I was part of a team of executives invited by a local university to serve as role play volunteer interviewers. The university’s graduation day was approaching and they wanted to prepare the graduates for the job search process. They invited us in to role play with graduates as they appeared with their resume’s in hand for a job interview.
So, I found my assigned spot behind the desk of an empty classroom and awaited my first “prospective employee.”
They didn’t show up. For whatever reason, number 1 on the schedule simply did not come to class that day. Ok, I soon discovered I was not the only interviewer to be stood up. At least three others in our group had the same experience.
Soon, however, number 2, arrived. She appeared confident and prepared. She handed me her resume and we began. As I reviewed the document, I asked a few questions about her education and experience. Then I suggested that because the labor pool is so deep and the job market is so small, applicants need to do what they can to stand out from the crowd.
So I suggested that she define and describe just precisely what it is she is trained to do, listing it in a manner that is consistent with the technical nature of her job search (in her case it is occupational therapy.)
Her response? “Unnecessary and irrelevant!” she said. She told me that since all occupational therapists study the same thing and are tested on the same things, any prospective employer would already know that and such a list would be irrelevant and unnecessary. When I tried to explain that the employer certainly would know that but that since the employer does not know you, he wants to know that you know that and that you are familiar enough with the scope of your job to be able to talk about it coherently.
She again objected that such a tactic saying that it was unnecessary.
At that point, I said, “Ok, then, good luck to you.” I stood and opened the door. The interview was over.
The next prospective applicants were markedly different. Their resumes either already contained a detailed definition and description of their abilities, or they were quite ready to add them. I would, if I were in that business, hire any of them last three at once. I would not hire the first one.
Here is what to remember when you interview people to join your team:
- There are two capacities to look for: Competence and Confidence. Never assume either. The prospective team member needs to be able to demonstrate to you and reassure you that those elements exist by their resume’, written application, and personal interview. Confidence sits on a narrow ridge with uncertainty on one side and arrogance on the other.
- Willingness to comply. One may reason without arguing. The prospect mentioned above did not reason. She argued. To reason is to inquire, to suggest, to appeal to logic and structured thinking. To mandate is to bypass reason. Remember this – you as the interviewer are the one who needs to be pleased. A future working relationship can forecast its eventual nature in that first interview. True enough, we can be deceived by what is said because some will say anything to get a job. But when an applicant like my example had already telegraphed that she is not willing to entertain ideas from me.
- Visible clues are worth noting. I was handed an evaluation form by the instructor which asked if the applicant presented themselves well. They asked me to grade them on their apparel, their posture, did they look me in the eye, shake my hand, and more. All of this indicates a respect for the prospects confidence in themselves, their sense of responsibility in the workplace, and their respect for you.
- Do not try to shape a person’s personality, attitude, or presentation in the interviewer but be certain to identify it. That is what the interview is for. Examine who this person is. A new hire requires a significant investment on the part of their employer and must not be entered into lightly.
- Look for the benefits the applicant can bring to the company. They are more important than the features. I advised those with whom I spoke on that day to be certain to identify what their job experience and education can mean. One had a ten year history on one job. That signals stability, the capacity to work well with others, to meet job criteria, and to be an asset to a company. Prospective employers may be constricted by certain educational mandates such as degrees or certifications. But there exists a large body of abilities underneath and around those requirements that set one prospect apart from and above others. Yes, we need people who can do the job. Take a look at any of the job positions in your company and identify those extra items that the job might benefit from.
Too many employers treat job interviews casually, almost flippantly. I recommend you don’t. There’s a lot to be discovered. I’d be interested to know what you look for and how you find it out. Please leave a comment.