Wednesday, March 2, 2016

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Interview

Many years ago, for the first time, I watched Zero Mostel perform "A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum", a farcical comedy that borders on slapstick in places.  I laughed then, and I laugh now when I see it as a play or a movie.  The story is full of funny, unexpected and unbelievable twists.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Interview
Much like in the play, I had something funny and unexpected happen to me the other day when I was interviewing a job candidate - he quoted me to me.

An associate and I were doing a phone interview for a project manager position.  When I introduced myself, the candidate said, "Tom Sheppard, the author of 'Fire Yourself: Get the Job You Want', and 'Five Ways to Blow an Interview'?"

Clearly, the candidate had done some in-depth research on who was going to interview him.  I was impressed, but I didn't let it go to my head and influence the interview.

Fortunately, his research also extended to the project and he was able to give my associate an overview of our work here that was as concise and comprehensive as any I have heard her give to the many job candidates we have interviewed together.  That left us both with a very positive impression.

(Take note any Recruiters out there - if this guy could get a good read on our project, you should be able to as well and use it to both screen and prepare your candidates for their interview.  Too many job candidates come to the initial interview with faulty or totally wrong ideas of the what the project is and the role itself.  That wastes everyone's time and effort.)

Then, during the interview he did a couple of things right out of my book "A Job Hunter's Primer."  And he pointed out that he had learned them from me.

What He Did
Answering a question, he made it a point to use the 'star' technique of telling us about a situation or task (ST), the specific actions he took (A), and the results of his efforts (R).  And then, he followed up by asking, "did I answer your question?"

These are both techniques I have taught many people over the years for how to nail your job interview.

I learned the STAR technique when I was trained in behavioral interviewing.  I realized then that it was a valuable tool for any job seeker, because it would allow them to answer questions with facts from their backgrounds instead of giving hypothetical answers.  And, it would allow them to give those factual answers is a way that delivered a powerful impression of a person who can think clearly and has experience to back up the claims in their resume.

Ever since then, I have been using that technique when I conduct interviews - to cut through the BS and uncover proven performance and work attributes in action.  And, I have religously taught it to my job-seeking clients (and coached them on it) to give them the best possible chance to get the offer for the job they want.

In spite of using and teaching these tools, I confess, I was a little bit discombobulated by his blatant reference to having learned this from my me. However, his application of the lesson allowed my associate and I to determine that he was sufficiently qualified for the job to move him up to the next round of interviews, which would be face-to-face.

Now, I would love to play Paul Harvey's here and tell you "the rest of the story", but it isn't done yet.  He came in for a face-to-face and did pretty well.  But, there are still other candidates for the role and no offer has gone out yet.

Now, here is the rest of the story.  Today, my colleague extended an offer to the candidate.

Tom Sheppard has helped hundreds of people to get and keep the job they want.  If you would like personal help from Tom in your job search needs go to 

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