You're Only Human ... and so Are Interviewers
You likely have heard that interviewing is like dating. Or interviewing is a complex dance with lots of steps. The translation: Interviewing is a unique conversation where there seem to be many rules and traps that could lead to failure. You can interview almost perfectly and still not get the job. Like professional sports, you can have a good season and still not win the biggest game. (As a Cubs and Bears fan, I am well familiar with getting close and still losing.)
With this in mind, it may be hard to bolster your confidence and willingly jump into such a chaotic process that appears to have random luck, subjectivity, and critical judgment closely associated with the outcome.
So, why do we do it? Because we have to. Not many employers hire candidates for their key positions without meeting the person behind the resume. Herein lies the second question: If I'm a superstar on paper and meet all the requirements, why can't they just hire me based on my resume?
Because the boss has to LIKE you.
Yep. Sometimes, it just boils down to that. All other qualifications being equal, the boss hires whom he or she likes talking with. It may sound selfish, unfair, or biased. And maybe in some ways it is. But look at this way: The boss has to work with you five days (or more) every week. They may spend more time with you than with their own kids. If they sense the two of you won't get along (or others on the team), they have absolutely no reason to hire you. Your talents aren't enough.
The mismatch plays out during the interview in two ways:
- You truly are mismatched for this company's corporate culture or the boss's management style.
- You are portraying yourself as a mismatch, but are not really a bad fit. You just interview poorly.
In the case of scenario No. 1, you have to recognize that not getting the job is fortunate for everyone involved. Yes, you want a job (maybe any job), but in this case, you won't last long or won't be happy. A short stint on your resume indicates trouble to the resume reviewer. You need to avoid these situations by finding a job where you feel you could truly thrive for several years, not months. If you don't like a casual work environment, don't interview at companies that allow employees to wear ripped jeans and baseball caps to work. At a minimum, ask employees why they like working there and see if it matches your ideal company environment.
In the case of scenario No. 2, you need to be aware of things you do in an interview that indicate you might be a "bad fit" for their company. Make sure you conduct mock interviews with friends / colleagues (ideally ones who have experience hiring people). All this might sound like a lot of work, but it is worth it. You might be surprised when someone points out that you are projecting characteristics that send warning signals to potential employers. I've included a few, but the list is endless:
- You seem cocky or act like a "know-it-all." I always tell job seekers, "Talk about great things you've done, not how great you are." If you understand the difference, you're not going to fall into this trap.
- You project the victim mentality. An interview is not the place to air your grievances about the interviewing process, our government, or the dog next door who kept you up last night.
- You seem to not care whether you get the job or not. Whether it is because you really don't think you'll get the job, or you don't really want it, you can't project this image in the interview. Hiring managers only hire interviewees who show proper interest in the job. Notice I did not write: beg and plead. No one expects you to show desperation. But if you don't come prepared for the interview and ask insightful questions about the job or company, you are indicating that the job opportunity isn't worth an hour of preparation. Would you hire an employee like that?
Although interviewing might sound a lot like a popularity contest, it's not always like that. I know many hiring managers who try to keep the process objective and focused on the qualifications. After all, the job you're interviewing for is not for "professional interviewee." Most hiring managers don't expect you to be perfect. But there is no way to turn off the "human element" of the interviewer. They don't have to love you after you're done interviewing (leave that to the dating game), but they do have to like you.
Jeff Lipschultz is a founding partner of A-List Solutions, a premier recruiting firm in Dallas-Fort Worth. Jeff shares his views on employment trends and quirky observations of society at http://jefflipschultz.wordpress.com. Jeff has worked in start-ups to Fortune 500 companies and has interviewed thousands of candidates. When not recruiting great talent or writing about the challenges of the candidate search process from all perspectives, you’ll find Jeff cycling around Texas or Colorado or wherever there’s a hill to climb.
In an effort to help job seekers, Jeff offers a concise, easy-to-read guide on interviewing through his company’s web site (www.alistsolutions.com).