Once again, it is a difficult job to stay true to the gimmick at this point. I could launch into a speech about how you should respect an interviewer’s personal space and how you shouldn’t be touchy-feely during an interview (once more we can think back to what happened to George Costanza after he nailed an interview and felt so confident that he thought it would be okay to feel the material of an executive’s blouse—for the uninitiated, he was promptly removed from consideration). Good information as that is, it can only really be simply stated; there isn’t much room for discussion. You just don’t do it! In another article I will share darkly humorous common sense blunders I have encountered over the years (as I’ve said before, the common sense and caution that many job hunters sometimes lack is quite surprising), but today I will wrap up this series with a word on adding a subtle personal touch to ensure that you are not only remembered, but remembered well and remembered for the right things.
I know what you’re thinking. “I can stop reading now. I know the rest. All I have to do is appeal to the hiring manager as a person. Find a common interest between the two of us and run with it. Does he or she have kids? Does he or she like rock climbing?” It’s great if you can find common ground with the person interviewing you, but don’t let that become the focus of an interview. One of the most common responses I hear from hiring managers is something along the lines of, “I liked Jim and we had a nice chat, but he isn’t the right fit for this role unfortunately.” It is excellent to develop a rapport with a hiring manager, but want to be sure to keep it professional and not lose sight of your target. Remember that the goal of any interview is to get a job offer, not to make a new friend.
Here are two examples:
- “I think it’s great that we both enjoy kayaking; I go at least every other weekend when the weather allows it. I’m sure you can appreciate that! I’m actually in the market for a new kayak right now. My current equipment is pretty old. Some of the prices are outrageous right now so I’m waiting for the end of the season to buy. How often do you go paddling?”
- “I think it’s great that we both enjoy kayaking; I go at least every other weekend when the weather allows it. I think having that common interest will really strengthen our professional relationship. I can already see that I’d really enjoy working with you and, based on the details of my background that we’ve discussed along with your goals for this position, I will certainly hit the ground running on day one and bring a strong skill set to the table.”
The first example doesn’t seem so bad (and, really, it isn’t as long as it doesn’t progress far beyond this point), but surely you can see how it is treading on dangerous ground. The goal is to show the hiring manager that there couldn’t possibly be anyone else who can do the job better than you can. If you can make a new kayaking buddy as well, terrific, but that should wait until after you’ve started working.
By choosing the second example, you’ve done several positive things. First, you’ve touched upon a personal interest without it becoming the focus of the interview. Second, you’ve made a connection between the established common interest and the goal at hand (getting the job). Third, you’ve made sure to steer the interview back into professional territory. Finally, in a subtle manner you’ve forced the hiring manager to envision you in the role. As a bonus, you’ve identified a common interest with a potential future colleague.
Let me say it again. The goal of any interview is to get a job offer, not to make a new friend. Whether it’s the initial phone screen or the fifth in-person meeting, your goal is for the hiring manager to conclude by saying, “Forget the others, you’re the one for the job. When can you start?”
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