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Is It Time To Rethink Your Approach To Interviewing?

Here you are again. You made it to the final round of interviews only to find out that you won’t be receiving an offer. It’s hard not to feel like a kid not being picked first for dodgeball in days gone by. It’s hard not to take it as a punch to the gut. You might think that you had all the credentials and required experience. You might feel like the job description was written specifically for you. It might have seemed like the interviews went well with all signs pointing to you being the one. So, what might have gone wrong?

You might be wondering if it is time to work on your job-hunting game and you’re darn straight it is. Looks like you need to do some tough self-evaluation and self-work. But, you might think, “it can’t be me…it must be them.” Yes, you may be right. However, you’ve made it this far in your career by learning from tough experiences. This should be no different. Take a deep breath, nestle into that office chair or couch and let’s find out what you can do differently next time around.

Ask for candid feedback from employer, interviewers, and hiring managers.

I’m always surprised by how few runner-up candidates take the step to debrief with the hiring team. If it is because you’re nervous, it’s okay. That’s natural. I’m a fan of at least attempting to get feedback. Given today’s human resource practices, you may find the commentary brief or nonexistent. However, it still is worth a shot to gather data points that may help you improve. You’ll never know unless you try. I’ve had candidates receive critical insight from these conversations.

For instance, I worked with a ten-year Facilities Engineer who was attempting to secure a management- level position at an operator. He was personable and very knowledgeable. When we began his coaching, he’d just been the runner up for a management position for the third time. I could tell he was losing hope of moving into a manager slot. In fact, he said, “I might not be management material.” It was heartbreaking to hear, but a very real feeling for him.

I prompted him to ask for legitimate feedback from the interviewing team. The feedback he received was enlightening for him. They pointed out his consistent use of “I” rather than the use of “We” in the interviewing process. The language that he was using to describe his experience highlighted his singular contribution to his employer, but it gave the interviewing team the impression that he wasn’t a team player. While it seems like an insignificant item, it was a crucial communication adjustment. He was, in fact, a big believer in teamwork, but thought that an interview was simply about his contributions. I coached him on how to relay both his personal achievements and incorporate the achievements of his team in future interviews. Practicing these examples, provided him with the confidence and communication tools to navigate future interviews for management positions.

The interview process is never about you.

Yes, the company you are interviewing with has a vacancy to fill and needs someone to fill it with. You have been selected to sit in the interviewee seat at the table. While you might think this means that the company wants to know all about you, that isn’t oftentimes the case. The truth is that interviews are always about the company and not about you. It might sound harsh, but when you really think about it from both perspectives, it isn’t. Companies hire people to help solve problems, you want to work in a position where you can bring your experience and approach to the table to help solve those problems. If you don’t know what challenges the role you are interviewing for encompasses, how can you be sure that it is a position you will be interested in, and, furthermore, that you will be the right person for the job?

If you aren’t thinking about interviews in this way, it might be time to shift your perspective to thinking about how you can uncover their issues and goals rather than selling your experience just because it is what you know.

I think this shift in approach to interviewing can be just the ticket if you find yourself in the second place slot repeatedly. Often, it’s because you were unable to express to the interviewing team how you can help them address their specific needs.

I had a Regulatory Technician that came in second yet again in her job search. I asked her, “What challenge was the firm facing that they needed this new hire to solve?” After a few moments of blank stares, she said, “Their current technician left, so they need another one.” This answer is a common response, but is exceedingly surface level. The candidate had not taken the opportunity to ask questions that would uncover the needs of the employer during the interview. Were they having issues because the previous person couldn’t handle the unique NEPA permitting requirements for their wells on tribal lands? Did the company need someone who could handle the contentious permitting environment in the DJ Basin? She didn’t know.

The key to remember in your next interview process, it is not about simply replacing a body with another body. It’s always a layer deeper. Imagine how this candidate would have approached the interview if she had uncovered the “why” and “what” the interviewing team was looking for. She could have sniper-targeted her experience to highlight why she should have the seat on their team to help solve their needs. More importantly, she would have gained valuable insights into what the actual day-to-day of the position she was interviewing for would be like beyond what little she knew from the job description. I guarantee you the selected candidate was able to make these connections.

The best interviews are those that are mutual learning processes. They are learning about you, and vice versa.

Experience or expertise only gets you a seat at the interview table, but your human element gets you the offer.

This is a tough lesson to learn for technical individuals like engineers or scientists. I’ve almost got this conversation on repeat with technical candidates from the field to corporate levels. They will undoubtedly point directly to their expertise as the rational for the interviewing team to select them. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but all the candidates they are talking to will likely have similar expertise. If an employer is seeking a Project Engineer to join their team and support their organization on gas plant design and construction projects, you can bet that you will be interviewing alongside experienced Project Engineers like yourself.

I’ll repeat it again, “Your experience only gets you access to a conversation. Whereas, who you are gets you the offer.”

Final decisions are often tied to an emotional connection between the interviewing team and the candidate. According to Daniel Goleman scientist and author of Emotional Intelligence, “In a high-IQ job pool, soft skills like discipline, drive, and empathy mark those who emerge as outstanding.” Could they envision spending their treasured time with you daily? The truth is, we all spend more hours at work than in our personal lives. For this reason, soft skills are critical to clench the offer. These emotional intelligence skills will help you stand out. If you’re finding yourself being overlooked continually, it may be time to invest time and energy into developing soft skills to leverage in the interview process. Don’t underestimate the power of vulnerability either. You might be the smartest person at the table, but don’t portray yourself as a robot. Learning to build trust and rapport with new people takes practice. Tap your mentor or hire a career coach to work with you. It’s no different than using a tutor on those tough subjects back in your school days.

Don’t be too hard on yourself, there is always a runner up in the job searching game.

Today it was your turn to grab that title. Dang it stings, but don’t wallow in the pain for too awfully long. It happens to the best of us. I’ve had far too many conversations with hiring managers over the years, who are visibly distraught trying to decide between two excellent candidates. They’ll say, “Oh dear, they are both perfect. How on earth am I to make this choice?” The hiring whole process is tiring for everyone. Perhaps that is why “hiring” rimes with “tiring.” Lame, I know, but valid.

Keep putting yourself out there and you will find the path. Take a hint from Rumi, “As you start to walk on the way, the way appears.”

How can we help?

Career paths often have twists, turns, and speed bumps that can be difficult to navigate in your search for a new job. We have been there too. Experience is only as valuable as your ability to explain it, networking is only useful if you do it, interviewing is really just a conversation. At the end of the day, everything in hiring and job hunting comes down to one thing, communication. Over the years, we have helped hundreds of professionals in the energy sector talk through difficult departures, tough cultures, job hopping, life-changing events, and just about anything else you can imagine.

We developed Iridium Helps. Since we don't represent individual candidates at Iridium, this is our way to be able to help individuals with the challenges they encounter in their job search.

The concept is simple: we are here to help you do the self-work for your work.