By Joe Stein
I recently was conducting some interviews and connected with someone I had known previously. While it was great re-connecting for the interview, it did not go particularly well, in my opinion. It really was not anything specific that this person did to make me feel that way. My reaction was more that this person did not stand out like they should have.
In this example, the person really just seemed to be going through the motions and did not appear to be prepared. When we were done, I could not help but feel that the assumption was made that since we knew each other previously, the position was lined up. This was not the first time that I have had someone referred to me or I knew the person previously that I felt let down by the interview. It has led me to conclude that a very avoidable mistake that a Job Seeker can make in this type of situation, is to assume that he or she will have the position and take the opportunity for granted.
Of course, being a referral or having a connection can be a strong benefit to a Job Seeker. This scenario may lead you to a job opening that you may not have otherwise been aware of, or serve to move you directly to an interview. You can’t, however, allow it to generate bad habits for you. Below are some tips to make sure you don’t make this error.
· Make Sure You Are Interested In the Position – Just like an Interviewer at times may do a “courtesy interview” as a favor, a Job Seeker may feel obligated to interview for a position. If a position does not seem to be a fit, then don’t feel obligated to pursue the role. Everyone is better off if you are open and honest with them and communicate that it is not what you are seeking.
· Prepare Like Any Other Interview – Don’t assume that you will be held to any lower standard than another candidate. Submit your perfect Resume, research the company, mock interview, dress appropriately, and arrive early. Expect that you will be asked “real” interview questions, and be ready to answer them. If you have worked closely with the person in the past, it may seem a little awkward; but if that is the approach the Hiring Manager plans to take, you need to be ready for it. Your referral or relationship opened the door, and now it is your responsibility to take care of the rest.
· Have the Right Attitude – Smugness or arrogance does not look good on anyone. If you think you have the position in the bag, then you will act differently and not in a positive way. Treat everyone with respect and be gracious towards them. If the Hiring Manager decides to be more casual in his or her approach, take that cue to a certain degree, but do not be taken aback if an actual interview is conducted.
· Do Not Overplay the Referral – You have to walk a line between making sure it is known that you are “connected” and not overdoing it. I like to take a conservative approach and believe that less is more. People will know who you are and a sledgehammer will not be needed to make the point. You may also embarrass or shed a poor light on the Hiring Manager if you oversell how you “have” the position with others. I know I have (a number of times) been in interviews where a person seemed more focused on telling me who they knew and how they arrived as a candidate, then selling his or her qualifications.
· Respect the Position the Hiring Manager Is In – A strong referral or endorsement is a blessing for a Hiring Manager, but it also comes with some challenges. A Hiring Manager has to treat the situation fairly, especially if are there internal candidates or a strict standard operating procedure. While the Hiring Manager may be highly interested in you, they must respect the process enough to make sure they are hiring the best candidate. Don’t be offended if they are interviewing others, or need some time to make a decision.
· Give Thanks – In sticking to the theme of treating this like any other interview, please make sure you follow-up and give thanks to all the people you meet during the process. Don’t assume they know you appreciate the time, or feel that since you know the person, you don’t have to do it.
In looking back at my career, I think some of the interviews I have most been disappointed in have been those where the person came highly recommended from someone, or I even knew from the past. When you start with such high hopes and have it dashed by an unprepared or smug candidate, it immediately sours you on the applicant. Don’t be like this! Treat a referral or networking situation as a precious opportunity, and give it your all. If you give this effort coupled with your pre-endorsement, you are sure to land that job you are seeking.
As always, best of luck in your job search