Some of the interview questions tossed at candidates by hiring managers – many 0f them posted on LinkedIn – tend to raise anxiety levels because there doesn’t seem to be one “right” answer to them. But, with a little bit of applied psychology and impression management, you can turn that Zen koan-sounding question to your advantage.
Nearly 30 years on the hiring manager’s side of the desk for Fortune 500 companies has taught me a lot about the hiring process. I’ve reviewed thousands of cover letters and résumés, conducted hundreds of job interviews, and hired and managed countless professionals in a variety of disciplines. Unlike a lot of recruiters who quickly (10 seconds or less) shuffle through résumés based on the shopping list of requirements I provide them, I’m usually the last link in the chain of “deciders” when it comes to the hiring decision. I’ve never provided a list of questions to recruiters to ask potential candidates because it was important for me to hear their response in person if they were called in for an interview. However, underneath all the skills, experience, knowledge, and expertise, the two variables that keep you moving forward in that process are documented accomplishments and a high likeability factor. Period. Everything else is frosting on the cake.
I have coached clients to ask another question in response to a question for the purpose of getting more information before committing to an answer, especially when it comes to salary negotiation. When a client told me that he was pretty sure he would be asked about any other opportunities he might be pursuing, I mentioned that it could be a good sign that this hiring manager is interested in him. But the worry had him in knots (by the way, worry is a prayer for things you don’t want to happen), I suggested that he respond with a question: “Well, are you prepared to make me an offer now, because my response to your question depends on that answer.” He squirmed a bit with that advice, apparently not at ease with being so forward, but then I asked him: “Are you in charge of your career, or are you putting it in the hands of others?” He thought about it for a second and then said he would use that response, if asked.
And asked he was. My client reported that when he popped the question, the hiring manager hesitated for a couple of seconds, smiled, and nodded his head, then told him “not yet.” My client then replied (smiling in return), “Then I am interviewing with another company and moving forward in the process.”
Think about how that response is now like a pebble in the hiring manager’s shoe! The mere implication that my client is moving forward in someone else’s hiring process has the effect (perhaps momentary; maybe longer) of giving the hiring decision a greater degree of immediacy, maybe even expediting it. Interpersonal Psychology 101.
If the hiring manager would have responded with “Yes, I can make you an offer today” then my client’s directness (in a way) may have accelerated that hiring decision as well for fear of losing this very qualified candidate. Does this technique work all the time? There’s no way to know how many times it’s been tried, but it only works if you ask that first question of the hiring manager. It’s your Kobayashi Maru incident (Star Trek folks understand)….you don’t like a no-win scenario. This technique can be a win-win situation for you.
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My name is Donn LeVie Jr. and I’m a former hiring manager for Fortune 500 companies (Phillips Petroleum, Motorola, Intel Corporation, and others) and have worked in the federal government (NOAA) and in academia as an adjunct faculty lecturer in the Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics for the University of Houston (Downtown Campus). I am the author of Strategic Career Engagement(September 2015), Runner-Up of the 2016 International Book Award for Business: Careers, and the book that reset the rules for successful job and career strategies: Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 (June 2012, Winner of the 2012 Global eBook Award and Winner of the 2012 International Book Award for Jobs/Careers).
I lead career strategy seminars (for job seekers and for hiring managers wanting to know how to spot talent) at conferences, business/trade schools, colleges and universities, and U.S. military veterans organizations. I also offer a Career Engagement Evaluation subscription program to associations as a member benefit.
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