There is a slightly inappropriate analogy floating around that interviewing is quite like dating. And while there is an obvious correlation with both instances of meeting strangers, interviewing in the small business world tends to lean more on the emotional aspect.
When recruiting for small IT departments of start-up software companies, we often hear hiring managers say things like, “we want the right culture fit”, or that this person will be joining the “family” at work. Truthfully, these environments have way more human interaction, and often with much higher stakes.
So what is the most honest way to interview for such a position? The difference is a shift in thinking from “I am interviewing for x company”, to “I am meeting x person to see if we can work together long term.” Essentially the same thought process as a first date. You are not selling yourself, you are educating someone on an experience.
Here are some excellent pieces of interviewing advice, as given to a girl once weary of first dates:
“Just be yourself!”
This is probably the most generic piece of advice, and often the first to be dismissed. But let’s go there anyway. A first encounter in either instance is all about letting your ‘essence’ come across. The worst thing to do is pretending to be someone you are not. Instead, let the things that make you essentially yourself shine through. It will be your distinguishing factor, and something the other person can sink their teeth into. It will pull you out of the sea of other candidates, and that’s when the manager asks to show you around, and your date orders another glass of wine.
The Warm fuzzies are the currency of dating and interviewing. Both parties can dish out warm fuzzies – little doses of flattery and adulation. These “gut feelings” are something you have to trust, as long as you know what you’re looking for. Use these as a gauge for understanding the bigger picture of the situation. If you’re being bombarded with information about Friday BBQ’s and bring your dog to work, make sure it isn’t a smoke screen for a distracting environment.
“Take the Lead”
You have to understand that not everyone is great at leading an interview. You may find yourself sitting in front of a team of developers and they have no idea where to start. Interviewing a candidate is often just as hard as being on the other end of the table, so have questions in mind for them, or even offer leading questions as simple as, ‘do you want to know more about me?’
“Don’t Badmouth the Ex.”
No one wants to hear how your current job sucks in an interview. Do you start talking about your ex on the first date? NO! When you sit down in front of a potential partner or manager, the first thing they do is start thinking of you in that context. They are already thinking 4 steps ahead, to when you have been working there for 6 months and the honeymoon is over. Are you questioning their management skills? Are you overly critical? If you start badmouthing your old manager, you have already badmouthed the person you’re speaking to.
The psychologist Dr. Stanley Krippner distinguishes between self-esteem and self-confidence: “Self-esteem reflects what you think and feel about yourself . . . it might be based on inflated personal myths rather than actual experiences. Self-confidence reflects what you think and feel about your abilities.” Self-confidence is an important part of that first impression – more than what you’re wearing or what’s on your resume. Be early and be prepared, and your self-confidence will follow.
“Do your homework”
It is almost impossible NOT to look up your first date on every social media possible (old Myspace and Tumblr included), so why not do the same homework before your interview? Use your resources beyond their website; check out any blog posts, news articles, and if possible – talk to someone who has worked there. Can you find where the hiring manager went to school? Do you recognize anything on their Facebook you can connect with? This type of preparation will be the most important thing to boost your self-confidence, and rise above any other candidate.
Just as dating has evolved a lot in the past few years, so has interviewing, albeit at a slower pace. But who’s to say that the trend won’t correlate into the interviewing world? Perhaps in the near future, you can swipe left on candidates and open positions. But for the time being, let’s bring our guards down a bit. If we start to view the interview as a first step to beginning a relationship, we can take one step closer to finding that perfect workplace.