Imagine yourself on a tightrope stretched across the Grand Canyon. Your feet wobble a bit. Your breath catches if you glance down.
Job search is like that. One false move and POOF you hired the wrong person. Or POOF you said the wrong thing and you didn’t get the job. What a tough spot for either party!
A client, we will call him John, had been President of a medium sized company until he was suddenly a job seeker. He had hired plenty of people in his day. Now he was on the other side of the desk. Through networking he found an opportunity as a CFO in a larger company, a job that sounded perfect. Now the tightrope adventure begins!
Interviews went great. John established his credentials then rapport with the boss and the team. The equity partners loved him. Lots of psychological testing and structured interviews.
Final stage: a full day with an industrial psychologist, the HR leader and a representative from the equity partners.
Here is the tightrope.
Hiring mistakes are costly especially at the senior level so we understand the need for extra caution before bringing a key player on board. Yet this extra caution makes for a complicated candidate experience. It could scare away candidates. It is not a question of intimidation but hassle. How much hassle will candidates tolerate before the best candidates back out? The tightrope.
We needed a strategy to handle this tightrope, to respond to the barrage of psychological tests (at least 5 hours’ worth) then the full day psychological interview. We role played a little, talked through the possibilities and polished some stories for behavioral interview questions.
Finally we decided we couldn’t completely anticipate the day so we settled on this advice:
- Be honest. If you are the right person then they will hire you. If not, no amount of faking it or guessing during psychological testing will make a difference.
- Stay calm. Take a breath. That is what the best tightrope walkers do!
- Be the best version of yourself. Everyone is clearly watching your every move. Be nice to the receptionist and the gardener. Don’t pick your nose or put your feet on the desk (real things candidates have done, honest!)
- Be prepared. Take the pre-tests available online. Just Google the name of the assessment and you will find loads of consulting firms offering free, no obligation pre-tests. This way you will be aware of what the company will see. Not that it changes anything but preparation helps with confidence.
- Get a good night sleep. You should be rested and clear headed prior to the intensity of a full day psychological interview.
John called me that evening on the way home from the full day session. He was exhausted but exhilarated. When he arrived they presented him with a case study. He had one hour to understand a complicated scenario and create a 30 minute PowerPoint presentation explaining potential solutions. One hour was not enough time.
The presentation triggered a two hour discussion about business options revealing how John approaches business problems, involves other people and utilizes business data. Afterwards they told John that he got further in the case study than most people, probably a nod to his previous financial experience and his overall experience running a business in his last position.
The afternoon was spent in a series of behavioral interviews. “Tell me about a time when…” and “We have this scenario. What would you do?” Our prior preparation helped here because John had stories ready. He felt most comfortable with this section.
Bottom line: John got the job! He walked carefully across the tightrope by being himself, being prepared and staying calm. I’d like to think I helped… maybe a little! He also brings to his new job a better appreciation for the candidate experience. Maybe he can help someone else walk the tightrope in the future!