Polite Persistence

In one of my recent posts I linked to an excellent and free eBook: Interviewing Made Easy!

When I read this eBook I thought it provided an excellent overview of how to prepare for an interview but with one exception: the section on “Closing the Interview”. In it Liz Handlin suggests that you need to close an interview in the same way you might close a sale:

It is absolutely crucial you ask the following questions:

For initial interviews: Where do we go from here? Can we set that up right now?

For final interviews: Where do we go from here? When can I start?

Don’t forget, as you have practiced your close, the employer has spent many an hour thinking of ways to strike you out. Some “strike out” statements are:

  • I still have more people to interview.
  • I will be getting back with your recruiter.
  • I will be letting you know in a couple of days.

Beware of those smokescreens. DO NOT be fooled into thinking you will get the next step. If you don’t set up the day, date and time of your next interview, it probably will never happen. As a rule of thumb, attempt to get the next step 3 times.

“Wait a minute,” I thought, “doesn’t this just make you look needlessly aggressive and/or desperate?” And then, despite knowing that massive broad-brush generalisations are bad, I concluded “Well it might work in America but not hear in the UK”.

I think most people would agree that the British can be guilty of being too reserved. Imagine you order a ceasar salad in a restaurant and the chicken is dry and overcooked, the lettuce is limp, the croutons are stale and there is hardly enough dressing. When the waiter asks you if everything is ok here are two archetypal responses:

  1. American: No. This is awful. The chicken is dry, the lettuce is inedible, the croutons taste like they have been sitting in the open for two weeks and also I was expecting some dressing. Replace it now and don’t expect to bill me for it!
  2. Brit: Lovely thank you.

So was my natural reaction to the idea of “closing” an interview just another case of excessive British reserve?

To test this out, one evening in bed, I asked my girlfriend if she’d mind doing some role-play with me. I don’t think that acting out the closing stages of a job interview was quite what she was expecting but she kindly went along with it anyway. We tried it both ways round so that we both got to see how it felt to be the interviewee and the interviewer. When I played the role of interviewee I felt like the pushiest person on earth as I repeated my request to set a date for the next interview round three times. But amazingly, when I played the part of interviewer, it didn’t seem that pushy at all. What’s more, after the third request, I felt suddenly very inclined to just give in and let the candidate through to the next stage.

My conclusion then is that I have been guilty of showing too much British reserve and that sometimes being politely persistent is indeed the best approach to take.


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