Do you always feel like you come in second place at interviews? It’s not that you fail dramatically, but you find yourself in the position of first or even second reserve on repeated occasions. If this happens regularly, you may be more frustrated than you would be if were just rejected outright: you expend far more energy and effort, only to receive the same negative outcome. If you find yourself in this agonizing situation, then you probably need to stop and do the following reality checks to see if there are any issues or errors in your approach.
1. Ask Yourself Why You Are Really Coming in Second
The time for speculation is over. After every interview, make sure to gather detailed feedback as to why you did not succeed. Phone or write to the hiring manager, HR manager, or whoever it takes to get good, reliable, and honest feedback. Try and establish what qualities the successful applicant had that you didn’t have. At the very least, get some commentary on your strengths. List all feedback on a spreadsheet after every unsuccessful interview and see if you can spot any specific trends or weaknesses that you can address.
2. Consider How You Come Across at Interview
Once again, you can establish this from employer feedback, but you could also do this by perhaps videoing yourself answering interview questions and then playing it back, perhaps with some trusted friends present to see how well you are coming across. You might see some quite obvious flaws in your technique which can be addressed. For example, maybe you sound flat and disinterested or appear to lack conviction and confidence. This reality check can potentially give you some tips on how to seriously improve your technique going forward.
3. Ask Yourself Whether You Need to Lower Your Sights
You may need to take a look at the wider marketplace to see how competitive the area you are applying in actually is. Try and establish how many applicants there are per position in your field. Are we looking at 5 or 50 or 500? Is the industry downsizing, meaning the market place is flooded with talent? It may become clear that the odds of success of your current strategy are unacceptably low, given the market situation. You may need to make changes, such as lowering salary expectations, applying in less competitive fields or sectors, or going for less senior/exciting roles, with a plan to progress once you’ve secured employment.
4. Consider Whether You Need to Improve Your Closing Technique
In competitive interview sectors, there is rarely one stand out performer, but a selection of three or four closely weighted performers with different combinations of skills which make them weak or strong in certain areas. The difference between first and last place might be quite small in terms of perceived competency. One way you can differentiate yourself in these hotly contested situations is by adopting a powerful closing technique to help you get over the finishing line. During the course of the interview, you need to be like a CSI detective: go into forensic detail to try and find out the business’s or department’s key ‘pain points’ and the skills they really see as most valuable to their current strategy.
Once you know what those true skill differentiators are, you must accentuate the specific skills you have that can address their specific pain points. Find out what their dreams are and make yourself sound like the answer to their prayers. That’s “closing.” You can find plenty of advice on the Internet on sales-related closing techniques, which are crucial in a closely fought job contest.
Deploying some or all of these technique as appropriate should increase your chance of securing first place at interview.
Good luck at your next interview!