Interview Taboos

Mar 14th, 2010 | By | Category: abundance, Career advice, career challenges, challenges, interview, mentor, success, taboo

For the past couple of weeks I have been advising a young person who moved to a new area and was looking for a new job.  She had an impressive resume and is very good at preparing and presenting herself at interviews.  Although we did discuss some ways to phrase touchy interview questions, such as promotion potential, the main challenge was trying to ferret out the salary range for the position and if she was a serious candidate.

The technical questions part of the interview was going really well, and her skill set was a good fit for the position.  With her previous experience she could easy perform all the requirements of the position, and make significant improvements in efficiency and productivity. However, after three meetings there was no hint the company would offer her a position, or at what salary range they were considering.  Two subjects most career gurus avoid.  Usually their advice is to wait for management to bring it up, and then do not be too aggressive.  That advice was not working well in this situation.

Long dragged out interview processes are real challenges to an applicant.  Usually after the first two meetings most of the standard interview criteria has been fulfilled.  There are instances where additional interviews may be needed to enable upper management to meet and interview the applicant, but that was not the case.  This was meeting the same manager each time, with the questions going more in the direction of how to handle specific situations.  It was turning more into a consulting session than an interview.  I once had a similar situation, where the opening was within a company where I was already employed.  The interviewing manager turned the interview process into a consulting process.  The questions were very specific, and required coming up with ideas to solve actual problems.  I really wanted the promotion so I took the bait hook line and sinker.  Finally I discussed the situation with my current manager, who supported me in getting the job.  He told me straight out that I was being played.  Management had already selected someone else for the position, and was just pumping me for ideas for solving some of the challenges facing the new selectee.  I was stunned, but grateful for the feedback.  At the next meeting I broached the taboo question of asking what were my chances of being selected.  Before we started into their questions and my answers, I asked, “We have met several times now, and I have answered all your questions, it appears that we have moved more into a working relationship than an interview process, does this mean I got the job?”  There were blank looks and silence.  Then the hiring manager said that they were close to a decision and would probably decide after this round of interviews.  The answer did come by the end of the week and I was not selected. The person who my manager mentioned got the job.  Although I felt like I had been played, it taught me a lot.

So what should we do about the current situation?  It’s somewhat different because there was no inside source for information.  After some analysis we decided it was time to broach some of the interview taboos.  A good icebreaker would be to start at the beginning of the interview to express how encouraging it is to be called back several times, and asking if they have narrowed the process to a short list.  This is a way of asking how many candidates they are considering.  Then lead the discussion to how much this position is similar to her previous position, which had a title of   XX manager.  The next focus was to summarize how similar the challenges and responsibilities of this position are to her previous position, and how her skills and experience are a perfect match.  Then recap their discussions that illustrated her ability to improve efficiency and production.  In case the manager did not catch on, or was avoiding the question.  The next step would be to steer the discussion towards salary and benefits.  One way would be to say that salary.com indicates a salary range from $XX,XXX – $XX,XXX for a position with those responsibilities in this metro area.  (The low end should be the minimum you would accept)  If the manager does not pick up the discussion, she should ask “Is this in the range you are considering?”  If the response in no, then the door is open to ask what salary range they had in mind?  If that is an acceptable range then the only question left is when are you going to make your decision?  If the employer is genuinely considering you for the position he will answer your questions.  If not, then he will probably end the interview.  If he does you were probably never really in contention for the job and were just being played.   At some point, it is appropriate to take the initiative on taboo interview questions.

What happened to my friend?  She received a firm offer from another company, and e-mailed the manager she was interviewing thanking him for the last interview and asking if he was close to reaching a decision on hiring and salary.  The reply was swishy washy and nor-committal.   She promptly accepted the other offer.  Our conclusion; she was being played..

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