’s going on behind the scenes through the process.

Because once you “get” the game, you’re going to be in the best position to strategize. And, believe me when I say this, the entire job search process is one big game of strategy.

Here are four things that are often going down before, during, and after your interview that can—and very well may—impact the hiring decision. Digest them and position yourself accordingly:

1. The People Interviewing You May Dread Interviewing You

More often than you might like to believe, hiring candidates isn’t among interviewers’ favorite pastimes. Instead, it’s a necessary evil that requires them to drop whatever else they need to get done on any given day and engage in small talk with a bunch of strangers.

This can be taxing for even the most extroverted of decision makers, especially if they have a lot of projects, deadlines, and demands going on in their world.

What Can You Do?

First and foremost, be easy to meet with. Be on time, efficient, and prepared so the person doesn’t have to sit there for five extra minutes watching you rifle through your bag for a resume or pen. Work to create an engaging, enjoyable conversation with your interviewer so that the time this person has to spend with you feels like time well-spent, even if he or she was silently dreading it before you arrived.

2. The Hiring Team May Not (Yet) Have Clarity on the True Needs for This Role

This can be especially true if the position is brand new, or you’re among the first people to go through the interview process. Why do companies start talking to candidates before they have a clear picture of the needs for this job? Well, lots of reasons: dire need for help, budgeted dollars that need to be spent before a certain date, an important client account that’s on the line, you name it.

No matter the reason, that lack of clarity can be good for you, or not good at all. You see, if you’re among the early candidates, your interview will potentially help shape the job description itself. Thus, if you bring something to the table that the team didn’t realize it needed or would benefit from? That may be extremely advantageous for you.

Conversely, you could meet all of the “on paper” criteria for the job and still go nowhere, because the players involved realize mid-conversation that they need to refine the job description to include [insert thing you don’t have experience doing].

How Can You Prepare for This?

Some elements of this may be outside of your control but, if you have opportunity to do so, try and speak with an insider at that company to get a pulse on what’s going on in that department or division. The job description rarely “tells all,” so if you can better understand the true needs for this role, it will help you present yourself as the solution to the true challenges the team faces, but didn’t necessarily spell out on paper.

3. They Will Subconsciously Judge You Before You Open Your Mouth

My old boss—a big-time believer in the power of first impressions—used to say, “You speak paragraphs about yourself before you ever even open your mouth.” And boy, is this ever true in the interview process. You will, without question, be judged the second you walk into the interview, based largely on your appearance and energy level.

Be annoyed about that all you want, but it’s true (and don’t tell me you’re not doing the same thing right back at the person across the table). So, if you’re going to play this game in the first place, understand how important that first 20 seconds is, and play to win.

What’s Your Best Strategy for This?

Simply put, go in strong. Study this organization, team, and the interviewer ahead of time and try to figure out what they’re like. What do they wear? What is the energy of the team? Do they seem casual or super corporate? Do you see any hints within the interviewer’s LinkedIn profile that help you understand what he’s like and how he spends his free time? To whatever extent you can give off the “She’s one of us, and she’s awesome” vibe right when you stroll through the door, do so. (And for crying out loud, iron your shirt.)

4. They May Not Extend the Offer to the “Most Qualified” Person

You’re going to get hired for your next job based on three things, not just the obvious one:

“Can she do this job?”

That one, by the way, has got to be a “yes!” That’s a baseline. If you’re a “no” to that first question, you’re done with the interview process. However, the candidate who snags the offer is typically the one who is also a yes to these two questions:

“Do we like her” and, just as I said above, “Do we think she’s going to fit in around here?”

And, if it’s a tight race? I’ll argue that the person who is a louder “yes” to those last two questions stands a stronger chance of scoring an offer than the one who maybe inched her out on the hard skills.

How Do You Make Sure You Come Across as a Trifecta of “Yeses?”

Certainly walk in prepared to showcase the skills and experiences you feel most closely align with the needs of this job. But you should also swiftly gauge the personality and communication style of your interviewer and, to the best of your ability “speak her language.” I typically encourage clients to strive for P-I-E in the interview, which means go in and affirm that you’re passionate, interested, and engaged throughout the interview.

The interviewing and hiring process can be annoying, challenging, and draining. There’s no arguing that—and, for the time being, probably no fixing it. So, if you are truly motivated to change jobs, pull out the stops to understand how the system works, and then respond accordingly.

(We can loop back and bitch about it over drinks, right after you knock their socks off.)

Photo of interview courtesy of Shutterstock.