360 degree interviews – the job candidate perspective
When you walk into an interview situation, you are probably primarily thinking in terms of the meeting to come with that hiring manager, and also with anyone else they would specifically ask you to meet with. It is easy to loose track of the fact that everywhere you look you are seeing other faces as well – potential colleagues one and all. To round out my set-up for this posting I repeat a point that has come up several times throughout this series. Technical and other specific job-related skills and experience using them are only one half at most of what this perspective employer is going to be looking for. They need to find someone who they can work with, with good interpersonal and communications skills who can fit into and work in the context of their corporate and team cultures. This potential for connecting and coming across as that best candidate, or for coming across as the wrong choice is what this posting is about and my focus here is on that larger community you walk into and how you relate to and interact there. This posting is about taking the laser focus off of the hiring manager to connect and communicate more widely as well.
I have worked with several organizations that include staff members who are in effect walking, breathing living histories of the organization. I know I wrote of one of these long term employees in an earlier posting – Marge, and how she had been there on the job over 25 years. One of the many positions she had held over those years was front desk receptionist. I can think of two places I have worked with where the CEO always liked to stop by and chat with their front desk receptionist after an interview to find out what they thought of the candidate. Was he abrupt and dismissive, or preoccupied? Was she relaxed and friendly? Did he ask questions and listen? Was she there on time and look comfortable? One of these CEO’s had been there a number of years and that receptionist had been the first person they had met when arriving for their job interview too. The other CEO simply saw her receptionist as being a particularly good judge of character. Meeting with these receptionists was part of their standard interviewing process, even if not formally announced as such to the candidates. When you walk in the door – when you are in the elevator on the way up or in the parking lot and still outside the building you are potentially being interviewed.
(As an aside, consider the following possibility. You are concerned you are running a bit late and you see one parking space left in the company parking lot. You cut off another car to get it and see the look of frustration in the other driver. You go into the building and find yourself sitting in the reception area waiting for your meeting when that other driver walks in. Would you want to find out that you were going to be meeting with this person as one of your key interview meetings?)
Every encounter is and should be considered to be an interview opportunity. This does not mean 360 degree stage fright opportunity. This means relaxing and being friendly and open, it means listening and asking questions and presenting the best of who you are and of what you have to offer in all directions.
If you relinquish that parking space and come in a minute or two late apologize and say you found a spot in the back of the lot and that you are impressed by how active the business is. If you recognize that other driver and they recognize you, as being the driver who gave them that parking space that would be a corporate fit plus for you and at worst, you would be given allowance for having to deal with the difficult parking situation.
Always ask for business cards when you are more explicitly interviewing and follow up on these meetings with targeted follow-through emails, citing at least one point specific to your conversation with that person. If you find yourself really talking with others, get their names and mention them in your follow-through to the hiring manager.
“I got to speak for a few minutes with Marge, your receptionist and several other employees while waiting to meet with you and I really appreciated that opportunity. I can only add that I am tremendously impressed by how friendly and cordial your workplace is and how much fun it would be to work with XYZ, as well as finding it professionally rewarding.”
No, I would not recommend using that wording, but the point holds. You can gain real insight from any and all of your encounters and conversations when going for an interview and you offer insight into who you are too and every time and in every encounter. You also, I add, do not always know which encounters and conversations that you enter into might carry what weight as you are evaluated as a candidate and a potential colleague.
I presented 360 degree interviewing from the candidate’s perspective in this posting and tomorrow I am going to turn the table around and look into this approach from the hiring manager and HR perspective.