How was the interview? How do you know? Just in time internal feedback

I spoke to Leslie in spin class. Her daughter had just completed an interview. I asked how the interview went. She said, “The interview went well.” How did she know? What information did she use to support her opinion? Candidates strive hard to interview well and look for signs during the interview to gauge their progress. When the interview is over they walk out with a sinking feeling of regret, exhilaration because they think it went well or a numb, not so sure how it went, sensation. What can they look for during the interview to gauge progress in time to insert a course correction? What can they do to reach a desired outcome, whether it is the next interview or an actual job offer?

The Interviewers Lens

The interviewer knows what they are looking for in a candidate. They have a job description and a set of behaviorally based questions that sort out attributes to match traits, characteristics, competencies or skills required for the job. They also have their interviewing style. When I began interviewing I wanted to make the candidates feel comfortable. My approach was professional and light hearted, designed to put the candidate at ease. They in turn were relaxed and gave me all the information I needed. It dawned on me one day that the candidates were so comfortable they probably felt they nailed the interview and were waiting for the job offer. They were probably confused and devastated when they received the “no interest” letter indicating they would not get the job. I decided to change my style. I became more serious, intense and reduced eye contact. I became more of an interrogator and less of a friend. However, I was still professional and gracious in answering questions. The approach still gave me the information I needed, but left the candidates guessing and less sure of the outcome of the interview.

I interviewed an Emmy award winning producer, who was trying to convince me he wanted a career change for an entry level sales representative position. In the middle of the interview, with my new style, he interrupted my note taking. “How am I doing?” he asked. “Excuse me,” I responded. “I usually can tell how I am doing in an interview. But I have absolutely no clue with you,” he asked in earnest. “That is by design,” I said. “Rather than give you something that you think I like and then get more of that from you; I act in the middle of the road so that I can see the real you, which is actually fairer to you in the long run.” I had landed on a style that worked for me and gave me the opportunity to get the most from the candidate’s background. This also reinforced the notion that candidates were evaluating their progress during the interviews, looking for positive signs of performance.

“Interview in Progress”

Here are a few clues that candidates have used to assess their status in an interview.

• Follow up questions – The interviewer asked for clarification or more detail while seeming interested in their background – If the line of questioning is intense and prolonged the interviewers may not understand their answers or are not getting the information they are looking for.
• Laughter – The candidates may receive laughter or a smile to show they are genuinely pleased with their responses
• Challenging remarks – “You mean to tell me that…. Or are you trying to say………I thought you said…These statements suggest the interviewer wants clarity and consistency.
• Body language – The interviewer may lean forward showing interest, a pleasant look as they write notes after a particular comment
• A short interview – The interviewee can tell if the interviewer is under whelmed when they are given less time than in earlier interviews, less time than the earlier candidate or less time than they were told to expect
• Volunteering information on the next steps in the interviewing process , as well as pointers on how to improve performance in the next round with their company
• Additional rapport building questions and conversations at the end of the interview.
• Introducing prospective employees to other people in their company is often a good sign, especially if accompanied by glowing recommendations

The candidates go through many hours of self-study, organization research and mental preparation for the interview. It is reasonable to seek instant feedback by personally monitoring the interview.” How am I doing?” was a favorite question from Ed Koch, the former Mayor of New York City. The comments above may provide some data on progress, but the following words should also be considered.

• Be true to their interview plan and give it the most factual information possible to answer the questions
• If they are not sure about the question or their response, it is okay to ask for clarification or to ask if their answer addressed the question
• Present a consistent view of who they are and their background
• Be poised and confident, so that when they leave the interview, they will have an accurate picture of them (what they choose to do with that picture is up then)
• Do not take the results of the interview personally. They may have many more interviews before they land a job. They need to be in the right frame of mind for the long haul. Sometimes a strong interview may not land the job. It may take a while to get the right job.

Candidates must prepare extensively for the interview, execute their interview plan, answer the questions succinctly and prepare for the next interview. Invariably, their experiences will align with the right employer and they will be hired for the right assignment. How is the interview going? How do you know? Don’t worry about it. You will ultimately reach your goal. You are one interview closer to your goal. You should get the position, hopefully sooner than later.

Copyright © 2013 Orlando Ceaser

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