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Empowering the Job Seeker

Ever experience a loss of confidence when you didn't make it to the finish line with an interview? If you believe that "job search is a two-way street", then consider these steps to take the wheel and navigate your side of the road.

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There is nothing worse than the feeling of being at the mercy of someone else’s judgment and timetable; an all too familiar sentiment shared by job seekers engaged in the interview process. Job loss can lead to a place of vulnerability as confidence wanes and financial resources are depleted. Are there ways to proactively deal with this reality, gain control and get back on track financially?   

First, take a moment to understand human behavior by considering theories detailed in the book, Self-Determination and Intrinsic Motivation in Human Behavior, by psychologists Edward Deci and Richard Ryan. Kendra Cherry in her article “Self-Determination Theory and Motivation”, www.verywellmind.com (October 7, 2019), sums up their theory as: “people feel more motivated to take action when they feel what they do will have an effect on the outcome.”

The theory speaks to both internal and external motivators and how these forces work in tandem to lead to empowerment. Here are the three basic tenets of self-determination and how they can foster success in the workplace. Use these principles of self-determination during the interview process and move to the front of the line.    

  • Autonomy-Take Control of Your Behaviors and Goals

Conventional job search advice focuses primarily on articulating your value statement to the employer. Follow that advice and start by developing your infrastructure, including résumé, LinkedIn profile, and branding statement. These are all foundational documents and tickets to the game. But have you also considered the age-old adage “looking for a job is a two-way street” and considered ways to translate that statement into actionable steps when launching a search?

First, establish a parallel path towards navigating yourside of the road. Here is how to transform your next interview experience by recognizing the power you possess in affecting the decision-making process.   

Set expectations of your future employer before the interview  

Change the dynamics of an interview by believing you have a vote in the process, then find ways to ensure your vote counts. Employers develop selection criteria for a job posting and will judge candidates based on metrics including their skills, knowledge, and attributes.

Consider: Develop a prospective employer scorecard with a personal inventory of expectations for the next job you are seeking. Assess the degree of fit the employer offers to meet your needs. It is both your right and your responsibility and represents step one in establishing a say in the matter.    

This scorecard will serve as a kind of ledger, with criteria that include your expectations regarding total rewards (base salary, bonus opportunity, perquisites,) health benefits, 401k, desired commute, and lists benchmarks important to you. It serves as a roadmap and increases the likelihood of getting what you want by simply articulating your wish list.

Here is a snippet of a sample employer scorecard enabling you to take the wheel as you navigate your way down the two-way street.

POTENTIAL EMPLOYER SCORECARD

If you are fortunate enough to get multiple offers, this scorecard can also serve as a side-by-side comparison to assist in objectively assessing all employment proposals.  

  • Connection or Relatedness-Understand the Value of Belonging and Attachment to Others

       Focus on building a relationship during the interview

While the interviewer controls the narrative, take advantage of ways to influencethe narrative and it all starts with your opening comments. You have practiced responses to questions and are primed to perform but focus on ways to convert your meeting from a performance to a conversation. This is how relationships are formed.  

Consider: Rather than politely waiting for the barrage of questions to begin, take the reins and initiate this conversation. “I appreciate the time to meet and am excited to tell you more about why my experience is a good fit. I am curious- it looks like you had hundreds of applications…what was it about mine that got your attention?”

With this one question, you have prompted feedback that could prove invaluable in setting the tone and direction of your responses. It also provides positive affirmation of why you are there and helps calm nerves as you continue the dialogue. Feeling a bit more in the driver’s seat?  

Employ the art of active listening and seek clarity for understanding.  

Job seekers sometimes refrain from asking clarifying questions for fear of appearing uninformed. However, the more you know will lead to a more informed response while also increasing your level of engagement with the speaker.    

Your next boss will be the one who represents the company’s culture. Take advantage of your time with them and probe their point of view on how they interact with their manager, direct reports, customers, etc. Their role in affecting your progressions and promotions will be significant. Why not understand their perspective right now?  

The knowledge gained from this objective exchange is critical in judging the potential offer with respect to your criteria.

       Keep the conversation going after the interview

What actions do most candidates take at the conclusion of the final interview? They ask a few rehearsed questions, thank the interviewer for their time then send a follow up note of appreciation to anyone they met. Continue that practice but PLEASE do not stop there.

Consider: There is another opportunity for feedback before you exit the interview. Seize the moment! Try this question “After hearing more about my background, is there any concern about me being a good fit for this role?” Of course, you are relying on the Interviewer’s honesty, but if you never ask, you will never know.

They may give you a quick response, like “No, I like what I see”, or, if you’re lucky, they may reveal  something like “you check off most of the boxes. Your marketing skills are outstanding, but we were hoping for a bit more experience with social platforms.” Good to know.  

  • Competence-Gain Mastery of Skills to Achieve Goals

Before you leave, thank them for the time allotted for questions and inquire if you might contact them should you have additional questions.  Then, ask for the appropriate time and phone number to reach them.

You now have secured permission to keep the lines of communication open and removed the fear of stalking the interviewer. Better still, they identified the significance of social media in their marketing strategy. What a perfect topic for your follow up call!

Start to formulate a response to their feedback around your gap in skills. It may be that you are well versed with a variety of social platforms, but your experience has been limited to personal rather than professional use.

Your follow up email should include links to your personal website, Facebook page, Instagram, and Twitter accounts as samples of your “social “skills. In the email, include your intention to initiate a follow-up call to share your ideas on building their online presence.       

What if you did all the right things and still did not get the offer?

Consider: The interviewer provided invaluable feedback concerning a gap in skills. Certifications can sometimes serve as a proxy for experience. Make an investment in online courses to up your game. Some of the top-rated social media classes are offered by:  

  • Udemy
  • Coursera
  • Hootsuite Academy
  • Fiverr Learn
  • LinkedIn Learning

Sometimes one candidate says yes to an offer and then backs out. The employer may be willing to invest time in training if they recognize your willingness to learn. You may have been the alternate contender, and now have a renewed chance at the job. There are also times a secondary position is created, and your name surfaces as a possible contender.   

Even if you did not get the offer, send a thank you note to the interviewer expressing your appreciation for their interest. Next, send an invitation to connect on LinkedIn. Take advantage of the time spent and the relationship formed over the course of your meetings. Remain memorable as a candidate.  

The Bottom Line

It may feel as though the employer is holding all the cards but taking a proactive approach will increase the odds of getting the winning hand to beat out the competition. When your needs for autonomy, connection and competence are met, the chances of long-term job satisfaction increase exponentially.

Focus on the value you bring to an employer but also understand a perfect match will occur only when both parties are satisfied with the deal they are about to enter.     

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