The Interview Close (and Why You Are Not Doing It Right)
So you’ve managed to get through your interview and you are not quite sure how you did. The hiring manager, a stoic architect with the world’s best poker face, has given you no indication whether you passed the test with flying colors or you failed worse than the fanny pack fad in the 90’s. You want the job but all you can muster is a “Thank you for your time, I am very impressed with the company and the job. I look forward to hearing from you” and you go on your merry way, fingers crossed hoping that it all went well. Now you are up awake at 1am, staring at the ceiling, reliving the interview in your head. Every answer given is now second-guessed, and you are wondering to yourself why telling the interviewer that your favorite part of the Olympics is Synchronized Swimming was even relevant at all.
That’s the nature of interviewing right? Well, for a lot candidates that seems to be the case, but for those who understand the process, things are a bit different. They know that in order to impress in an interview, YOU HAVE TO FINISH STRONG AND CLOSE THE INTERVIEW.
A search on the web will yield you dozens of pages with interview tips on how to close a job. The usual suspects as far as tips go like this:
“Do you see my background being a fit for this job?”
“Where do I go from here? Can you tell me about the rest of the interviewing process?”
“Are there any concerns in my background as they relate to the job?”
“I feel I am a great fit for the job because I have XYZ, and can get to work as soon as you need me. When can I start?”
In theory, these seem to be wonderful questions that can put you in a position to receive honest feedback from a manager. Unfortunately, theories have the danger of failing miserably in the real world. The problem is, candidates just like yourself are reading the same tips online and using them on tired ears. Hiring managers have heard these exact questions over and over again. You asking these questions can be akin to writing “I am a hard worker, I am driven/motivated, and I am a team player” on your resume. In essence, they become meaningless exercises in a played out-interview ceremony.
Let me break down why these questions won’t work with a tenured manager conducting an interview. First of all, it is too aggressive. Although the interview is very much a sales process where you are selling yourself, it is rarely the type of sale that is impulsive. What I mean by that is that no manager is going to go outright and say “you know what? You are right! You have XYZ, you can start tomorrow morning!”
Second, it puts the manager in an awkward spot. While some hiring managers have no qualms explaining to you why you are not a fit for the job, some rarely do. It can be awkward to meet a stranger, listen to their pitch, and then tell them where they fell short. Additionally, you do not want the person interviewing to rehash their objections in their head. You want to end on a positive note – why would you make the interviewer focus on why she didn’t like you!?!
Lastly, any manager with a bit of sense would be hesitant to express their real interest on the spot. It removes the negotiation leverage from the company once that process starts. When I worked as a corporate recruiter, I preached this to hiring managers as gospel. A candidate that knows he has the job is a lot more difficult to negotiate with than one that doesn’t.
So hopefully by now I have convinced you to stop using these tired old questions. You may be asking yourself how you’ll manage without them. So this is where I tell you “Closing an interview is not easy. If it was, everyone would be doing it.” In my 13 years of recruiting, I can count the amount of people with one hand that have done it flawlessly. Closing an interview, like any high-end sale, is an art form. Like any art form, preparation and practice are a must. I will not give you any sound bites or word tracks to follow. If you want the job, you are going to have to earn it!
The key to a successful close is paying attention. If at the end of an interview you are asking if your background is a fit for the job, you should have done your research and you have bigger problems to worry about than closing the interview correctly. You need to isolate key components of the conversation and identify what is important versus what is trivial. A great way to find this out is to ask open ended questions that are not aggressive and put the interviewer on the spot, but rather give you some insight into their needs.
These are some examples:
What are the most important things this person will be doing on daily basis?
What issues are you having right now that this person will solve if hired?
What separates your most successful person performing this job to the rest of her colleagues?
Questions such as these will yield you all the answers you need. Forget the fluff in the job description, you now know what is important to a manager. Armed with this info, this is your time to shine. As the interview nears its end, summarize to the interviewer these points. Since they are the ones that stated them, they are very likely to agree with them. Once you summarize them, this is the place where you tell them why you are a fit for the job. Know your personal facts, know your successes, and speak to them confidently. Countless times, I have seen candidates undersell their past achievements because they are not able to speak about them with confidence. Avoid using abstract descriptions and stick to facts. Saying you are driven sounds like fluff, but telling me you worked overtime for 6 weeks straight in order to deliver a project no one expected you to tells me a lot.
Here is an example:
“From our conversation, it looks like your main needs are a resource that has experience managing enterprise level software development projects, managing projects with global resources, and someone familiar Agile/SCRUM methodology”
This is where your energy will carry you. Once again, confidence is key and your body language should show it. “In my last role, I managed a project with 8 developers, 4 QA Engineers, and 4 DevOps Engineers building an application that delivered video on demand content for the biggest cable provider in the United States. The application was used monthly by millions and allowed our company to retain and grow our business with this client as the project was delivered on time and under budget by $60k.”
“In a previous role, I managed a global team with resources in Argentina, UK, New York, and San Diego. Because of time differences, things were challenging. I was able delegate managing duties to local leads who then worked together with me to bring the project together. This allowed us to use the company’s available resources on a global scale rather than hire new people in order to have all the work done in one office.”
“Lastly, I am a certified SCRUM master and have been managing Agile projects for over 8 years now. I am a member of the local Agile User Group and I have been asked to speak at various Agile conferences such as Agile Alliance and SCRUM Alliance. My presentation this year was ‘Globally Distributed Teams and Agile’ where I was able to share my success with colleagues in the aforementioned job.”
The key to your success in closing an interview in that manner will be to convince the interviewer that regardless of how the overall interview went, you are not only able to do the job they need you to do, but that you have done it in the past and you have succeeded at it. If you delivered, you may just flip the tables and have them ask you “Are there any concerns in the job as they relate to your search?
Diego Aguillon is the Sr. Corporate Recruiter at BBSI (NASDAQ: BBSI), a leading provider of business management solutions, combining traits from the human resource outsourcing and professional management consulting industries to create an operational platform that differentiates it from competitors. You can follow him on twitter @DiegoITJobs or connect onLinkedIn . You can check out BBSI at http://www.barrettbusiness.com/