Naturally, job candidates talk a lot during an interview. So does the interviewer (though in that case, less should be more).
But there are a number of things interviewers wish they could say to job candidates before the interview ever takes place.
See if you agree with the below.
1. We Really Want to Like You
Obvious, sure, but also critical. We all want to work with people we like and who like us.
So, we want you to smile. We want you to make eye contact, sit forward in your chair, and be enthusiastic. The employer-employee relationship truly is a relationship—and that relationship starts with the interview (if not before).
A candidate who makes a great first impression and sparks a real connection instantly becomes a big fish in a very small short-list pond.
You may have solid qualifications, but if we don’t think we’ll enjoy working with you, we’re probably not going to hire you.
Life is too short.
2. We Want You to Stand Out
A sad truth of interviewing is that later I often didn’t recall, unless I referred to my notes, a significant amount about some of the candidates. (Unfair? Sure. Reality? Absolutely.)
The more people I interviewed for a job and the more spread out those interviews got, the more likely I was to remember a candidate by impressions rather than by a long list of facts.
So when I met with staff to discuss potential candidates, I might initially refer to someone as, “the guy with the handcuff-ready stainless steel briefcase,” or “the woman who does triathlons,” or “the guy who grew up in Romania.”
In short, interviewers may have remembered you by “hooks”—whether flattering or unflattering—so use that to your advantage. Your hook could be your clothing, or an outside interest, or an unusual fact about your upbringing or career.
Better yet, your hook could be the project you pulled off in half the expected time, or the huge sale you made.
Instead of letting us choose, give us one or two notable ways to remember you.
3. But Not for Being Negative
There’s no way we can remember everything you say. But we will remember sound bites, especially negative ones.
Some candidates complain, without prompting, about their current employer, their co-workers, their customers.
So if, for example, you hate being micromanaged, instead say you’re eager to earn more responsibility and authority. We get there are reasons you want a new job, but we want to hear why you want this job instead of why you’re desperate to escape your old job.
And keep in mind, we’re well aware our interview is like a first date. We know we’re getting the best possible version of you. So if you whine and complain and grumble now, we know you’ll be a bummer to be around in a few months.
4. We Want You to Ask Lots of Questions About What Matters to You
We need to know whether we should hire you, but just as important, we need you to make sure this job is a good fit for you.
So we want you to ask lots of questions: What we expect you to accomplish early on, what attributes make our top performers so outstanding, what you can do to truly drive results, how you’ll be evaluated—all the things that matter to you and to us and our businesses.
You know what makes work meaningful and enjoyable to you. We don’t. There’s no other way to really know whether you want the job unless you ask questions.
5. But Only if the Majority of Those Questions Relate to Work
We know you want a positive work-life balance. Still, save all those questions about vacation sign-up policies, and whether it’s okay to take an extra half hour at lunch every day if you also stay a half hour late, or whether we’ve considered setting up an in-house childcare facility because that would be awesome for you and your family.
First let’s find out if you’re the right person for the job, and whether the tasks, responsibilities, duties, and so on, are right for you.
Then we can talk about the rest.
6. We Love When You Bring a “Project”
We expect you to do a little research about the company. That’s not impressive, that’s a given.
To really impress us, tell us how you will hit the ground running and contribute right away—the bigger the impact the better. If you bring a specific skill, show how we can leverage that skill immediately.
Remember how we see it: We have to pay you starting day one, so we’d love to see an immediate return.
7. We Want You to Ask for the Job And We Want to Know Why
By the end of the interview you should have a good sense of whether you want the job. If you need more information, say so. Let’s figure out how to get you what you need to make a decision.
If you don’t need more information, do what great salespeople do and ask for the job. We’ll like the fact you asked. We want you to really want the job—but we also want to know why you want the job.
So tell us why. Maybe you thrive in an unsupervised role, or you love working with multiple teams, or you like frequent travel. Ask for the job and prove, objectively, that it’s a great fit for you.
8. We Want You to Follow Up, Especially if It’s Genuine
Every interviewer appreciates a brief follow-up note. If nothing else, saying you enjoyed meeting us and are happy to answer any other questions is nice.
But “nice” may not separate you from the pack.
What we really like is when you follow up based on something we discussed. Maybe we talked about data collection techniques, so you send me information about a set of tools you strongly recommend. Maybe we talked about quality, so you send me a process checklist you developed that I could adapt to use in my company.
Or, maybe we both like cycling, so you send me a photo of you on your bike in front of the sign at the top of the Col du Tourmalet (and at least I’m totally jealous).
The more closely you listened during the interview, the easier it is to think of ways to follow up in a natural and unforced way.
Remember, we’re starting a relationship—and even the most professional of relationships are based on genuine interactions.
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