How Can I Turn an Interview into a Job Offer?

In today’s tight employment market, it’s easy to get so focused on securing the next job that you lose sight of the big picture. But an employee/employer relationship is a two-way street. The employer does not want to have to go through an expensive and time consuming hiring process because good workers are disappointed, any more than you want to have to resign from a job that doesn’t meet your expectations. In the long run, a successful employer/employee relationship is a collaboration.

Furthermore, smart employers appreciate a job candidate with a long-term view and one who asks intelligent questions. Deftly and tactfully interviewing the interviewer can help separate you from the pack of applicants, and perhaps give you the leg up you need to get the offer. The bottom line:

1. Do your homework. Yes, everyone says do your homework. But few sites actually get into doing a proper job of due diligence. Do a bit of research on the principals of the company. Sometimes you will find one or more of the principals of a company, or even your direct supervisor, has a criminal record, such as a conviction or accusation of fraud or embezzlement. You should know this going in.

2. Delve into the financials. If the company is publicly traded, it may help to understand whether and how the company makes money. If the company is bleeding red ink, ask your prospective employer about his assessment of a path to profitability. In the long run, only a profitable company is going to be able to pay you very well. Money losing companies tend to drag employees down with them.

3. Look prepared. Have some specific questions you want to ask that are written down. That makes it look like you are thorough and you took the time to learn about the company. Your questions should be more than Wikipedia deep. It’s ok to put a little spin on the ball, but don’t put the manager on the spot.

4. Don’t just talk a job. Talk a career path. Ask about typical avenues for advancement in the company. Or ask where the supervisor sees the department going at the end of the quarter, year, or five years. If you can steer the conversation into how you can help them get there, you win.

5. Evaluation. Ask about how your performance will be evaluated, and by whom. This isn’t an idle chit-chat question – the intent is to deliberately guide the interview into concrete topics that help the interviewer imagine you already filling the position! Sometimes, talk about evaluation criteria can lead directly to discussion of compensation. This is always tricky, but if you can get to the compensation point without committing to a figure before the company does, you are in good shape. Use caution, though: If you commit to a figure too soon, the company could use that information against you. Don’t bring up salary before they do, and don’t get involved in a discussion of compensation before you have been able to build a perception of value in what you have to offer. The bottom line: Make them want you. THEN talk comp.
Remember, based on the information you gather, you may not even want the job. If the company is going down the tubes, of if the management has a less than stellar track record, and you can’t clear the air at the first interview, you may want to pass on the opportunity. This is valuable information right there.

If, after having performed the due diligence, you do want the job, then your object is to move the conversation towards the offer. If your conversation is very specific about career opportunities, the company’s plans for the department in the coming months, your job performance criteria and your supervisor, you are quickly getting details out of the way, so that the only thing left is to accept or decline an offer. The trick is to get there quickly, but not so quickly that you haven’t had a chance to build a perception of value in yourself.

In the end, job interviewing is exactly like sales: Identify what they want, confirm that you can deliver what they want, and make it easy for them to visualize you in that role. Understand that they must do the same thing, selling themselves and their opportunity to you.

Good luck.

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2 Responses to How Can I Turn an Interview into a Job Offer?

  1. William Shambrook MBA PCM says:

    The key to any interview is to take subtle control. This is equally true for both on the phone and in-person interviews. Most phone interviews are screening interviews with the primary objective to screen you out. Your mission is to get by the screener and get to that decision maker. Typically the interviewer will have a list of questions with expected answers. Unfortunately these questions are often not the most important in discovering the ultimate experience, core competencies and skill sets that are required for the position. You must be polite to the screener but remember his or her mission is to find a reason to disqualify you as it is not unusual he or she will be screening a number of candidates and the objective is simply to check off the responses as acceptable or not.

    Taking control is simple. After the first few questions, which will be more to set the agenda, you will want to ask questions that the screener will probably not have answers to. Such as “What was it about my resume/background that caught your attention?” or “What does the company expect the successful candidate to accomplish over the next 6-12 months?” You do not ask them one after another but intersperse them within the conversation. Most often the screener will indicate that these are best answered by the hiring manger. Your only response should be “Given the importance of these could we set a time that I could meet with the hiring manger to discuss them in detail? Most screeners are not seasoned interviewers and will most often set the interview up as long as your resume seems to meet the basic requirements.

    Having worked with many senior HR personnel as career transition clients, I have never had any one indicate it was not a unique strategy that would most often get by a candidate through the screening and on to a meeting with the decision maker. In fact one HR VP of a major auto company said “I have 30 people on my team who do nothing but screen. Only two would have kept control the other 28 would have passed the candidate on to the hiring manager for the interview” Try it, you have nothing to lose as you can always work with the screener if the screener insists on a full interview but typically just the fact that you have asked key need identification questions will tip the decision in your favor.

    One you have secured the interview with the hiring manager you must answer three questions:

    1) Do you have the experience, skills and successes to meet the requirements for the position and can you show me clearly, concisely and convincingly that is the case.

    2) Will you fit in? Culture, management style, environment.

    3) Are you the least risky candidate-This is most often ignored by candidates but is often a key consideration-That is why companies will use recruiters, use group interviews, and why it is often difficult for a hiring manager to make a decision.

    Address all three and you will be many steps ahead of the competition.

    Taking Control of the Interview:

    Given how difficult it is to secure an interview you cannot squander the opportunity. It used to be that one in five interviews would lead to a job. The number is now 1 in 19.

    You want to open the formal part of the interview responding to this question. “Tell Me About Yourself”. Even if the interviewer does not ask, very early suggest “Would it make sense if I spent a few minutes giving you an overview of my background?

    This is where you present your branding statement. Followed by a listing of 4 or 5 core competencies with a one line achievement statement for each. You then ask, “which would you like to discuss first?” You are now in control. What follows is a discovery process to confirm the most important core competencies to address.

  2. Lorin Kleinman says:

    That’s good advice. Thank you! One thing I’d add is that if you’re interviewing with a nonprofit, that organization’s 990 will be available on guidestar. It’s a very helpful resource pre-interview – not least because it will say how much the highest-paid employees make.

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