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The Last Interview

Just last week I heard a familiar story. A friend was expressing frustration with the job search process. He'd been at it for awhile, months at least, but hadn't nailed it yet. His frustration and situation were summed up in what he told me, which was roughly "I've made it to the 3rd round of face-to-face interviews at least 6 times in the last few months but no one wants me." I expressed the proper level of sympathy but I also suggested that the next time he gets to the 3rd Ring of Dante’s Job Search Inferno a different strategy is in order.

Here's my thought process. It's not revolutionary or novel but it is hard to execute if you are a job seeker.

  1. If you made it to the 3rd round of face-to-face interviews, you are obviously considered by the hiring company and its process (hiring manager, HR, other interested parties) to be qualified for the job. People who aren't qualified don't get that far.

  2. At this point you are usually competing against one other, equally qualified person for the job. That's why they want you back because they need to make a positive (or negative) distinction between you and the other candidate. (I should note that occasionally they bring both back so that the hiring manager's supervisor can interview you but let's set that aside for our purpose here.)

  3. There is nothing they could possibly ask you about your career experiences that you haven't fully explained multiple times already. They don't want to hear it – even if they somehow feel obligated to ask - and you don't want to have to repeat that same stuff over again. What's the purpose? What to do....

Hijack the interview!

That's right - change tactics and roles. You are now the interviewer of the Company to determine if they are the right fit for you! Doing so does NOT mean that this is all about you now. It's not a pay and benefits discussion. It's not and it won't ever be all about you.

What it is, though, is a chance to learn more about the Company and how hiring you can benefit them (your perspective boss specifically). Even if the reason for hiring someone is to backfill an existing position, be the grownup in the room. To do that, however, requires that you do extensive research about the company that is interviewing you. You have to know more about the company than the person who is doing the hiring. What problems are the toughest issues your future boss tackles on a routine basis? How is this position be involved in helping to address those issues? What support could you provide to your future boss that the previous job holder didn't?

Here's a little role playing. Assume the INTERVIEWER is the hiring manager.

INTERVIEWER: "I know that we talked about this when you were here before but would you elaborate on how you addressed the issue of XYZ at your last employer?" (He/She doesn't have anything different to ask at this point.)

YOU: "I'd be glad to dig deeper on that subject but do you mind if I ask a couple questions first to make sure I understand all aspects of the situation?" (You are now taking charge of the interview in a way that doesn't offend the interviewer.)

YOU: "How does this issue impact the department?" (Why does the hiring manager specifically care about this? Is this a process/procedure question? Is the hiring manager affected personally if this issue isn't handled properly? Is the hiring manager looking for a different way to do things? You can assume that the issue is important to the hiring manager in one way or another but your goal is to find out why it's important. Once you find out the answer to that question, then you can have a different discussion.)

Your goal in 'the last interview" is to distinguish yourself as a professional, as a listener and a problem solver, and to differentiate your candidacy from the other person. You are already qualified and the hiring company knows it. Don't waste your valuable time reciting known facts. Bring more value to the conversation that the other candidate. Take the decision out of their hands and make them hire you.

In short,

STOP - doing what you've always done

LOOK - observe and absorb as much information about the Company as you possibly can so you can ask as many relevant questions as possible. If you are interviewing for a position in finance, it doesn’t make sense to ask about why the company changed its brand/logo 2 months ago. It does indicate that something major took place and it’s a fair discussion to ask how the change has impacted the financial performance of the company, what were the expectations that caused the change to take place, are those expectations being met…

LISTEN - to the answers that the hiring manager gives you when you are asking value-added questions. Ask as many "why" questions as you can without being annoying or appearing naive.

You're absolutely worth it but if you don't demonstrate how and why then they will never know.

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