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It's not an interview, it's a sales opportunity!

Updated: Apr 13, 2022

Years ago, I wrote a post on my LinkedIn feed that seemed to resonate with many people. In this article, I look to expand a bit on the topic in the hopes that it will help potential job seekers think a little differently if they are struggling to find the right job.

While I don't pretend to know what someone in an actual "Recruiter" role is looking for, as a hiring manager I know what stands out to me and makes my job easier in deciding to hire you. Ultimately, hiring managers are choosing to hire you or not by what you'll contribute to the team and if you make the team better, so if you're making the hiring manager's life more effortless, you're off to a great start.

Today, I'll offer my thoughts on the following three timeframes:

  1. Recruitment Phase

  2. Interview Phase

  3. Decision Phase

Recruitment Phase

The post that I shared previously was simple enough. When you save your resume, don't just title the file "Resume 2021.docx" or "MyResume.pdf." Doing this may work great to keep you organized, but as a hiring manager receiving tens of hundreds of documents with these types of filenames results in one of two things, confusion because you forget to rename each one, or work to rename the files. To me, even something as simple as naming a file "Resume_{yourname}2021.pdf" will go a long way towards showing me how you may interact with my customers. The moment you choose to sell yourself to me (by applying for the job) you need to be looking at ways to make the interaction effortless as that's what will make the hiring manager want more of the product, in this case, you.

The second thing to do to make sure you do to stand out positively is to ensure a great resume is what you hand over to the recruiter. I have received resumes that look like a grade-schooler wrote them, often because they were organized poorly or offered no real information. Again, if it takes the hiring manager more than a few seconds to see who you are and what you can provide to the team, odds are your resume is heading towards the trash. The actual content of your resume could fill a whole different article, but make sure you dedicate time to it and get help if you need it. Don't be afraid of having different versions depending on the type of job for which you're applying.

The final point of this section hopefully lands us into the interviewing phase, and that point is "Be Available." It can't be stressed enough that you're currently in the process of selling yourself to the company. If I can't reach you, you don't respond to emails, or you schedule a phone interview and then need to move it repeatedly, it becomes easier to move to the next candidate. You'll want to ensure the right contact information is on your resume and then make sure you're monitoring those channels for us to contact you.

Interview Phase

Congratulations, if you made it this far your resume stood out enough to warrant a phone call to at least talk to you and set up a phone interview, and you've communicated well to get that call or in-person interview schedule.

When you've reached this part of the process, again likening this to a sales model, the advertisements have worked, the store was open when we got there, now it's all about the customer service. So ask yourself, what do you look for in customer service? If pressed to select three key elements most people would probably say:

  • Friendly/Professional Attitude & Appearance

  • Knowledge of the product/expectations

  • Timeliness in delivering the product

A job interview, on the phone, or otherwise should be no different. Arrive on time or a few minutes early. Personally, I actually drive to the building in advance preferably around the time of day my interview will be held to see how traffic is to ensure it doesn't make me late. Make sure you're awake, alert, dressed appropriately, and happy to be interviewing with the person who scheduled their time with you. Ensure you know what you're going to highlight about your personality traits and skills that would make you an asset to the company, and take the time to do at least a little research on the company and possibly even the individual that will be interviewing you.

Sitting down with a recruiter or hiring manager and breaking the ice with "I see we went to the same high school, I was class of ______." or "It looks like we have a mutual friend/former co-worker in _____" can be a great ice breaker. Just be sure that if the person were to go back to that friend, they would tell them how great you were cause they just might check in.

During the actual interview, make sure you work on the things you want to highlight, focus on positive things, no recruiter or hiring manager wants to sit through a discussion of you complaining for 30 minutes about your past jobs.

Most of this, I would like to think, is common sense so far. However, in my 20+ year career, most of which has now been in a hiring manager capacity, it is sad what some people do up to this point which quickly eliminates them from being considered.

Decision Phase

Depending on the level of the job I am interviewing for, often the decision phase starts during the interviewing period, depending on how the interview is going.

If you've not hit any of the critical elements up to this point, I believe most hiring managers know the decision is a hard "no." If you've done okay, or even if you've done well, then the process continues for you.

If you listen carefully, I believe you can tell which way things went. If you hear open-ended statements like "We have lots of people to interview, we should make our decisions in a few days/weeks; we'll let you know," then perhaps it could have gone better. If you hear "Our next step in the process is to figure out the top 2-3 candidates to speak with our {next interviewing manager}", we're looking a little better. Best case scenario, short of them immediately hiring you, you'll hear "I would like to get you in touch with ______, he's our {next level up title} and makes all the hiring decisions." and you return to the Interviewing Phase.

In either case, just as you would ask "is there anything else I can help you with" at the end of a sales/customer service interaction. The next step is to follow up with your customer. At the end of the interview, it's not inappropriate to ask what the next steps are and when you can expect to hear from someone next. It's also not out of line to ask, "Is there any reason you would not consider me a fit for this position at this time?" If they are honest with you, you may learn that they are looking to hire internally, but you stood out enough externally to get an interview. You may find that they did have concerns with something you said in the conversation and at that point, you'll have an opportunity to try to clarify any misconceptions of what you bring to the table. Try your best to leave them thinking of you positively. Great job on getting this far!

A few days after I go to a nice hotel, or even buy an item online, it's not uncommon to get an email asking how everything was and if there was anything wrong to let them know. Similarly, following up on an interview is still a good practice if done right. Write a note thanking the person for their time, letting them know it was a pleasure to come in and that you are grateful for the company's consideration. Subtly reminding them of some of your qualifications that would make you the best candidate, and then 'surveying' them by letting them know you're available to discuss anything in more detail if it would be helpful. End by letting them know you look forward to joining the company. In this follow-up, you'll want to avoid negatives again, even something as seemingly trivial as "I haven't heard back about the position and wanted to follow-up to see if you have any additional questions in your consideration of me for the positions", implies that the recruiter/hiring manager has done something wrong by not following up with you. In my opinion, this follow-up should be a one-time follow-up. If they engage with you and open it up for more dialogue, let that be their choice. If they choose not to respond, don't become a nuisance by repeatedly emailing them saying "just making sure you got my last email," many will read this as "hey, why didn't you respond to me."

Overall, re-thinking the 'interview' process as a "sales opportunity" where you're simply selling yourself, and your services is a great way to ensure people want to "buy"/hire you for the job! Good luck!

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