Sunday, July 24, 2011

Banish Bitter and Blotchy From the Interview (Sales Call)

Several years ago, I sat at my company's booth at a large job fair. I was alone covering the booth as the other members of my recruiting team were out on a break.  

A job-seeker approached the booth:  a gentleman with salt-and-pepper hair, dressed in a nice navy suit, red silk tie, polished shoes, equipped with a leather portfolio and linen paper résumés.  On the outside, he looked great, quite hireable.  On the inside:  he was a mess and he proceeded to over-share with me (A career-long occupational hazard for me:  I'm a recruiter, among other SME gears, yet candidates more often than not mistake me for their therapist, whether it's on the phone or in person.).  "Hi!" he chirped, slapping one of his résumés on the booth counter.  "Need an accountant?"  I smiled back.  "Not at the moment.  However, I'd be happy to have your résumé in the event we need one in the future."  

His face fell, and he was visibly annoyed.  "It's because I'm 53, right?" he insisted.  He shook his head.  "It's why my boss let me go, and it's why I can't get hired:  no one wants to hire anyone over 40."  He began to walk away before I could even respond.  Usually, I'd let bitter-and-blotchy candidates like him go their miserable way.   The first candidate contact is like the first date:  candidates are (theoretically) on their best behavior, and hiring bitter-and-blotchy usually doesn't end well.   But he was clearly discouraged and clueless, not a winning combination.

"Excuse me, please don't walk away," I requested.  The job-seeker turned around, surprised.  "Are you talking to me?" he asked.  "Yes please, if you don't mind:  I can't leave the booth right now," I replied.  He came back to the booth, clearly curious.  

I leaned over the booth counter.  "I know why you're not getting hired.  Are you interested in hearing why?"  He nodded.  "You need to move past how your last boss hurt you, and let it go," I confided.  "And if you can't do it yourself, ask someone you trust to help you work on it, so you won't ever speak to a hiring manager like that again."  He was a bit stunned.  "I am hurt," he said, sadness replacing anger.  "I know," I replied gently.  "And it's stopping people from hiring you."

He paused for a moment.  "I've never had a recruiter speak to me like this before. I appreciate the feedback, but why are you telling me this?"

I smiled.  "Because you have a great résumé, and I just hired a 73 year-old last week."  

He laughed, and thought for a moment.  "Well, I have a good friend who's a Vice President of Human Resources:  I could buy him a cup of coffee and talk it through with him."

"Perfect, please do!"  I said,  extending my hand.  "Good luck."  He shook my hand.  "Thank you for telling me."  he said. "I appreciate your honesty."

I know what you're thinking:  how could this candidate not know the impact he was making with his bitter-and-blotchy presentation and baggage, especially spewing his grief and anger all over a hiring authority / decision-maker?   It's pretty simple:  a lot of folks are so verklempt over their losses and challenges that their feelings are driving the bus instead of their common sense and sales ability.  They're not focused on consciously managing their changes.

Change Management SME's emphasize that in order for people to effectively manage change, they must achieve some closure with the past and let it go, so they can move forward and resiliently embrace change.

Whether you're selling yourself in an interview, or selling your product to a potential customer (same thing in my reckoning),  leave the past and the bitter-and-blotchy attitude behind:  so you can move forward, close the sale and build your success.


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