You’ve heard great things about him; and you’ve been trying to find out as much as you can, sometimes in devious ways. You answered every ring no matter what you were doing until his call came through. Now you have to decide what to wear, and prepare to be at your very best: relaxed, interested, friendly. Most of all you wonder: Will you like him? Will he like you? Could this possibly be “The One”?
Sound like a classic blind date? No, it’s a job interview.
From waiting for the call, to deciding what to wear, to trying to find out whatever you can about the person you are about to meet, sometimes the only difference seems to be that you will be meeting over a desk instead of over dinner.
The blind date experience is not confined to job seekers; employers also come to the interview vacillating between hope (perhaps this is finally The One?) and apprehension (will this be just another false start?).
Just like on a first date, first impressions in an interview go a long way towards making or breaking the relationship. Unfair it may be, but we seem to be wired to make assessments long before we have all the relevant information.
If you are the candidate, arriving on time, appearing presentable, and displaying polite and friendly behavior during the interview are crucial if you are to remain in the running for the position. And employers would do well to make a good first impression on job candidates as well. An employer who keeps candidates waiting, takes calls during the interview, or otherwise treats candidates disrespectfully, is also being judged. Interviewing, like dating, is a two way street.
When the Answer is No
We’ve all been there: you meet your date and within three minutes, you know: this just is not going to work. How you behave after coming to that realization is a true test of character.
Making your disappointment clear, cutting the date short, or using a poorly disguised excuse for an early exit, will mark you in the eyes of your date as, well, a jerk; whereas spending the appropriate amount of time together, being respectful and showing interest in your date, even when you know that you will never see him or her again, all demonstrate courtesy, maturity and just plain menschlechkeit. Besides all that, negative behavior on a date has a way of coming back to haunt you.
Zoom to the parallel situation in a job interview: after the first few minutes, either the candidate or the employer realizes that this is a mismatch. How they behave as a result is telling. Just like discourteous behavior on a date, unprofessional behavior in an interview – no matter which side of the desk you are on – can have repercussions far beyond this specific situation. The way a person acts when they are supposed to be on their best behavior is a pretty good indicator of how they will behave in an established relationship; and if your behavior was less than exemplary, these things have a way of getting around.
Tell Me about Yourself
There is a good reason that so many interviews – and quite a few blind dates – begin with this question. After all, this is why we are at this interview or on this date: to learn more about the person opposite us, and to see if we would like to be together in the long term. How you answer this question, whether on an interview or on a date, can make a big difference. Of course, it’s imperative to tell the truth. But within those parameters, the way you tell your story is up to you.
Most of us respond to a question by answering it directly. A question like this will usually garner responses that are biographical, factual…things that are already on your resume, or that your date has already heard about you: where you live, what you studied in college, what you do for a living.
Instead, try answering the question by sharing something about your character, what you are passionate about, and what you love doing. When you open up about the real, authentic “you”, your personality will naturally shine through. That is the kind of response that will bring people back for more.
Moving Slow or Moving Fast?
I knew I wanted to marry my husband a few weeks after we met. It took him six months to reach the same conclusion. We have been happily married for over twenty years, and I am still a much faster decision maker, while he likes to consider every side of a question before committing himself. It’s a personality difference that enriches our lives together.
Sometimes there is a discrepancy in pace between the job seeker and the employer. One party feels sure after the first interview that this is a perfect match and any further exploration would be a waste of valuable time that could be spent doing the job; while the other person wants to take more time to explore and learn about each other before deciding whether this is the right fit.
Having a different decision-making pace does not mean that this relationship cannot work; it just requires that the faster-moving party respect the other person’s need for a longer process. In the end, both sides will benefit from getting to know each other better.
It’s Not Really the Same Thing
I know. A job interview is not nearly as emotionally fraught as a romantic relationship, and professional relationships are formed and dissolved with much less pain and trauma than love relationships. You don’t have to be head over heels in love to accept a job, and leaving your job is often just the right next step in your career, not a negation of your previous professional relationships.
But the similarity is there. And perhaps the comparison can spare us all some heartache, professionally as well as personally.