closing the interview

Closing the job interview with a non verbal flourish is just nasty

Closing the job interview

We all know that closing the job interview is a critical piece to interview process. I read and hear many well-intentioned closing statements when reading cover letters and interviewing candidates.  How many of us have said or listed the following in a cover letter or stated the below when closing the job interview?

  • “I am result oriented, passionate, and dedicated”.
  • “I am a hard working, detail oriented, and a loyal employee. 
  • “I am an intelligent team player with big goals.”

If you stated any of the above in your cover letter, know the reader rolled their eyes.

If you stated anything similar to the above in the “objective statement” of your resume, I probably lost interest before I got to the section listing your experience and accomplishments.

If you have said any of the above in an interview, know that it fell on deaf ears.

If you said any of the above to a hiring manager when closing the job interview, trust me, the door is still open.

I don’t say the above to be a dick.  We have all stated something similar in prior interviews and I am no exception.  We stated the above loud and proud in an effort to close the interview. We may have psyched ourselves up in front of the mirror with these very statements. Heck, we may have even had a career counselor or a parent coach us on above lines. All through the interview process, no one corrected us, ever. Had I known how ineffective and how much of a turn-off they are in an interview, I wouldn’t have been so bold. Which is why I am bringing them up for you.

I am here to explain why these statements are actually hurting your chances of landing the job offer and more importantly, how you can make the above into effective statements when you are closing the job interview.

So what is wrong with the above sound bites? The two biggest things that give me heartburn:

Thing 1.  I hear these statements in every interview I conduct. 95% of the candidates that sit across from me in an interview give me some version I am X, Y and Z.

Now I know how the hot girl at the dance must feel getting hit on all night long at the club via the classics we have all seen fail miserably.

    • “Gurl, you’re so fine.”
    • “Do I know you from somewhere”?
    • “Call me Pooh, because all I want is you honey”.

It took me awhile for me to realize that these lines get you zero in the clubs, mall or your hunting ground of choice.  These lines suck. 20 guys before me slung these lines and 20 guys after me are going to sling these same lines.  These lines don’t stand out.  They are not original and they can’t sound very sincere when they are heard 20 times a night by every Tom, Dick and Harry.  

Thing 2.  I don’t know what you really mean when you say “hard worker”, “dedicated” or “punctual”?

    • What exactly is a “hard worker” to you?  Does a hard worker put in 45 hours or 70 hours? If I am a guy that works with colleagues that put in 50 plus hours a week, 45 hours won’t be impressive.
    • What exactly is “punctual”? Are you coming in at 9:00 every morning? Maybe you are never late?  Are you 10 minutes early? Do you have perfect attendance?  
    • Really, shouldn’t everyone be punctual?  Are we just stating that we are going to do the minimum by showing up on time?
    • What exactly is “intelligent”? Is it a high IQ of 170? Is intelligent a high GPA? Is intelligence an advanced graduate degree?

This comes back to a standard in the world of recruiting and I have blogged about here in more detail.  Behavioral interviewing is an interview methodology where the recruiter subscribes to the following train of thought:

Prior performance is an indicator of future performance.

Everyone says, “I can do X” or “I will do Y”.  Prior performance is proof.  If you have consistently done something in the past, it is a good indication you will continue that behavior in the future.

  1. If you say that the training program will not be a problem because you received a 4.0 GPA in school, you are probably going to do well in our 3-month training program, which is classroom study for 2 months and 1 month of OTJ training.
  2. If you say you are a hard worker and your day usually starts at 7:00 AM and ends at 9 PM, then I have an idea of what you are talking about.
  3. If you say you are a hard worker and you worked 70 hours a week for 3 weeks to meet a deadline, I have an idea of what you are talking about.

These examples don’t just say you are you are a good student or a hard worker, they give perspective to the statement.

Finish strong

I have a colleague who is very articulate senior leader at a tech company giant in the Redmond, Washington area.  One thing he is very good at is making closing statements.  At the end of his statements, he lists off the points he is making, while at the same time using his index finger to reinforce his thoughts.  As an example, we can apply the same technique to one of the most common interview questions that we will encounter:

“Why should we hire you”?

What I normally hear is one of the original sound bites listed above.

“I am intelligent, I am punctual and I am a hard worker”.

Uhhhhhggggg!  Boring!  Been there and heard that.

The candidate then gives me a blank stare as if to say, “That was easy, what’s your next question”?

One strong technique to finish strong in an interview, is by counting out a few examples using your index finger.

Here is how our senior leader would answer the same “Why should we hire you?” question.

“I am really excited about the opportunity and I believe Acme Publishing should hire me for 3 reasons.  Your job description explained that you are looking for a candidate with strong communication skills, experience in sales and a Rolodex of contacts”.

“I possess all three of these”. Placing his right index finger and on right index finger of his left hand.   “One. My communication skills were instrumental in getting me promoted at my last position and helped close 2 very large deals.  Both of these accomplishments required written communication, and verbal communication – not just one on one, but to groups of senior executives”.

Placing his right index finger and on the middle finger of his left hand.  Two, I have experience in sales. For the last 2 years, I have been selling 137% of quota and the year before that I made the Presidents circle”

Placing his right index finger and on the tip of his ring finger of his left hand. “Three, I have a Rolodex of clients within our industry.  I read that you just closed a deal with Acme Publishing’s print department. I know Harry Smith in digital media who is a Sr. Director and I also can make introduction to the VP of Operations there.

And then we deliver the coup de grace.  “So you should hire me for three reasons.  Placing his right index finger and on right index finger of his left hand.  “One, my strong communication skills, placing his right index finger and on the middle finger of his left hand. my experience in sales and three placing his right index finger and on the tip of his ring finger of his left hand.  my contacts within the industry”.

And that is powerful closing statement. 

The illusion of confidence and dispelling any idea that you are not just coming up with this stuff out of your ass is reinforced when you say something, explain it, and then reinforce it with non-verbal communication.  Your message reaches the listener at a sub conscious level.  Your verbal message with the non-verbal flourish becomes very powerful.  Adding quantifiable data to back up any opinions that you really are intelligent, have sales experience, and are a hard worker can be very powerful.

Next time you are in a conversation trying to reinforce a point you are trying to make, try the above technique.  I think it is down right nasty.

See you at the after party,

HRNasty

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone that is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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Interview Feedback

Did you hear about the interview feedback HR is providing

Secrets about interview feedback

After I deliver the “We are going with another candidate message”, I receive request for interview feedback on a regular basis. It may be my boyish good looks which lures candidates into thinking I am a softy and will help them out, so I thought it is only fair to blow the whistle on the myth that HR people are providing honest interview feedback.  The request for interview feedback consistently comes up in a two situations.

  1. Candidate has NOT accepted the fact that they were declined for the position and are trying to re-engage with the recruiter or hiring manager.
  2. Candidate has accepted the fact that they were declined for the position and is simply and sincerely looking for interview feedback so they can perform better in the next interview.

Hint: In the case of scenario number 1, the request doesn’t appear sincere when a candidate asks for an additional in person meeting with the hiring manager.   For the record, I completely understand both mentalities, and in scenario number two, I really wish I could help out.  I have said it before, schools are not teaching interviewing skills.  Without instruction, how are we supposed to get better at something if we were never taught the skill?  How do we improve if we don’t know what to do, or we don’t know what we did wrong?

After multiple interviews for the same position, candidates acquire a sense of accomplishment and begin to feel confident.  Even if there was little or no interest in the position when the resume and cover letter were turned in, feelings change. After a meeting with the recruiter and the hiring manager, doing some research on the company and the position and then figuring out what to wear for multiple interviews, it is easy to become emotionally invested and become excited for a new opportunity. We may have even spent money on new clothes or resume services.

I thought I would take a moment and shatter the myth that HR is providing feedback. I want to explain WHY interview feedback from the hiring manager or HR is of little or no value. My recommendation is that if we were declined for a position we should move on. Simply put, the ship has sailed. The hiring manager has moved on, and the as much as the recruiter may be rooting for you, they know that it will be very difficult to change the hiring managers mind. Even if the recruiter feels you are right for the job, they have too much at stake to try and convince the hiring manager to go against their better judgment.  The hiring manager is my customer and they call the shots. The hiring manager is the feedback loop to my boss.

The best thing we can do for interview feedback is a self-review of the interview. Most of us have a pretty good idea of where interviews went badly. Sometimes we don’t click with the interviewers, and others times we didn’t have the best answer for an interview question. In some cases, we feel like we nailed the interview and we were expecting an offer.

Interview feedback checklist:

  • If we are turning in our resume and not getting interviews, it is the probably the resume that needs a tune up.
  • If we are getting a single interview but not moving forward, it is probably your interview answers and presentation layer.
  • If we are landing multiple interviews with for the same position but not getting the offer, it may be our interview skills late in the interview. I have blog posts that address all of these and hopefully they can help self analyze performance. There is an index of posts on interviewing here. 
Interview feedback from the company perspective

If you do receive feedback from a recruiter on why you were declined, don’t put too much stock into what you are told.  The feedback will more than likely be sugar coated Pollyanna BS and overly general. Giving a candidate a specific reason for not being hired is just opening the company up for a potential lawsuit.  “But I would never sue the company” you say? You wouldn’t sue the company now, but if you were to hear something that was unreasonable, or in your mind misinterpreted, you would be surprised how often the attitudes change. The feedback you receive will most likely be lies. Yes, there, I said it. Even I have sugar-coated feedback so that it is politically correct and diplomatic. Generally speaking I give enough feedback to get me out of the conversation but not enough to be useful. Shitty I know, but I have my reasons for providing vague interview feedback:

  • I may not have the balls to tell a candidate they have bad breath.
  • I don’t want to explain to a candidate that they came off as aggressive, or defensive with the hiring manager. (I wasn’t in the interview room, so I don’t REALLY know how the questions were asked)
  • If a candidate is late, by even a few minutes, I don’t want to get into that discussion.
  • What is the point of explaining you were not articulate enough or that your handwriting was sloppy when you were at the white board (even if you aced the problem you were trying to solve).

Feedback addressing the above topics WOULD help you in your next interview and all of these things are “fixable” and “coachable” but that isn’t something most recruiters want to get into for someone that isn’t going to be hired. A few personal reasons (which are true) are provided below:

  • I don’t want to train you up after the hiring manager said “No”.  You will most likely interview with the competition and enter their lobby full of confidence and with all the answers.
  • I don’t want to sound like I reprimanded a child because you were 3 minutes late or you forgot to turn off your cell phone.
  • Trust me, you don’t want to be hired by a manager who isn’t 110% excited about you as a new hire and is willing to “give you a shot”.  Anything less is career suicide.  If they say, “I will give you a shot”, they will be eyeballin’ you and waiting for you to mess up like a military drill Sargent.  (We want to be hired by the manager that says “I believe in you”)
Lawsuits are bad HR JuJu

The business reason any competent HR person isn’t going to provide real interview feedback to a candidate is for business reasons.

  • HR’s job is to protect the business and HR doesn’t want to be sued for discrimination or unfair job hiring practices.
  • A company can decline a candidate for the best business reasons, but a candidate can threaten to bring legal action for any hint of misinterpretation, which will be interpreted as discrimination. Companies are not worried about losing a lawsuit; they are worried about being involved in a lawsuit.

When you go on a first and last date do you tell your Craigslist stalker they had bad breath? Do you say anything when they were late because their 1980 vintage hoopty was a piece of crap and wouldn’t start?  Do you tell the Mr. Wrong his hairstyle is 20 years old he listens to the wrong kind of music?   NOOOOOoooooo, we tell Johnny Reject “It’s not you it’s me” or we just don’t call them back.  Sound familiar? Next time you are looking for interview feedback, a little self-introspection goes a long way. I just don’t think you are going to get any meaningful feedback from a company whose goals are not aligned with the candidates.  The company motive is to find a candidate that won’t cause trouble and avoid potential lawsuits.

See you at the after party,

HRNasty

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone that is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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