Group trying to get hired

Over on recruiting and career site Talent Zoo’s Flack Me blog, contributor Mike Bush is closing in on the midway point in his five-part series “Getting the PR Gig” (he generously selected two of my quotes in Part 1 and Part 2).

Never mind that Mike’s series is aimed at Flack Me’s primarily public relations industry readers. I promise you the tips Mike he’s gathering apply universally based on my experience hiring across industries and departments throughout 15-plus years as a manager.

Inspired by Mike, here are three tips for making it through the interview process. And one way to commit career suicide during the process.

Make it past the first phone call

Mike asked about what stand out in phone screeners. I replied:

“Candidates who wow me in the phone screening treat it like the real interview it is. They answer with examples that make it clear they read the job description, have the right skills, and are interested in the role. The ones who instantly lock an in-person also seize the opportunity to show off their research with great questions of their own. Bonus points for overcoming the lack of body language and facial expressions by using great phone skills like smiling while they talk about something they’re clearly interested in. I value genuine enthusiasm that shines through the phone or videoconferences even more now that I work and manage remotely.”

I also add this is a place you can knock yourself out of the running in a hot second. I often ask questions like “What interested you in this role/company?” Saying “I saw it online” or “I need a job” may be perfectly fine for an hourly position with no experience and limited career path.

Overcome panel interview Pangs

I had a confession for Mike: “I love panel interviews as both hiring manager and candidate!” I went on to say:

“Think about what a great opportunity a panel-style interview is to get a sense of the culture, the people you’d be working with, what you’d be doing, and even red flags. You can learn so much from the behavioral questions each person asks. Plus, a panel may be your ticket to avoiding multiple interview rounds.”

I don’t have the only good advice on the subject. I loved Mike’s suggestions to be yourself and set the stage in your interview, and his article includes two more tips from other hiring managers.

If applying for a job at Fonality, you might want to request a timeslot around 3 pm on any given Wednesday. Your panel interview will be interrupted by the snack wagon. It’s hard for the panel interviewers to be too rough on you while yelling “Wagon!,” and we’ll probably invite you to take a selection home. Joking aside, one last tip. Angle for a time when you know you’re at your best.

Win the Final Round

Final interview success starts before you walk in the door. Don’t just ask status while you’re waiting between rounds, rounding HR and the hiring manager. Find a better reason to stay top of mind, like sharing an article related to your last conversation or congratulating the hiring manager on a great piece of coverage. Show how valuable you’d be as an employee in a non-invasive way. Carry that over into your final interview. Suggest an idea that puts you in the role driven by what you’ve learned researching the company.

If you’re faced with multiple rounds drawn out over a long time, that should prompt some great questions for that last interview about internal process! How a company hires can be very telling about the pace and level of bureaucracy on the job.

The final round doesn’t end with the interview. In marketing, many managers ask for a candidate assignment to ensure candidates don’t just look good on paper and talk a good game. Your future boss will also appreciate a thank you in whatever form makes sense for the job and the people you’ve met.

Here’s a perfect example from last year. During her in-person interview, Tara Banda quickly gleened Fonality’s a bit food-driven as company cultures go. Her thank you note came with Tiff’s Treats. I obviously hired her for her amazing skills, doing all of these interview pro tips proud, and rocking her candidate assignment. Still, her follow-up made an unforgettable impression. More than buying our love, it was a tangible way to show she’d fit right in.

That’s the good. What about the ugly?

Don’t commit career suicide

I had a candidate who was a front runner based on her resume and phone interview no-show for her in-person. No cancelation. No response to follow-up. I’d never had this happen. Ever. (Shocked and dismayed, I even checked social media to make sure something awful hadn’t happened. She looked fine in the fresh new pics with her boyfriend.)

“I even checked social media to make sure something awful hadn’t happened. She looked fine in the fresh new pics with her boyfriend.”

This candidate’s behavior was a bad move for so many reasons. Here are just three pleas to never, ever do this:

  • Every industry is surprisingly small. Heck with “six degrees of separation.” Within a specific industry, I’d guess it’s maximum three degrees. Ever read the count of people in your extended network on LinkedIn? Trust me when I say hiring managers talk, folks. What do you think I’ll say if someone asks me if I know her?
  • Even if you don’t want that job, what if another one came up at the same company that was your dream role? We’ve gone back to or shared good candidates frequently among our team. That’s how my digital counterpart and I found two of our current team. Our candidate management system will forever have the equivalent of a big red mark by her name. I know for absolute certain others do the same.
  • What a lost opportunity to expand your network! I’m proud to have developed a good network between where I’ve worked, my role enabling me to work with many other departments, and hiring lots of vendors over the years. I’ve come to their aid and they’ve come to mine. I’ve pointed a number of former candidates to other opportunities. I’ve found good friends when headcount fell through, and we’ve helped one another in our careers.

Even if you forgot or got your dates mixed up, all may not be lost if you just communicate to the HR person or hiring manager. You might probably still get kicked out of the running. If someone asked me about her later, I’d say: “I remember her. She missed our in-person interview but was upfront about why and apologized. I liked what I saw early in the process enough to want her to come in, so you should give her a shot.” Isn’t that a much better way to fail?