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Goal of the job interview, and it’s not a job offer, part 2

Job offer

The big piece most candidates are missing in the search of the job offer

Real goal of job interviews

Last week we talked about why most candidates miss out on the job offer. That post explained the REAL goal of the cover letter, resume and networking. Most candidates assume the goal of these steps is to land a job offer. Candidates are thinking about being in the job before they landed the job. Unfortunately, we couldn’t be more wrong. In that post, I reverse engineer the interview process so you can back into a job offer. The goal of that post is to inspire candidates to think differently about the job search process. This post is for you if you:

  • Have sent in cover letters / resumes and haven’t heard anything back.
  • Are making it to the same stage of the interview process and then being declined the job offer.

This week, we continue the process and reconsider what we are really trying to do at each step of the various job interviews. Think about each interview and NOT working in the position. 

If you are looking for a relationship with Mr or Ms. Right, we need to focus on the first date and not be thinking about marriage and kids. That is usually a turn off. 

Phone interview

Contrary to popular belief, the goal of the phone interview is not to land a job. This is a subtle distinction on paper, but a huge difference when in any interview. My personal theory: When a candidate finally hears back from a company after sending in dozens of resumes, candidates feel they have a shot. At this point they don’t want to blow the opportunity.

Candidates become anxious and provide too much information during the phone interview. The ONLY goal at this step is to qualify for the job so we are asked to come in for an in-person interview. 

Common mistake

The common mistake is that many candidates don’t pay attention to the time constraints of a phone interview. This personal theory is based on the answers I hear during. Candidates usually do themselves in by:

  • Trying to provide too much information or too much detail. This can be technical information related to the job and too many industry acronyms.
  • Take too long to answer the question. Unprepared candidates are not able to articulate their answers.  
  • Run on answers, AKA diarrhea of the mouth.

Not a 1 hour session

The phone interview is usually a 30-minute exploratory session. The recruiter’s goal is to determine if the candidate should be brought in for the in-person interview. The recruiter and the hiring are not trying to determine if you should receive a job offer at this stage. This is just a QUALIFYING interview.

The recruiter received 50 resumes. This stack of candidates is whittled down to 4-5 candidates to call for phone interview. The recruiters ONLY goal is to figure out which 2-3 candidates are interesting enough to bring in for the in-person interview.

TMI, too much information

To make sure nothing is left out; most candidates provide too much detail during this interview. Most candidates are declined because they five more information than needed. WAYYYY more. The recruiter has a list of standard questions they NEED to have answered. Candidates should focus on providing answers that address the specific question. 

The in-person interview can be fluid and conversational. The phone interview is targeted. At this stage, the recruiter has a very specific set of questions they are trying to find answers for.

Recruiter doesn’t know your industry

The recruiter doesn’t always have specific knowledge as it relates to the position. The recruiter is just trying determine if you are a fit for the company, hiring manager / department and the position. Typical questions include:

  • What are you looking or financially? (Are your salary expectations in line with the company’s budget?)
  • What do you know about the company (Did you do any research and at least show some interest?)
  • Why are you leaving your last job (We want to make sure you won’t leave us for the same reasons)
  • Are you a company culture fit? (Will you get along with the team)
  • Why are you interested in “Acme Publishing”? (Is this just a J.O.B., or is there something here at Acme Publishing that interested you personally?)
  • What do you like to do in your spare time?

Generic interview questions

The above interview questions are generic in nature. These questions are relevant for any industry and any position. Trying to force details of accomplishments into the above questions is not the focus because these questions are NOT asking for accomplishments. This is why it can be OK if the recruiter doesn’t have industry knowledge.

When to provide detail

When asked a “Tell me a time when you. . . .” question, candidates SHOULD provide some detail. Just remember, time is a-tickin’. Don’t be surprised if the recruiter doesn’t have any experience in your field. If this is the case, avoid going into technical details related to your experience or using acronyms. Recruiters will be lost, or worst, bored with the answers. They will not know to be impressed by your heroic accomplishments. Save the technical details for the hiring manager.

Practice your answers

We absolutely know what questions will be asked during the phone interview. Be prepared and have practiced your answers. Trying to articulate a solid idea for the first time during the interview will spell DOOM. Candidates should:

  • Be able to answer the salary question without beating around the bush.
  • Rattle off details about the company and prove they did their research.
  • Prove a sincere interest in the job and the company. Hint, we are not applying because the job has an easy commute.

Concentrate on getting the in person interview by providing efficient and conversational answers to the questions we know to expect. Practice makes perfect.

First in-person interview

Congrats! You made it past the gate-keeper. The first in-person interview is usually with someone from the hiring department. The goal is to inspire the first interviewer to green light you and push you through an interview loop. This will be with the rest of the team and the VP.

Do not expect to be hired after a single in-person interview. Hiring companies want to also put you in front of team members so that they can generate consensus within the department. This is a first date so manners are important.

Behavioral Interviewing

Being able to demonstrate behavioral interviewing style answers will be key. You must build cred with the hiring manager. Providing your answers in the right format will help this. The manager must confident you will be successful when interviewing with the VP. This takes commitment on their part because they are putting their reputation on the line.

As with all interviews, we want to build chemistry. Thinking about this interview as if we are having coffee with a friend or a first date can change the tone of the interview. We don’t want an interview to be stiff where the interviewer asks a question and we provide short, one word or single sentence answer. We wouldn’t talk with our friends like this. For best results, assume the hiring manager and the team will be our friends.

The goal of the hiring manager interview is two-fold:

    • Impress the hiring manager with your technical expertise.
    • Give the hiring manager confidence they can put you in front of their boss / VP. The VP will be “approving “ you as a hire, so the hiring manager is putting their reputation on the line. As it relates to the VP, can you carry on a conversation? Will you or will you NOT embarrass the hiring manager? Are your answers consistent with what you said in prior interviews. 

Next week we discuss the team interview and the interview with the VP / Head of the department. Remember, if you are interviewing, don’t think about scoring a touch down until you have caught the ball. Don’t think about being in the job or the job offer. Think about the nailing the individual interview. 

See you at the after party,


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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