The job interview process is really just a series of approvals and referrals.
Ultimately you want a job, but broken down to its elements, what you really want is a series of approvals. The job interview process isn’t about convincing someone to hire you — not until the final stage, anyway — it is about convicing each individual along the process to approve you to advance to the next stage. And there are more people who can influence your ability to reach the next stage than you think.
There are lots of people who can influence whether or not you will be hired. Every person you meet within a hiring organization, from the receptionist to the CEO, will pass judgment on you. Most of the time, the judgment will be, “No opinion one way or the other.” There will be other people, however, who very much will have an opinion about you. If they’re not actually interviewing you, you don’t need their approval, but you don’t want their disapproval.
That means you really are on a job interview at all times. A misstep with a non-interviewer such as a receptionist can eliminate your from the process. An off-the-cuff comment can damage your credibility or reputation. Always be on your best behavior, and act professionally and honestly; be classy and pleasant.
Interviewers play one of two roles: approval/disapproval or hiring/not hiring. Either the person you are talking to can approve or not approve you to meet with another person in the company, or the person can hire you or decide that you will not be hired.
Keep in mind that either way, the interviewer’s reputation is riding on your behavior as a candidate or as a new employee. If you get to interview with another person, then that person is going to judge the first interviewer on how you behave during the interview. If you get hired for the job, then everyone involved with that role is going to judge the interviewer for how well he judges talent.
Just as it is important actually to be able to do the job for which you are being considered, it is important for you to be recommendable. The primary question running through the mind of the interviewer is, “Will I look good if I recommend this person for another interview?” Another version of that is, “Will I look good if I hire this person for our organization?”
Your first job, the one that you have to do well in order to get the actual paying job, is to make sure each interviewer feels comfortable in recommending you for the next stage in the hiring process.
A Checklist to Become More Recommendable
- What is the most important outcome that this interviewer wants as a result of this interview? Does he want to refer you for a second interview or hire you?
- What is this interviewer’s personality and decision-making style? (Is the person a quick decision maker, an emotional decision maker, a logical decision maker or a conscientious decision maker?) Understand how to meet the needs of the different types of decision makers.
- What are this interviewer’s hot buttons that need to be avoided so that you are not taken off the list? (Be on the alert for clues during the interview.)
- What are the key aspects of this organization that you need to keep top of mind during this interview? (Be prepared. Every interview is its own entity. You cannot just give canned answers the same way for every company and for every interviewer.)
One Customer at a Time
Treat each person you meet formally or informally as your customer. To get the job you want, which is one of the most important sales you will make, requires gaining approval from a series of people. The questions in the checklist above are very similar to the questions that every great salesperson answers. Securing a job is primarily based on your ability to sell who you are and what you have to offer.
Seen as a sales process, you are not securing a job — that comes at the very end of the process when you show up the first day on the job. You are securing a sale, the sale of you. Make a series of successful closes, and ultimately you will end up in the job you want.