The Procurement Job Interview: How to Stand out from the Pack

“You shared a lot of good information during your interview, but are you “staying remembered”?

Speak to any job candidate about their interview process and they will inevitably share their concern or frustration about the length of time it takes them to move forward in the interview process. Most of the time, they moved quickly from the phone screen/first interview stage only to arrive at the dreaded “dead silence zone,” a land of maximum waiting and minimal feedback.

At this point, they send emails, leave cheery voice messages and try to bond with receptionists, interns, recruitment coordinators and any living person who picks up a phone. They have diligently mailed a crop of insightful, highlighted articles with an attached insightful, PostIt note. They may have even robo-dialed an external headhunter, who is pulling their hair out trying to achieve human contact with their key search committee contact. Understandably, this is a frustrating and challenging period for a candidate, but their strategy for staying visible is most likely on-point and appropriate.

What many candidates don’t realize is that one of the most important pieces of candidate follow up happens when they are still sitting in the interview. Yes, you read this counterintuitive point correctly. You see, many candidates operate under the optimistic assumption that their candidacy will be discussed immediately after the interview. While some thoughts or emails are most likely shared, extensive feedback and discussion sessions may not happen for a few days or a week. If the candidate is in consideration for a more senior level position, it might be even longer. Believe me, I don’t raise this point to infer that recruiters are not being efficient or focused, running the risk of incurring the wrath of every recruiter reading this blog post! That is not my intent at all.

As a former recruiter, I believe that sharing the reality of what happens behind the scenes in the recruiter’s world will help the candidate be better prepared to deal with post-interview challenges of memory and lapsed time. In other words, the longer it takes to schedule followup interviews and feedback sessions, the more challenging it is recall the nuances of a candidate’s background and job history. Now if I was smart, I would trademark a catchy phrase to communicate this issue. But then if I was really smart, I would have written this piece under an assumed name. There’s probably a very good chance that every recruiter with a photographic memory is going to have issue with this point. Or maybe not.

So what’s it like in the Talent Manager/Recruitment world? The recruiter you met is probably contending with a staggering amount of open job requisitions and is operating in the “lean and mean” work model. This means that while they may have technology resources (i.e., an applicant tracking system and a premium LinkedIn package!) they are light on living, breathing human help and time.

If they are not plowing through resumes, trying to identify a candidate that will make their internal client(s) happy, they are trying to commit or more likely herd said clients onto an interview schedule that will enable them to fill the open job in the current epoch. We’re not even going to discuss what happens when the open job has dual reporting relationships and multiple stakeholders, because there is a word limit on these postings. So updates and responses are limited.

Next, keep in mind that most people are distracted, multitasking, have memory challenges like anyone else and, as a result, have to deal with the “recency” effect. In other words, I remember the most recent conversation and interview and not much else without help.*

As a result, the candidate needs to manage the interview in such a way that the recruiter is able to bring the interview back to life when they go back to review their notes and the candidate’s resume at a later date. They want to be remembered and not be part of memory blur of multiple candidates.

One of the best ways, the candidate can accomplish this is to construct a brief, well-constructed story that ties together their work style, values, accomplishments and resulting career choices. By definition, a story combines information + emotion. A story for a professional setting is designed with a purpose of delivering a specific message that has the potential to motivate, inform, teach, etc.

And why are stories effective? The human brain is wired for stories. Information shared in story form stimulates the basal amygdala, the small almond shaped part of the brain that serves as central switching station. When a story elicits emotions, it triggers stress hormones (i.e., adrenaline or its neurotransmitter cousin norepinephrine ) which enable the listener to remember the information better.

When the candidate describes what and how they did something and why it’s important in a story format, it is an effective memory tool. If the teller uses sensory details, like sight, sound, touch and smell, even more details will be recalled. A candidate who shares a nail-biting, career making, tale about how their team defied time and travel challenges, trekked to out of the way locations to ensure the best price and service relationships, stands a better chance of being remembered than someone who is depending on their resume’s statistical percentages to advocate for them during the post-interview meetings.

Using stories effectively, will enable the recruiter to “carry the candidate’s message and value add” more authentically when they are ready to discuss the candidate.

So select a story wisely and vet it. Then prepare and practice it until you are sharing it in an engaging manner. Do this and you will add an effective tool to your professional tool kit.