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Fix It Or Forget It

November 16th, 2011

Preparing and rehearsing for an interview can help, but there are still times when you or the interviewer may say something completely unexpected.  Can you Fix It Or Forget It? See what Vicki* and Woody* did.

Vicki* had made it down to the final few candidates for a job she was very interested in, and this last interview was to be with her prospective manager, as well as her director, who came in from the state headquarters to meet the final three candidates.

Vicki had already met with the manager at the satellite office in a prior interview.  She felt very comfortable with her as a manager, as well as the company overall, and the job itself.  She was hoping to make a good impression in this final meeting and secure an offer.

During most of the interview, the questions seemed fairly standard, and although some were repetitive from the prior meetings, Vicki was happy to repeat her answers for the manager from the state office, who hadn’t heard them before.

Then, at one point, he was reviewing her work history, noticed that Vicki had a previous job in Utah, and remarked on it:  “That must have been something.  Was it difficult – working with all of those Mormons?”

Vicki was so stunned to hear such a comment in this day and age that she didn’t quite know what to say, and heard the response, “Um . . . no . . . not really . . .” escape her lips.

She looked up a bit and noticed that the local manager was visibly embarrassed, and decided to compose a better follow-up response than her initial one:  “Especially since I’m one of them.”

Vicki saw a slight smile creep across the local manager’s face as the state manager quietly responded, “Oh.”

Because Vicki had a European accent, it clearly countered one of the state manager’s many obviously held prejudices.  Her English was flawless, but her accent was very apparent.

Later, the local director called and offered Vicki the position.  Although the state manager’s personality was a huge turnoff, her immediate supervisor clearly didn’t share his ignorance and bigotry, and Vicki would be working for her, not him.  Vicki decided she could Fix It! into a job worth having, and simply stay away from “Mr. Ignorant” as much as possible.  She accepted the position.

Woody* worked in fundraising, compiling and reporting on campaign data and wanted to do more of it, so he had been applying to positions related to prospect research, analytics and market research.

In today’s tight job market, it’s difficult to get hired for a position that one has aptitude for.  Most employers have cut training budgets drastically, if not altogether, and with so much competition, hiring managers can frequently narrow their field to candidates who are already doing the exact same job somewhere else, instead of someone who is doing a similar job, but merely need a little training.

In Woody’s case, trying to move from a Type #1 position to a Type #2 (similar, but not the same) position made it challenging during interviews, as well as just getting the interviews, so he felt extra pressure to be convincing that he was, indeed, capable when questioned.

In his latest interview for a position as a prospect researcher, he met with both the director of development and the director of research, who served up a barrage of questions about how he would handle this newly created position, to find previously unknown prospects that had great potential to be larger donors, but weren’t appearing during regular searches.

Woody was excited to hear this question, because it nearly exactly described a project that he worked on – with great success – at his current employer’s, so he could elaborate on his skills in precisely the area(s) they were interested in, instead of an approximation and just hope that it was close enough.

As both directors continued to explain what they wanted, Woody was forming an excellent example of a previously unknown donor he found, using his methods, and how she became a major donor, etc., but when it became his turn to respond, he blurted out, “[Jane Doe!]” immediately followed by his own disbelief.

It was apparent from the looks on both interviewers’ faces that they had decided to Forget It! with respect to his candidacy once he had said a donor’s name out loud, and violated that person’s privacy – which Woody knew full well not to do.  He never had before . . . nor since.

Woody continued, after apologizing for his faux pas, to tell the story he intended about his methodologies, successes, and so forth, but it was apparent that the interview (and his chances) were over.  All that was left was to suffer through about 15 more minutes of ritual, and then he could leave.

Prior to his next interview, Woody and I spent more time rehearsing, although he was certain not to make that mistake again.

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.

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

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