Archive for July, 2013

The Interview: A Mental Test Drive

July 31, 2013

What was the last major purchase you made?  A car?  A house?  New kitchen appliances?  A trip?  Something happens just before you make that bold decision to purchase.  Your mind’s eye takes over and you envision it working out and fulfilling your wants and needs.  If it’s a car you’re considering, you take a moment to envision yourself driving around doing errands, meeting up with friends and family (and seeing their reaction to your new purchase), making the daily work commute, and on the highway for a weekend get-away.  Your mind is conducting a mental test drive through those various scenarios, helping you picture how the car fits in with your lifestyle and sense of style by anticipating how you’d feel behind the wheel throughout your everyday life.

Your mind is considering many aspects of the car.  First, there are the tangible elements – its handling, responsiveness, noise, fuel economy, storage space, operating features, safety, cost, and mmmmmmm…new car smell.  At the same time, you’re assessing the intangible attributes as well – ergonomics, comfort, how it matches your personality and sense of style, and the extent to which it brings fun, excitement and pride to driving.

When interviewing for a position, candidates are the cars and hiring managers are the car buyers.  Through either a conversational approach or an interrogational method, the hiring manager is trying to learn about the candidate – both the tangible and intangible elements.  Ultimately, they’re trying to establish the extent of a fit.  Here are the primary decision-making factors that many hiring managers are contemplating while interviewing candidates:

  • Job fit – Does the candidate have aptitude, resourcefulness and wherewithal to be successful in the role?  This may be answered by probing into the candidate’s past, ferreting out examples of where the candidate excelled under similar kinds of challenges and workloads.  It can also be determined by giving the candidate hypothetical situations that are reflective of the role and seeing the candidates thought process in discussing how they’d deal with such situations.
  • Cultural fit – Would the candidate and the attitude they bring thrive in the company’s environment and act as a positive force?  Once again, delving into the candidate’s past to explore where they’ve worked and the types of work atmospheres they did well in will help to establish a potential fit.  Aside from the overall environment, the hiring manager will want to get a glimpse into how well a candidate would interact with prospective colleagues.  This can be achieved by expanding the interview team to include people who would work closely with the candidate as well as those who seem to embody the company’s culture.
  • Ramp-up – How quickly can the candidate get up to speed in the new role?  No matter the position or company, it seems that nearly every manager is under the gun to build their team and get people productive in their roles as soon as possible.  After all, project deadlines, new initiatives and customer needs don’t take a time out, waiting for managers to bring on board new hires and get them fully trained and indoctrinated into the company’s way of life.  As a candidate, you should assume that this is a hot button for every hiring manager.
  • Grow with the company – Candidates are not just hired to address the company’s current needs.  They should be looked at as the future of the company as well.  To that end, hiring managers need to plan ahead and think about how a candidate will evolve as the company evolves.  They’re assessing the extent that the candidate can adapt in an ever-changing environment, take on additional responsibilities and positively impact the direction and future performance of the company.

Each of these decision-making factors requires the hiring manager to take a mental test drive and envision what it would be like to have the candidate on board.  Yet, the most compelling candidates innately understand that their ability to influence the hiring manager’s vision will have everything to do with the final result.  In the interview process, the onus is on the candidate to make sure the hiring manager can effortlessly envision their being hired and doing well in the role.

For example, in tackling the decision-making factor of Ramp-up, this is why so many hiring managers make the cardinal sin of prioritizing domain experience over other candidate attributes.  They figure that someone who is familiar with the space will get up to speed considerably quicker and be credible in the role compared to someone from outside the space.  Of course, hiring someone from another company in the same space is no guarantee that the individual will bring the same aptitude as others.  In fact, there is no guarantee that other companies in the same space are hiring the best and brightest individuals.  Candidates, especially those who come from another space, must show in no uncertain terms how they entered new spaces in prior positions and successfully ramped up quickly to become effective and productive contributing members.

At the heart of the interview process, hiring managers are trying candidates on for size.  Based on many data points gathered, they form a vision of what it would be like to have the candidate on the team.  The most effective candidates understand this dynamic and through their own research, preparation and questions, can position themselves optimally by helping hiring managers fine tune a vision of their coming on board and working out well.  They proactively touch upon the decision-making factors, making sure hiring managers discover the data points needed to establish a vision of a strong fit.  By better equipping hiring managers to envision a strong fit, candidates raise the chances of a favorable mental test drive and ultimately buying the car.


Action items:

1.  Helping customers create a vision of buying, owning and loving a product is one of the fundamental tenants of sales.  While a hiring manager may form a positive vision on their own, the candidate must put on their sales hat and with a proper understanding of the hiring manager’s decision-making factors, proactively provide the data points needed to help a hiring manager envision a strong fit.

2.  Do the research and preparatory work to understand which decision-making factors are the greatest hot buttons to the hiring manager.

3.  During the interview, ask the hiring manager questions to help pinpoint what matters most to them in their quest to make the right hiring decision.  As a candidate, you need to tie a correlation between their hot buttons and your strengths.