Archive for August, 2010

Annoying Needler, Dead Fish, and Dump ‘n’ Pray

August 24, 2010

Shortly after my wife and I got married, we joined the legions of newlyweds in that quest-for-nesting rite of passage:  house hunting.  Naturally, this is right up there with one of a handful of major life issues that is charged with emotions, sparking endless excitement, worries, second thoughts, and visions of picket fences and angelic neighbors.  There was just that tiny matter of finding a home that felt like a home – a place we could envision thriving.

We came across several potential homes, each one with its own set of distinctive attributes.  Funny, though, how influential the real estate agents were.  In fact, their influence sometimes transcended the merits of the homes, not to mention their level of self-awareness.

For example, one agent I will deem an “Annoying Needler,” wouldn’t leave us alone as we toured the house, afraid that any private conversation between my wife and I would disrupt her perfectly laid out scheme to render us spellbound by her endless superlatives.  Along with her inappropriate questions and I-know-you-better-than-you comments, she was determined to make us believe that this “cozy” house was perfect for us.  Oh yes, under her trance, it was indeed “quaint” instead of pint-sized-claustrophobia-inducing.  Actually, the house wasn’t really that small, but by the time she was done with us, it felt like a jail cell.

Another real estate agent will be etched in our minds forever.  It seemed that when we first contacted him, we were somehow imposing on his nap time.  He didn’t ask us any questions and was clearly a man of few words.  We met at the house in question and he let us in, once again, giving us the impression that he had something better to do.  He had a faceless expression, a lifeless personality, and a complete and utter disinterest in us or the home buying experience.  Somehow, the house he was “showing” seemed to take on his persona.  It seemed darker, more bland, and boring.  One of us commented, “How can we buy a home from this guy?  He’s a dead fish!”  To this day, whenever my wife and I come across a lifeless, disinterested person, we look at each other and utter “Dead Fish” simultaneously.

A friend recently told me of his home-buying experience with a particular real estate agent.  He and his wife clearly laid out their criteria:  4 bedrooms, finished basement, updated appliances, etc.  Each week, the real estate agent would deliver a folder containing all the latest homes on the market in the town they were targeting.  In it included 3-bedroom homes, a house with merely a crawl space, and a few fixer-uppers.  My friend and his wife contacted the agent and reiterated their specific criteria.  Next week, another folder arrived, once again containing an assortment of homes that had nothing to do with their preferences.  In some ways, this is worse than a bait and switch.  It’s more like a dump and pray – dump the entire inventory on them and pray that they’ll see a house they like and change their minds about their specific preferences.  Of course, that assumes there was any forethought put into this modus operandi.  Perhaps it was as simple as the agent didn’t listen, didn’t care, or was too lazy to accommodate their needs.

No, this is not an article trashing real estate agents.  Rather, when I look back at some of the reasons why candidates don’t get the job or don’t take the job, I see behaviors that hearken back to several common themes.  Just as in buying a house, interviewing for a position involves people.  We buy from people because they raise our comfort level, inject value and trust into the process, and genuinely care enough to help us attain our goal.  Similarly, an individual is offered a position because he/she has raised the hiring executive’s comfort level, injected value and trust into the interview process, and genuinely cared enough about the opportunity to envision and articulate ways to help the organization meet its goals.

A candidate that rambles endlessly in an interview isn’t winning over anyone.  Combine that with substanceless points that have no concrete backing, or outright inappropriate comments, and you’re looking at an absolute train wreck of an interview.  Professionalism and tact never made it past the front door.  Sounds similar to that Annoying Needler real estate agent.

If a candidate, who brings the competency and background necessary to do the job, comes into the interview as the Dead Fish, it doesn’t matter how strong their credentials are.  If they don’t exude of energy and interest, they’re making it impossible for the hiring manager to get excited about them and envision their fitting in.  And God forbid it should be a client facing role!

Finally, a candidate that doesn’t tailor their background and abilities to the hiring manager’s expressed needs isn’t demonstrating the preparedness, attention to detail, or listening skills required to make a compelling case.  If a candidate dumps out every tidbit of information, including those that bear no relevance to the position or interview questions, then what does that say about the candidate’s focus or professionalism?

Of course, an interview is a two-way street.  Often times, hiring executives either forget or choose to forget that they are under the microscope as well.  If a hiring manager comes off as an Annoying Needler, Dead Fish, or a Dump ‘n’ Pray, then the candidate will likely decline any offer extended accompanied by the obligatory innocuous reason, such as accepting a position elsewhere or relocating to Kathmandu.

Just as with house hunting, interviewing is right up there with one of a handful of major life issues that is charged with emotions, sparking endless excitement, worries, second thoughts, and visions of succeeding in the role and working with great people.  There’s just that tiny matter of finding the combination of people that feels right – enabling all involved to truly envision a career fit.

Action Items:

1.  It’s not about houses and companies.  It’s about people and how well we interrelate.

2.  In an interview, there’s no substitute for being engaging, exuding energy, interest, and strong listening skills.  Unless you’re swinging off the chandeliers, trying too hard and being someone you’re not, these qualities will always help your cause.

3.  Hiring managers need to envision you fitting in and succeeding, both in terms of the role and culture.  Your behavior throughout the interview process will make or break that vision.  Similarly, hiring managers’ behavior throughout the interview will leave an indelible impression on the candidate, helping them decide whether or not they can and want to work for this person and their team.