As the process progresses… what candidates need to bear in mind
While I’ve never spoken with Mick Jagger about how The Rolling Stones prepare for a concert tour, I imagine that it requires considerably more energy, thought and organization than a single performance. And being able to give it all they’ve got at the last show on a tour, undoubtedly demands all they can muster. But certainly, they know that they have to make sure every fan gets their money’s worth.
Similarly, participating in multiple interviews can require a candidate to draw on their own inner Mick Jagger, so that they effectively demonstrate in each meeting, how professional they are. No matter whether it’s for the first, or last, interview.
Preparing for a first round of interviews requires energy, thought and strategizing. The goals, certainly, are to be asked to return and, ultimately, receive an offer. But maintaining the necessary level of professionalism when, for example, you’re asked to return to meet, say, 40 people, or participate in even a dozen interviews plus lunch over the course of several weeks, demands a different level of commitment.
Candidates who find themselves participating in multiple interviews and receiving positive feedback have been known to stumble, because they let their guard down and start to relax. It’s almost as though they think they’re just going through the motions when, in fact, an offer hasn’t been made and they need to be effective and maintain their composure.
What can/should a candidate do? Here are some suggestions.
- Never forget that you’re a candidate. Your objective is to make a positive impression. Thus, even if you feel like things are progressing and you’re being well received, until you have an offer letter, you’re still a candidate. You want to maintain a level of professionalism suited to one. Don’t relax.
- Those interviewing you may become increasingly, seemingly familiar. As though they had slipped off their shoes and put their feet up on an ottoman. That can be fine for those conducting the interviews. But a candidate needs to remember they’re still candidates.
- Watch your language. Watch the range of topics you discuss. Don’t become mesmerized by the idea that it seems like the job is in the bag and start to share stories that aren’t suited to an interview. The people conducting the interviews may be friendly, but they aren’t your friends. Don’t get cozy.
- Remember, above all, you’re there to learn. This means, you have two ears and one mouth; use them in that ratio. When you listen, you learn. And when you learn, you can get a better sense of what the team is like, what their needs are and how you could contribute.
- If you’re invited for a meal, order carefully. Avoid the most expensive dish on the menu.
- Keep writing thoughtful thank you notes. Don’t get lax because the process is moving along and you think thank you notes don’t matter. Thank you notes are an opportunity for a candidate to demonstrate several qualities including: a) listening skills, b) writing skills, c) basic manners. If a candidate listened carefully in an interview, that can be reflected in the thank you note.
- Dress as if each interview is your first.
- Reconfirm each meeting. That’s an opportunity to demonstrate you’re professional.
- Remember the importance of good posture, thoughtful body language, tone of voice.
- Sometimes when candidates interview on a Friday before a long weekend, the atmosphere can seem especially relaxed. Please remember, you’re a candidate. If you’re offered a beer, you can accept it, but drink as little as possible.
- Interviewing is about learning what a firm needs and communicating how you, the candidate, can address those needs. Please, don’t babble on about how you’re looking to work with people you can relate to in a setting where everyone likes to pitch in. Stay focused on what you can do for the firm. Give examples of how you’ve helped in other, similar settings/situations.
- Though some candidates who demonstrate professional behavior through the process aren’t hired, candidates who are consistently professional through the process are more likely to get an offer letter.
Whether you’re participating in the first round, or the tenth, remind yourself of the importance of how you come across in each and every interview. Likely, it will require you to channel your inner Jagger.