What do you loathe more: the first date or the first interview? It’s a flip of the coin over which causes more jitters. Upon mere mention, both can create a complex cocktail of emotions: euphoria, anxiety and a thousand “what ifs.” And keeping all those things in check can be the difference between success and failure.
The first date with your interviewer
When it comes to a job search, most people are much clearer on what they’re moving away from than what they’re moving toward. When a firing, downsizing or bad work experience has prompted a search, that inevitably works its way into the interview. But talking about those negative experiences is no different than talking about an ex on a first date. Even if it’s just in your head, you’re moving toward self-sabotage by steering the conversation in that direction.
To avoid disaster, try focusing on what you have in common with the interviewer and establishing a reason for a second date. You wouldn’t rush to the altar after your first date, would you? You shouldn’t accept a job offer after the first interview, either. Instead, it’s all about getting to know one another. More importantly, you want to compel the interviewer to bring you back to learn more about you…not flag down the waiter for the check and sprint for the door.
Keep focused on your ability to solve key problems rather than emphasizing that you’re a job seeker. Looking for a job is your current career waypoint, not the value you bring as a new addition to a company. Moreover, it’s not why you’re going to get hired or a reason for this potential boss to max out the compensation scale in your favor. Being single isn’t the reason you get a second date, right?
Be engaged, be interested
Ever had dinner with someone who couldn’t stop talking about themselves?
It’s like old-school telemarketers, who were notorious for verbally vomiting on you the moment you answered your phone. They had a product to sell and a script to push through. It wasn’t a conversation. Honestly, it wasn’t really even a sales pitch. It was more like getting force-fed. Until, of course, you simply hung up on them…something you don’t want to have happen to you in the interview.
So don’t have a ready-made presentation of who you are and what you do. Ask a few questions so you can determine whether the company truly needs what you have to offer. This allows you to frame your side of the conversation around what’s going to be most important to the interviewer (rather than what’s most important to you). It also begins painting a picture of your value that translates into a stronger offer for you later.
Plus, it give you a chance to figure out if the position is a good fit for you both. Sometimes getting to “no” is more important than getting to “yes.”
“I won’t be ignored, Dan!”
Glenn Close makes it clear in Fatal Attraction with this single statement that she isn’t going away, and it isn’t going to be pretty. If you’ve seen the movie, this image and line are seared into your memory. Don’t let this be the lasting impression you leave people with when the job search process either doesn’t move as fast as you’d like or the company moves in another direction. When it comes to calling or emailing someone, there’s a fine line between pleasant persistence and outright stalking.
You can turn rejection into opportunity; your ability to navigate these situations well is what stands between you and success—or failure. Just like with dating, things often simply don’t work out. Maybe it’s your choice or maybe it’s theirs. In either case, how you handle things is key to your reputation management. If you need a clue on how you’re doing, ask yourself: how many times have former dates set you up with their friends?
Just as in dating, you’ve got to put yourself out there and spend a good amount of time and effort in building up a connection—possibly a relationship—with another person. Flushing all that hard work down the drain because you aren’t chosen for a job is simply a bad choice. Just like we rely on our friends’ suggestions and opinions when making decisions, the hiring process works similarly. And in this highly competitive market, having former interviewers out there spreading the good word about you is only going to make finding the right job that much easier.