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Interview Performance: In Transition Candidate Versus The Employed Candidate

Have you ever wondered if being in-transition makes you less attractive in an interview?  The answer may be “Yes”, but not for the reasons you may think.

My colleague Marcia Ballinger from Ballinger | Leafblad and I were having coffee and we got on the topic of interviewing.  She shared some amazing insight into how in-transition candidates effectively derail their chances during the interview.

Marcia has submitted many in-transition candidates for her clients’ consideration because they have the right skills and experiences that make them attractive to a client – regardless of their employment status.  Also, Marcia’s firm has sat in interviews as an observer for the past five years, so she has seen both types of candidates in action.

She noted distinct patterns of behavior from the in-transition candidates derailed their chances for the role because they made themselves an ‘outlier’ compared other candidates – but in the wrong direction.

Much like that old joke about when you and buddy are being chased by a bear, you don’t have to run faster than the bear, just your buddy.  When it comes to hiring, the candidate selected is not the best at everything, they are simply better than the other candidates.

Here are the traits that Marcia has seen from in-transition candidates are going to get you caught by the bear.

  • They talk more and listen less.
  • They are very quickly convinced that an opportunity is “perfect” for them, even when they don’t have all the facts. Marcia said that she frequently has in-transition candidates proclaim that they are ‘perfect’ for a position, even before they have seen a job description.  (Writer comment: For an executive position, these can be literally ‘million dollar’ decisions given the potential impact of the executive on a business.  Who makes million dollar decisions with no information?)
  • They lean forward.
  • They don’t always wait for the speaker to finish answering the question.
  • They are glib, surface, and less “thoughtful.”
  • They talk faster, as though they are trying to “squeeze” more in.
  • They seek to persuade, not to understand.

Having interviewed during my own transition, I’ll admit to being guilty of these behaviors.  At the time I felt as though I was displaying my eagerness and interest, but now I see it was my anxious feelings shining through.

How does someone with a job behave during an interview?  Here’s what Marcia has observed:

  • These people are picky. They are choosey.
  • Instead of trying to convince, they are waiting to be convinced.
  • They are genuinely interested in learning more and investigating whether the opportunity could be a fit. But, they do not come in convinced that it IS a fit.
  • There tends to be more mutuality in the discussions with employed candidates. Employed candidates see themselves as ‘peers’, so the interview is more like two business people having a meeting.
  • For the hiring executive, it feels more like a regular meeting between a boss and a staff member, and less like an outsider, or a “salesperson.”

For you and me, these types of ‘insider’ insights are pure gold since its behavior from fellow candidates – both what’s working and what’s not.  However, Marcia made another point which I think is more relevant: The in-transition candidates’ behaviors arise from their circumstances and build over time; therefore, they need to work harder to suppress these behaviors.

The employed candidate comes into the interview with the ability to walk away, which gives them a position of strength.  They feel less overall risk and certainty no reason to push or persuade.  This is why the discussion is more relaxed and interactive.

Can an in-transition candidate give themselves the walk away power?  While perhaps not at the same level of the employed candidate, you can get close if you go into an interview with this mindset: I don’t want to be interviewing a year from now; therefore, I need to be sure this is a job where I can truly succeed and will be retained.

If this approach helps you avoid being back in-transition in the near term, it’s a powerful motivation to help you make sure this is the right position.  (If you are at the point, either financially or emotionally, that you to just get into a role please see: The Art of Settling for Less).

My thanks to Marcia for sharing this amazing insight that will help all of us get the most out of our interviews.

Good luck today!



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