Developing Your Career

Developing Your Career

The Human Factor: Winning the Tie-Breaker Interview

By Steve Harrison on October 14, 2013

There are many factors that influence a hiring decision, from the skills you offer, the accomplishments you’ve achieved, the value you’ll bring, how quickly you’ll be able to assimilate, and whether you’ll be a good fit or the “human” factor.  Are you practicing interviewing techniques that signal you’ll be a good fit with the team and the company’s culture?   Here are a few lessons learned on how to address the “human” factor in an interview:

  • Lesson 1. Years ago, I was touring a regional LHH office when my host led me to the reception desk, and introduced me to Nancy, “Our Director of First Impressions!”  That title appeared on her business card, as well.  The message was clear:  every person and every role was important. Valuing all staff, and their contributions to the organization’s success, is decency.  And decency should be a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ).  It’s a leadership attribute that enriches a corporate culture.  So what role does decency play in the interview process?  An often-cited New York Times “Corner Office” article, “Should I Hire You? I’ll Ask the Receptionist” provides insight.  In the article, a company executive explains that after interviewing a candidate, she immediately consults with the organization’s receptionist regarding the behavior of the applicant.  Was he/she respectful, friendly, courteous?  Were pleasantries exchanged?  Many interviewers take it further.  Did the candidate ask the receptionist’s name and introduce himself/herself with a handshake?  Or was his/her demeanor dismissive, curt, and less-than respectful?  It becomes a simple, yet important test of an applicant’s sense of decency.
  • Lesson 2. When the tiebreaker interview veers into interests outside work, there’s usually a sound business reason:  You’ll be bringing your “whole self” to the job, not just your workplace competencies.  It’s the stuff of effective team-play, of good client relations, and of reputation-building.  Whether your leisure time is spent engaging in physical activities, like running, dancing, gardening, hiking, or swimming; or more academic pastimes like reading or writing, convey your interests with passion and enthusiasm, remembering to support statements with key examples.   It goes like this:  “I love hiking, especially scenic trails. Last month I hiked the breathtaking paths of Acadia National Park in Maine.”  Examples are also an effective way to highlight your achievements, whether in your work experience, or life experience.
  • Lesson 3. I routinely ask job seekers what they say at the conclusion of an interview.  And, invariably, the reply is, “Thank you for your time.”  But I strongly believe there’s a better way to conclude the conversation that demonstrates confidence.  Try this instead, “I’ve gained a lot from our conversation, and it’s given me added insights into your company, its priorities and its culture.  Our meeting has made me even more excited about the prospect of being a constructive member of your team.  I look forward to the opportunity to meet again, hopefully to begin a new employment relationship!” 

Steve is co-founder and Chairman of Lee Hecht Harrison and former chief ethics and compliance officer of Adecco Group.  He is a long-time management and corporate culture innovator and author of “The Manager’s Book of Decencies: How Small Gestures Can Build Great Companies.” This is the last in a four-part series from Steve addressing the art of interviewing.

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