Talk to a seasoned salesperson about the stakes associated with an upcoming sales call and he or she is likely to tell you something like, "If they say no, I say NEXT!" They follow their process to the best of their ability, get an answer and then either follow up on a "yes" or move on. The highest performing salespersons build an allowance for some non-starters into their activity planning, knowing that for some people the answer is going to be "No money, no worry, no hurry, no time."
The job interview is a sales appointment, but it differs from other types of sales in two primary ways:
- Many if not most individuals won't be engaging in the same level of sustained activity on a job search or hiring project as they would in an ongoing sales job. This means that each job interview is expected to have a higher likelihood of a "yes" decision.
- It contains two sellers and two buyers.
The applicant has the opportunity to sell his or her credentials, skills, knowledge, growth potential, and core values. At the same time, the applicant is determining whether this opportunity, this boss (if it's at that point in the process,) and this company will provide a fair exchange for their current skills and potential for future growth. The applicant is selling, but is also buying.
The interviewer is looking for a good match with today's open position, and may even have the opportunity to bring a human asset on board that will have outstanding growth potential. Every day, week, and month that the position is open, the company is losing productivity, and potentially missed business opportunities. Yet while it's important to fill the open slot, the interviewer knows that there is risk and hard dollar cost associated with making a hire, so while it's important for the interviewer to buy good talent, the candidate will also have to sell his or her value as part of the interview.
Varying balance in the process
The scales don't balance in the same way every time a job interview is held. Sometimes they tilt in favor of the interviewer, for positions that are relatively easy to fill or that can be held open for a while without too much disruption until a "perfect" candidate is found. But in other cases the advantage goes to the candidate, when he or she possesses skills that are scarce or highly valued in the marketplace, when he or she has a proven successful track record, or when the open position is causing operational stress within the company.
The point here is this: both parties in a job interview need to recognize that they are in both roles - that of seller and buyer. The best hire occurs when both parties see themselves as receiving something of satisfactory value in exchange for the value that they bring to the table. The hiring process sets the table for the relationship down the road, so to enter into it with a clear perception of fair exchange prepares both parties for a mutally beneficial engagement.