How Would Goldilocks Close an Interview?

Have you seen those new Bud Light commercials?  The ones that showcase people doing things (e.g. playing paintball, getting a waiter’s attention, showing up to a neighbor’s party, etc.) in ways that are either “too light” or “too heavy” as a way to showcase Bud Light as the beer that’s just right in terms of taste/calorie balance?  If you haven’t seen them, they’re pretty darn funny, and you can click here to view one of my favorites I found posted on YouTube.  I’m sorry to say, however, that this posting isn’t about beer.  It’s about interviewing — and about how to “close” an interview on just the right final note that will maximize your chances of getting called back.

Based on some recent conversations with clients, and a debrief of their latest interview experiences, it struck me that a number of these folks were wrapping up these meetings on notes that were either too light (soft, non-committal) or too heavy (pushy, aggressive).   So I thought it might be useful to quickly address this topic and share some suggested closing steps/statements that, at least in my experience, would tend to be most effective in the majority of situations.

To help illustrate this point, however, let’s continue following the Bud Light advertising format.  Below, you’ll find a brief list of the closing strategies that I feel tend to be either Too Light or Too Hard for the average interviewing scenario.

The “Too Light” Interview Close

1)  Not stating clearly and assertively that you’re interested in the job
2)  Not making eye contact or ending on a firm handshake
3)  Not remembering (and using) the interviewer’s name
4)  Not thanking the interviewer for their time and consideration
5)  Not sending a follow-up note or e-mail after the interview

The “Too Heavy” Interview Close

1)  Asking the interviewer “how you did” or for ANY type of immediate feedback related to your performance or offer chances
2)  Any hint or suggestion that the person may not have interviewed you properly (“Would you like me to share anything else about XYZ?”)
3)  Talking as if you’ve already been offered the job (“When hired, I promise you I’ll….” or “I look forward to working with you”)
4)  Asking for a tour of the office/facility, if they haven’t volunteered
5)  Any statement that seems melodramatic or reeks of desperation (“I really need this job” or “I’d kill for this job”)

In particular, I’ve come across a number of folks lately who I feel are violating rule #1 on the “Too Hard” list.  Several people this past week have told me that they’ve closed recent interviews with statements like “How do I stack up against the other candidates?” or “Based on our conversation, do you think I’m the right fit for the job?”  As soon as I heard this, I cringed, since I instinctively felt it was too aggressive for most interview situations in the Seattle area.  Most hiring managers, myself included, hate feeling pressured to make a decision about a person right on the spot — or to provide any strong feedback, one way or another, about a candidate’s chances of landing the job.  Most of us need (or at least want) more time to process the overall interview experience, talk to other candidates, and mull over our decisions.  So the clients of mine who used the “hard close” tactic probably didn’t do themselves any favors, I’m afraid to say.  And when they told me that this aggressive technique was recommended by some books they read, or by another career coach, my thought was that this advice was probably geared to the more in-your-face communications style I’m told is acceptable on the East Coast — versus out here in the insanely passive-aggressive Pacific Northwest.

Here in Seattle, I’m afraid to say, even a relatively innocuous-sounding comment like “Is there anything else I can share with you that would increase my chances of getting this job?” or “Did I effectively address your concerns about the XYZ issue?” can easily be taken as a backhand slight or as an implication that the manager didn’t interview you properly.  It’s a character flaw, we realize, but if you love living here in the region, you’ve got to deal with it.

So what should you say at the end of the average interview?  I believe it’s usually best to shoot for the middle ground, just like Goldilocks would.  In general, a good “balanced” close would be about 20-30 seconds long and would sound something like: “Thanks so much for your time, Matt, and while I’m sure you’ve got plenty of other quality candidates to choose from, given economic conditions out there, I want you to know that I’m sincerely interested in this job — and that based on our discussion today, I’m even more confident I could knock the responsibilities out of the park for you, if given the chance.  I hope to hear back from you soon in terms of next steps.”

Obviously, you can tailor this response to the circumstances at hand, but in general I feel this is the type of “close” that’s most effective for hiring opportunities here in the area.  It shows your respect for the interviewer’s time and states your sincere interest in the job at hand without stepping on any toes or pushing the interviewer into a corner that could hurt your candidacy.  It’s assertive, not aggressive.  So if you’re not currently winding interviews down with a statement along these lines, you might want to try it, going forward!

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7 Responses to “How Would Goldilocks Close an Interview?”

  1. Mark: Ha ha — sounds like you’ve definitely seen the ad in question, given your “potato salad” comment! As for having a checklist to go through at the end, that certainly could be a smart idea, although the “close” of an interview doesn’t need to be all that complex. Literally, if you just memorized my suggested statement (or a version of it) and practiced it 5-10 times, you’d probably have it. And as for your belief that my suggested closing strategy might still be a bit too light, and one could push a little harder at the end of an interview, that’s certainly possible — especially if the type of position and your own personality would support a more assertive close. As I shared with some other commenters below, however, I’d still stop short of asking for a commitment or direct feedback of any kind from the hiring manager. I’ve just seen it backfire too many times, and if you really did knock it out of the park, the interviewer will usually let you know without you having to prompt them…

  2. “I brought potato salad…” (pulled from the giant nostril) Twisted, but what makes us all watch Bud commercials.

    Matt, I agree with your light/heavy assessments. Would you suggest having a short ‘closing checklist’ in mind? Eye contact, handshake, etc., definitely interested, and next steps, time frame?

    It feels a tad light to only express definite interest in the position without fanning the flame a bit more. I also wouldn’t want to make the hiring manager uncomfortable, but I would want to leave them with a clear impression I am fully engaged and thorough.

  3. Kirsten: Thanks for your input — and just to clarify, no, I wouldn’t say somebody absolutely WON’T or COULDN’T get a job if they were to use some of my “too heavy” closing techniques, like asking directly for feedback on their interview, but that there’s a STRONG CHANCE that they could alienate a Seattle interviewer by doing so — which would make this approach somewhat risky. As Jim pointed out below, the one big exception to these guidelines would be sales professionals, who are usually expected to be more aggressive in the “closing” phase, but for general professionals in transition I wouldn’t recommend you come on too strong (or too light) at the end of an interview, as stated in my article. I know a half-dozen people, minimum, where the evidence suggests they “blew the deal” by being too direct at the end of the interview and putting the employer on the spot. So that’s why I thought it might be wise to provide some thoughts and guidance on this issue. As always, though, it’s just my opinion. Others like yourself, with a recruiting background, certainly could disagree or have another point-of-view on the matter…

  4. I am so surprised by your thoughts on “too heavy”, it blows me away! I say yes on affirming my interest in the job at the conclusion of an interview, yes on the firm hand shake and eye contact. But are you saying that you won’t get the job if you ask a question about your chances? I am quite open to an interviewer’s cautious ‘ we’ve got xx people to left to interview ‘ or ‘I’ll circle with the rest of the team to gather feedback’. Isn’t the question another way of affirming interest?

    When I am the interviewer I’m quite comfortable saying to an inquisitive candidate “you’ve got a great background, I can’t answer your question right now since I need to evaluate all the candidates understanding all the trade offs.” “We’ll also need to consider the issue/missing experience we discussed that might be a challenge but should know by ____”.

    I’m a west coast person through and through so you can’t blame my perspective on an east coast culture…

    Kirsten

  5. Jim: In my opinion, the same philosophy (minus the firm handshake, of course) would work for a phone interview, although you’d probably want to tone it down slightly, since most phone interviews don’t get too deep into the actual nature of the job itself (they usually are more focused on resume fact-checking) so it would be weird to say something like “Based on what I’ve learned about the job, I’m now even more interested” or something along those lines. So be sensitive to this issue. Additionally, you’re right, a sales interview might be the ONE exception where you could be a little more aggressive in your close — for obvious reasons — but even then, I’m not sure I’d go for the throat, at least out here in the Pacific Northwest. I just don’t find that putting hiring managers on the spot, to make an immediate decision, usually generates good results. Better to play it safe and walk the middle road, in the majority of cases.

  6. A couple of quick questions, would the same type of “close” work for a telephone interview as well? Also, would your comments be true for a more aggressive role, for example sales?

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Useful Fridays: Nerves and Being Memorable « Why Can't I Find a Job? - August 26, 2011

    […] Ending an interview is as hard as writing a fabulous concluding paragraph for a 5-paragraph essay on The Yellow Wallpaper. For advice, try Closing Interviews: Adding a Personal Touch by Matt Youngquist of Career Horizons. He explains how to leave a positive impression that shows dedicated interest in the job (and Mr. Youngquist also seems to have experienced Personality Suspension). Don’t forget to follow his link to one of his previous articles, How Would Goldilocks Close an Interview? […]

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