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Fix It Or Forget It?

December 24th, 2010

Everyone has different parts of the interview process that are more challenging. For Leslie* it was showcasing her talents, while for Kirk* it was the waiting to hear back. See what they each did to Fix It Or Forget It? with their recent interviews.

Kirk* and I had worked on his resume, then rehearsed some mock interviews together after sending out several dozen targeted cover letters. These had led to a few job interviews in the past several months – first by phone, and then in person.

This was promising for him, since he knew other people who were searching, and so far, they hadn’t gotten as favorable a response yet. Still, he realized it wasn’t reasonable to compare himself to anyone else – his friends didn’t all work in the same industry, and everyone’s skill set is different.

On the other hand, making it to the final few candidates and still not getting the position can be frustrating. Kirk took care to ask questions during the interview about their decision making process – how many more interviews, how long until a decision would be reached, etc. He found discussing his qualifications to be much easier, but waiting to hear back from a company afterward to be agonizing!

As I recommend to all clients, I told Kirk that a good typical rule is to double whatever time the employer gives in response to the “How long until you decide/call?” question:  If they say it’ll be a week, anticipate two weeks. If they say two weeks, don’t expect a call for a month. Most interviewers tend not to stay on schedule, and that way, the anticipation won’t gnaw at the candidate.

With Kirk’s most recent interview, however, he was one of very few finalists, and had been told specifically by the HR Director, “I’ll call you tomorrow,” to set up a time in the CEO’s calendar for next week. That call didn’t come until several days later the following week.

When he did finally receive the call – and the appointment time – he was also given many additional materials to review, including a much more elaborate job description than the one initially provided. All indications were that he was seriously being considered for the position.

During this final interview, Kirk was informed that the committee would be deciding within the next day, since the CEO would be leaving the country by the end of the week . . . for the rest of the month. Although Kirk typically sends a hand written thank you note, he responded to the urgent timing relayed during this meeting by immediately returning home and sending his thanks in an email to all parties involved instead.

Then, five days went by, until the beginning of the following week – without a word! Kirk was beyond frustrated at the organization’s unbelievable communication skills, and decided that, even if they hadn’t selected someone else, he would Forget It! and not elect to work at a company that opts to treat its people so poorly.

Regardless, Kirk always makes it a policy to seek feedback on how he interviewed (strengths and weaknesses), plus he did want an actual answer, so he emailed the HR Director, stating he was “checking in,” and asked her to contact him, providing his cell phone number.

The HR Director responded instead by phoning Kirk on his home phone number and leaving a generic sort of voice mail, saying that all candidates were qualified, and they had selected someone else.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that I didn’t belong there!” Kirk told me, “I can’t fathom what it would be like trying to communicate with them over any kind of a project, but I’m sure it would always end up being my fault, somehow, when there was a breakdown!”

Leslie* came to me for career counseling and help designing her resume after her position had been downsized at her last place of employment. Although Leslie had reported to someone in her previous job who was less than encouraging, the thought of interviewing seemed so daunting that she simply endured the hostility instead. Now, she didn’t have a choice.

Leslie did have impressive credentials and a good work history, but not only had she not highlighted them very well on her resume or in previous cover letters, but it was clear while we rehearsed interviewing that she was very uncomfortable “bragging about herself,” as she put it. This seemed at times to be the biggest hindrance to her getting hired.

After working with Leslie and discussing her work history and previous jobs, I was able to design a resume that promoted her skills in a more flattering way, as well as write a cover letter that would address how her work experience applied to the specific job listed.

It was quite another matter, however, when she was either on the phone or in the interview room, facing someone who said, “Tell me about yourself.”

Between Leslie’s upbringing that it isn’t polite to boast and her recent experience of working for someone who was frequently critical, she needed a great deal of practice in this area – including an overall understanding that her demeanor would likely not be seen as someone who was modest.

Instead, she came to realize that the playing field in the world of interviewing offers each candidate a limited opportunity to showcase their best assets, and she decided to Fix It! by practicing endlessly until she could step into this spotlight comfortably, which was not easy for Leslie to do.

A few interviews later, Leslie had a job offer, and accepted it. She was very pleased that she was finally able to convey her value and worth to the interviewer, but realizes that this will be an ongoing process with her new employer.

Now that she has the job, Leslie plans to implement the same techniques of getting her talents recognized and her visibility enhanced on a regular basis – unlike her last place of employment, where she often felt virtually invisible.

Do you have a Fix It or Forget It? story to share? Send it to me, and it might help others. Identifying features will be altered prior to publishing.

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Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
— Rita Mae Brown

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