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Comparing a Job Interview Process to the Theater

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You might compare the interview process to a three act play- complete with dress rehearsal. The dress rehearsal takes place when you use either an executive search firm, employment agency, or an executive guidance firm. By using an intermediary, you can have your dress rehearsal before your actual performance with the employer. If there is some improvement or correction you can make, then one of the intermediaries is able to give you a valuable piece of constructive criticism.

Act I

The stage is set when you arrive for the interview-no matter where it is held. Let us assume that the initial interview with the employer is held at the company offices. You might consider what you are wearing as your costume for your role-wear it well.

The secretary will likely greet you, and ask you to be seated. If you are wearing an outercoat, she will probably ask if she can hang it up for you. She may even offer you a cup of coffee. If you accept, make sure you do not spill it all over yourself! A few minutes will pass, then the boss will either make his main entrance, or the secretary will escort you into the inner office and the action begins.

Both of you will extend warm greetings, while at the same time registering initial reactions to each other. You may be thinking, "Gee, he sure sounded older on the telephone," while the employer may be registering, "He sure looks a lot older in person. I'd better check his age again." At the same time you will be taking in, and evaluating, his office-on a scale of one to ten it may rate eight, which is pretty good. In other words, in those first few seconds of initial contact human nature takes over. You will begin to size each other up. You will note whether his desk is orderly, while the employer may be noticing the "spit shine" on your shoes. This process is all part of the initial impression when meeting face to face. It is very important. If the first impression is favorable, then the subsequent steps of the interviewing process seem so much easier. On the other hand, if your appearance is negative you have an uphill battle on your hands!

The employer, no doubt, will ask you to pull up a chair. These are the "props" on the "stage." Do not grab the wrong one! Depending on the size of his office, and how many chairs he has, chair selection should not be a problem. If there are several chairs, then see where he leads you and pick a comfortable one that will place both of you in a good eye-contact position. Do not pick a chair across a table with a big pot of flowers or an ornament which could distract from the interview. Do not select a chair too far away, where both of you would have difficulty seeing and hearing the other.

Make sure the employer sits in the better of the two chairs, if they are not of equal quality. You do not want to give the impression that you are trying to dominate, no matter how slightly.

The employer may begin by making small talk. He may offer you a cup of coffee-if you have not already received one. If you drink coffee, accept it. The cup could also serve as a useful prop. Talking about the weather, or whatever, in the beginning is good. You will both be more relaxed before you get down to the subject matter at hand.

He may break the ice by suggesting that he begin the interview by telling you a little bit about the company. This is great. If you have done your homework, you will be presented with oppor-tunities to carefully communicate responses to his company scenario. You do not interrupt him, but occasionally make an intelligent comment on what he is saying. Gingerly use a few "buzz" words, but do not get carried away. All you want to do, is to let him know that you are interested in what he is saying, and that you have come well prepared.

If you want to take notes during the interview, make sure that you do not become so engrossed with your note taking that you lose all "eye contact." There is nothing wrong in holding a note pad, but use it to your advantage. Don't let it become a liability! An applicant who sits there writing all during the interview, as if he were in a classroom lecture, will likely "turn-off" the interviewer.

Another very common beginning for the interviewer to use, would be to simply say, "Tell me about yourself." Now you are "on." This is your cue to show him your stuff. Describe your background in the same basic order as your resume. Begin with your most recent experiences and background. If you begin by telling him how you worked your way through college parking cars, he might lose interest before you get down to the pertinent information.

The advantage of a "face to face" contact is that you can read the employer's face while presenting your background. If you feel you have aroused some special interest at any particular point, then try to draw subtle analogies as to how your experience relates to his needs. Undoubtedly he will interrupt you from time to time with comments or questions. Before you know it, the interview is in full gear.

What he really means is that he himself likes to talk and that the candidate is simply a good listener. There are also occasions, in this kind of situation, where the candidate will be turned down-because he did not assert himself enough. In those cases, he probably should have just interrupted and made a few points. Most interviewers fall somewhere in between. You just have to use empathy, and give your performance when you receive your cue.

Follow-Up After Act I

Depending on how and when interviews one and two are scheduled, there should be an opportunity for you to send a fol-low-up "thank you" note expressing gratitude for the interviewer's interest and time-while also expressing sincere interest in the position discussed. You might also include, in your letter, some brief reasons why your background and experience qualify you for the position. Do not be too lengthy, though. Every employer enjoys having a candidate express interest in his company and specific job opening. It is a sincere form of flattery. Also, if there are other candidates scheduled for interviews after you, a nice thank-you note keeps your name before the employer. Several weeks may pass before he completes the interviewing process, so if you were one of the earlier candidates to be considered, a timely thank-you note is a must.

One very significant error that candidates make with recruiters and employers is that they are afraid of showing too much interest! Candidates are completely wrong in thinking that it is a sign of weakness to express a high level of enthusiasm and interest in a particular job opening. The "hard to get" approach may work in some instances, but it sure does not work when trying to encourage an employer to make you the best offer. If you like what he has, tell him so! Explain why you are qualified, and how you fit what he is looking for. If you want the job, ask for it!

Act II

This is the second interview. You will now meet the rest of the "cast", so to speak. Frequently, companies will pass around a prospective employee like an hors d' oeuvre, with all the incumbent management team taking samples. You complete a day like this-and your mind becomes one big blur. If you do not immediately write down the names of the people you met, chances are you will have to call somebody's secretary the next day and ask. Everyone will be wearing their company manners, including you.

There are many advantages to talking to a lot of people from the same company before accepting a job offer. You are liable to bump into someone who gives you the inside "dope" on what is really going on. Frequently it will be someone with an axe to grind, but so what! The information you receive, no matter how prejudiced, could be helpful in making your final decision.

Sometimes you will meet several people in the first interview, and then spend most of the second interview with the boss. Each company has their own method and philosophy for hiring.

You may be invited to go to lunch with several employees in-cluding a few bosses. These lunches are guaranteed to cause indi-gestion. Just imagine, you are sitting at a table with six other people who are tearing you apart mentally, while firing pleasant little questions. Meanwhile, you are trying to come across as cool, suave, while not choking on your food!

After you have left, all of the people who interviewed you will be asked for their comments and recommendations concerning your hire. The old "fraternity rush game" again.

If your performance came off well during Act II, then you proceed to Act III. If not, then in a matter of days you will receive a "thanks, but no thanks" letter-and the play folds.


Once you have passed the first two parts or acts, you are ready for the "Grand Finale" or The Close.

But first, if you are married and the position is in upper management, before you receive an offer you will invariably be requested to attend a session-or as the employer might put it, "a social function"-accompanied by your spouse.

Employers feel that it is most important to evaluate a man's wife as well as the man himself. In some situations this is probably wise, especially at the upper management levels. Unfortunately, many have seen many potential job offers lost because the wife of the boss could not tolerate the wife of the candidate. Of course the candidate is never told, "Your wife just did not measure-up, and could never handle the social requirements which the job demands."

On the other hand, there have been occasions where the boss notices a charming wife who was just what the boss needed to be convinced that her husband was the one who should receive the job offer!

Yes, the husbands of women executive candidates are also being appraised before the final offer is made. Again, employers want to know what kind of environment their executive employees are exposed to outside of their working hours. If an employer is considering hiring a female married executive for a position which requires a substantial amount of travel, then the boss rightfully should know if the husband will be supportive of this. Where there is extensive travel involved, the spouse-husband or wife-should be interviewed. This is to prevent the employer creating a potential "can of worms." Ideally the employer should feel that the spouse is 100 percent behind the potential new executive.
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