I am looking at the job interview process quite differently compared to most other people. I definitely see the job interview as a competition that I want to win (because losing means that you do not get the job, and that would suck).
You could look at the job interview as being one entity, but I think that is the wrong approach. There are simply too many pieces involved that can influence the decision about who gets the job in the end. If you start breaking the job interview process into smaller pieces, you can develop a strategy around each step. You can also prepare better because you can look at each step individually and optimize your approach accordingly.
If you would consider the interview process as one single entity you are leaving opportunities to present yourself better unused. Let the other job applicants do that, while you prepare for each opportunity individually and therefore optimize your chances to land the job of your dreams.
I do not have a specific chart on how I break down the interview process into different pieces. One reason is that many companies do not follow the same pattern when it comes to dealing with job applicants. But here is a list of the interview process and how I have experienced it many times myself:
- Email from Human Resources to schedule a phone pre-screening
- Phone pre-screening by HR – trying to weed out non-qualifying candidates
- Thank you email from you to Human Resources
- Email or phone call from Human Resources to schedule a phone interview with hiring manager
- Phone interview with hiring manager
- Thank you email from you to Human Resources + hiring manager (if you have his/her email address)
- Email or phone call from Human Resources to schedule an in-person interview
- In-person interview with hiring manager + team members
- Thank you email from you to Human Resources + hiring manager (if you have his/her email address
- Email or phone call from Human Resources to schedule an in-person interview with a Director and the hiring manager
- Thank you email from you to Human Resources + Director + hiring manager (if you have his/her email address)
Now if you look at all these steps you can see that there is a lot of opportunity to implement some customized and very personalized communication. There are several steps where you are dealing with different people at different stages of the interview process. Every time you need to adapt and prepare a little bit differently.
I work and approach each stage differently and I always (!) draft a custom and personalized email that I send out to recruiters, HR personnel, or hiring managers. I do not necessarily follow the standard follow-up/thank you email templates that you find all over the Internet. Most of the ones you find in books or online are so 1980 and would disqualify you instantly (at least that is my opinion).
When you look at the list above not every item carries the same weight naturally. Your overall interview performance is the biggest item and carries the most value when it comes to making the cut or not.
But even the small thank you email you send to the HR recruiter every time he or she was involved will carry weight in the end when it comes to deciding between you and the next closest job applicant. The hiring manager usually makes the decision, but when it comes to negotiating an offer the HR representative plays an important role.
All these small percentages that make or break a deal add up. It’s up to you to make them count or to disregard them. If you think you are strong during interviews and really are a rock star type of applicant and it might be less critical to look at these items, think again. What if the other top candidate is another rock star candidate?
Corporate America and the overall employment market have changed a lot over the years. Each recession has seen companies doing more with fewer employees. Some companies completely changed and all they look for is making the stockholders happy – at any price. There is less loyalty towards employees during bad times because stockholders don’t care. Executive salaries are so closely tied to the stock performance, and executives have no other choice to cut employees even if there is just a bump in the road.
But I do not want to complain about Corporate America here. I consider this change in the market and as an employee I better am ready for change and adjust accordingly. I do not have the luxury to ignore change. I am not afraid of change either. It comes with the territory.
Accordingly I take a very strong approach when it comes to applying for a new job and when it comes to interview for an open position, and so should you. Having talked to many job seekers and also having been on the hiring side of the table many times, I feel too many people are not giving everything when it comes to interviewing. Too many people do not spend the right amount of time to set up a good resume. They do not spend time drafting customized cover letters and they certainly do not spend enough time to prepare for an interview. And only a few are taking interview preparation to the next level.
Where will you fit in?