Before we can talk about when the job interview is over, we need to talk about when it starts. There’s some strong difference of opinion as to both its beginning and end. My position is that it doesn’t begin when you shake the hand of the interview and say, “Hello”, and end when you shake their hand a second time and say, “Goodbye”.
So let’s begin. The start of the interview? Well to me the start of the interview comes the moment you have any interaction with the company of which they become aware. So if you walk in their front door and ask about volunteer opportunities, your employment interview has just begun. You see even if you have no immediate plans to apply for a paid position with that organization, it may well be that you change your mind as you volunteer there in the future and become aware of job postings. It could also be that they eventually discuss an employment opportunity with you without even posting a position.
Your first impression of the company – how you are greeted and treated – is also the organizations first chance to form an opening opinion of you. If you are of the opinion that you can act one way and then a year later suddenly transform yourself into someone else when there is a job posting, you’ll never pull off coming across as genuine. By that point, they’ve formed strong opinions on your punctuality, your level of interest and commitment, your attitude, your ability to work with others, your reliability and your skills. In short, your job interview started a year ago when you first started volunteering.
How am I doing? Have I got you saying to yourself, “Okay sure I get it, but I thought you were talking about the actual job interview.” I am! You see I’ll bet that in that formal sit down interview, you’ll be discussing your performance in your role as a volunteer. You’ll cite examples of your abilities you’ve experienced while volunteering for the organization. So yes, you’ll be bringing in your shared experience as proof of your strong application for the position.
And if you’re not volunteering? You start making an impression on the people who work there right from the first time you identify yourself on the phone with your manners, the words you speak, the tone of your voice, the presence or lack of a sense of humour. If it’s a written application, your cover letter and resume get to the organization ahead of you and will give them all kinds of evidence of how well you write and communicate; your professionalism or lack of it. Your interview has already begun. The face-to-face meeting is a continuation of your interaction, just moving to a different phase.
So when is the interview over? Just like the beginning, I don’t think the face-to-face formal meeting represents anything but a change in the dynamic of the overall application. Most employers tell me that they put a lot of weight on what a person does or doesn’t do after they shake hands and walk out. If they go home and do nothing, they probably aren’t all that committed to really wanting the job. They most likely are applying for other jobs with other organizations. If on the other hand they follow-up with a short note of thanks for the interview, subsequent questions or additional information to support their application, they really want it as demonstrated by their continuing effort. In short, the interview process continues.
Look too at the selection process at its conclusion. One person gets the job and all the others are passed over. Does it end here then? For 9 out of 10 people it does. That 1 other person though? That’s the person who continues to want the job and wants a second chance. They follow-up expressing both their disappointment and their continued interest in the position should it or a similar opening come up.
They also request feedback, suggestions, advice and then act on that advice so they can in a future discussion, explain what they’ve been doing to better position themselves for success by heeding the advice they got in the past. For them you see, the interview isn’t over, it’s still going on.
Do you see the difference in perception? Do you see that there are some who see the interview start and end as a date and time on the calendar. These folks say, “I have a 45 minute interview this Tuesday at 10:00 a.m.”. Others say, “I started my interview 6 months ago and I’ve been invited to a formal discussion this Tuesday at 10:00a.m. as the next stage in the hiring process.”
Oh and guess what? If you don’t like interviews and think that when you get hired they are thankfully done with – I disagree. The day you shake hands and accept a job offer is the first day of a long process as you are now interviewing for the job you officially apply to down the road as a promotion. In short, every day at work is an ongoing interview.
I hope you zeroed in on that last sentence. If you are headed off to work today you’re being watched, evaluated, judged, gauged and affecting others opinions of you as you build your reputation. You my dear reader are in an interview. Hope you used deodorant before leaving home!