The Interview Is Not a Chat But Trust Building

The Interview Is Not a Chat But Trust Building

Interview or just a chat?

Even if you’re told the interview is just an informal chat, don’t believe it. The interview is a business transaction whereby both parties are exploring the opportunity to initiate a work relationship. But if you stop and think about what is at the core of that potential future work relationship, the logical answer is mutual trust. Yes, we all agree that the interview is a process whereby the employer wants to determine whether you have the skills that employer is looking for, and if so, whether you’d be good at them or just average, whether you could solve work-related issues, whether you’d be well accepted by your peers—meaning, whether you’d fit into the organizational culture—and so forth. The employer knows there are other options and so reviews other applicants. But the candidate, too, knows there are other options and can explore other prospective employers. Above all, though, both parties are asking themselves—actually during the interview process—whether they can trust each other.

Mutual trust and confidence

This basic concept of mutual trust and confidence was solidified by the legal system in the distant past when it referred to the employment relationship between employee and employer carried an understanding that there is an implied obligation between the two parties to behave in a way that does not undermine that mutual employment relationship. Simply put, both parties should have each other’s back. This means that each party is expected to trust the other.

What does trust mean?

If you asked people how they interpret trust and what trust means to them, you’d get many and various answers. I’ve tested this numerous times when presenting to large groups, and the answers have clearly demonstrated to me that trust means different things to different people. For me, trust means you do what you said you’d do. On one hand, similar to the establishment of a personal reputation, trust is not something someone can establish instantly; it takes a long time to establish one’s trustworthiness because trust is based on behavior that is cumulative and over time. On the other hand, trustworthiness can be destroyed in an instant.

How to evaluate—and demonstrate—trustworthiness during an interview?

An easy way for an employer to test a candidate’s trustworthiness is via the common and mostly dreaded interview question, What are your weaknesses? I have never met anyone who likes that question. Here the employer is testing the candidate’s honesty and, thereby, trustworthiness. A good answer here is to talk about an occurrence in the not too distant past—something that is common and plausible wherein the candidate admits failure but then claims to have been smart enough to learn from it and by now has so well fixed it that others ask for his advice. This is a turnaround tactic that works in most cases.

In a job interview, the candidate should give several examples whose common thread shows honesty, dependability, reliability, and credibility. They all lead to trust. Conversely, the candidate, too, should look for those same qualities in the prospective employer. Mutual trust will lead to a long-term employment relationship.

Can You Describe Your Supervisor’s Personality?

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

I know from personal experience that when I reported to a boss I was aligned with ideologically and who trusted me, I performed very well and kept getting promoted and promoted. But there were other bosses with whom those alignments just were not there, and after a while we separated—at times voluntarily and at other times involuntarily. I’m certain my situation was not unique and that many readers have had similar situations. Why is that? Why is it possible that the same person can be considered a superstar by one supervisor and incompetent by another? After all, people don’t typically change so drastically overnight.

Are personal biases a part of work relationships?

It is known that hiring managers hire people like themselves. Logically, it’s easy to explain. In marriages, they say opposites attract; but that’s not so in work relationships and it would probably take a psychologist to explain the phenomenon. I know that managers each have an agenda. In fact, they have two. One is the business agenda, which good managers share freely within the department and perhaps outside that manager’s area of responsibility; but then, the manager also has a personal agenda. That one is kept secret because it includes personal biases and prejudices and subjects governed by law. Such a secret agenda is taboo and kept deep inside managers’ minds. If revealed, it could cost them their jobs, and managers know it. But at times, evidence of those biases and prejudices surfaces, often bringing along victims.

Job candidates should try finding out during the interview what the future boss is really like.

Many people go to the interview with a mind-set similar to that of a victim taken in for interrogation. The outcome of the interview is very important to the candidate—to the point that he behaves submissively and meekly. But this should not be. If hired and the relationship with the boss turns out not to be conducive to a good future work relationship, the outcome will be separation. In such a case, the boss is typically the one who stays on. Therefore, the best move the candidate can make during the interview is to try to uncover the interviewer’s personality. That’s not an easy task, because the hiring manager is in control. But with a few probing questions, perhaps at least a few hints could be revealed. Here are some example questions:

  • Can you tell me about your management style and philosophy?
  • How long have you been in this position?
  • What did you do before that?
  • Have the members of your staff been in their present positions for a long time?
  • What is your communication style?
  • How often do you hold staff meetings?

Perhaps during the interview the hiring manager will reveal even more about his style. Many hiring managers are good actors, and what one sees in the interview may be the opposite of what happens in reality once the candidate is actually on the job (have you heard of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?), but my point here is that the more the candidate can find out during the interview, the better able that candidate will be to make final decisions about accepting the job if offered. My own experience has been mixed. How about yours?

The Benefits of Working with a Career Coach

The Benefits of Working with a Career Coach

Use a professional to advance your career

Coach or counselor

I received a phone call from someone asking me about the benefits of working with a career coach and whether I’m a career coach or a career counselor. I reversed the question to see whether the caller knows the distinction between the two terms. As expected, the caller did not. But that caller was not in the minority, because almost everyone uses the two terms interchangeably. In fact, there are even more such terms: career consultant, facilitator, mentor, and even manager-as-coach.

Marcia Bench in her book Career Coaching: An Insider’s Guide describes in detail the nuances of each term. However, for practical purposes and for the majority of people, the only question that counts is whether any of those people who hold the various titles can help clients get jobs or assist them with career changes. Of course there are also many other issues that any one of these professionals can help with.

What do clients want?

Clients look at a coach and expect the person to be someone who is confident and responsive. The coach needs to demonstrate knowledge of how to maneuver between the myriad job search strategies that are out there, and the coach must be current with rapidly changing platforms in, say, social media, for example. In terms of expectations about what clients can get from a coach, many clients come with certain preconceived ideas, and so a coach must stay open-minded and often call on intuition and experience in order to produce optimal results for a client.

An experienced coach develops an eye for clients’ strengths, innate talents, and skills but at the same time has to help clients face—and overcome—weaknesses. Everyone has perceived weaknesses; some don’t see them objectively and thus can’t deal with them effectively. Here’s where a good career coach can be potentially crucial. Working with a career coach definitely reduces job search time—occasionally, quite significantly. Above all, a good career coach has to be an excellent listener and know to ask probing questions.

What is a session with a coach like?

Similar to other professionals, each coach has an individual style with which the coach feels confident and effective with clients. Many coaches are generalists, meaning that they help clients with a wide variety of topics such as résumé creation, networking, social media, LinkedIn profiles, written and verbal communications, interview preparation, and salary negotiation. As an example, my subspecialties are interview preparation and salary negotiation, which is of course not to say I don’t help clients with all the other subjects involved in career coaching as well!

While doing interview preparation, we conduct extensive mock interviews. I videotape clients for a few minutes, and then we analyze the tape together. I also provide feedback on a client’s image and make suggestions for improvement.

What is the cost?

Career coaches’ fees vary widely. Most career coaches have Web sites, but not all of them list their fees there. Why? Sessions can last anywhere from 45 minutes to three hours. Some coaches charge by session; others charge a global fee in the thousands of dollars.

My suggestion is caveat emptor: let the buyer beware—and do a thorough evaluation with due diligence. Interview a coach before handing over your money, and above all, if there’s no chemistry between the two of you, run away and find someone else regardless of the cost.