Best Way to Conduct Casual Encounters During Interviews

If your initial interviewers have done an effective job of screening, most candidates invited back for further inter­views at your company should receive offers. Therefore, each interviewer at the company should start with the presumption that each interviewee he sees will be extended an offer.

Once a candidate is invited to a company, selling becomes a team effort by everyone at the company (whether they realize it or not). Interviewees notice how they are greeted by the receptionist, and whether their visit is expected. The respect, politeness, and good nature with which people treat one another in the hall and in their offices may have a substantial impact, consciously or subcon­sciously, on an interviewee’s decision. This intangible is part of what candidates consider the “atmosphere” at a company. So every contact an interviewee has with anyone at the company becomes a potential selling (or alienating) opportunity.

Casual Encounters interview Best Way to Conduct Casual Encounters During Interviews

If you are interviewing a candidate at your company, pay attention to where the next person the interviewee will be seeing is located. I remember consulting for a large Bos­ton law firm. As I completed an interview with a partner there, he said to me, “Let’s see, you’re supposed to talk with Sally Smith next. Let me give her a call and find out where her office is.”

He called Sally, asked where her office was and a sheepish grin came over his face as he hung up. Sally’s office was two doors down from his. Had I been an interviewee seeking a position with the firm, that incident would have dissuaded me from accepting an offer.

Also, if you haven’t met the next interviewer, take the time to do so before you bring the interviewee in. I have heard of times when a person from the company introduced himself to another person from the company, thinking that person was the interviewee. Even if you do not have enough time to meet the person before you bring the interviewee in, you can avoid being mistaken for the interviewee by introducing the real interviewee to the next interviewer quickly as you enter the office.

Besides avoiding an embarrassing situation, there is another reason to know who the next interviewer is. If you do, you will have an opportunity to talk that interviewer up to the interviewee by saying something positive about her. This simple effort gives the interviewee a favorable impres­sion of camaraderie within the company. If the interviewer does not initiate this type of discussion, the interviewee may do so and in that way use the walk between interviews to learn something about his next interviewer.

Unplanned, casual encounters can have an impact on your ability to attract a candidate. One hiring partner friend of mine tells of the time he was interviewing at a prestigious law firm in Chicago. Between interviews, he asked if he could stop in the men’s room.

The person taking him to the next interview showed him into the men’s room and waited there for him, by the sink, as my friend disappeared to attend to business. A few seconds later another lawyer from the firm came into the men’s room and, seeing the fellow by the sink holding a resume, asked if he could take a look at it. He perused the resume for several seconds and then announced, “Nothing spectacular,” handing him back the resume, just as my friend reappeared in the sink area.

Recognizing his gaff, the lawyer who had asked to see the resume tried to cover by introducing himself enthusiastically saying, “Hi, I’m Bob Jones.”

My friend shook his hand saying, “Hi, Bob, I’m nothing spectacular.”

Turned out that the law firm did think he was spectacular, and extended him an offer. My friend did not accept.

An interviewee should also recognize that every contact he has with a company is a potential selling (or alienating) opportunity. Your resume, your cover letter, the way you treat people in the personnel office or interviewers’ secretar­ies, how you handle a dinner, lunch, or other entertainment with people from the company, the discretion you use in submitting expenses for reimbursement may all have a direct bearing on how you are evaluated by the company.

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Though it’s fine to distinguish yourself in your cover letter, there is a limit to how creative you should be. One candidate sent the following letter to a prominent Los Angeles law firm:

Dear Sirs:

I realize that you probably receive at least two or three unsolic­ited resumes per week. I must, therefore, impress upon you that this particular unsolicited resume is worthy of special consideration. With that in mind, I respectfully request that you sing the remainder of this cover letter to the tune of “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean.”

When your firm requires new lawyers, must they have a Harvard degree? Is law review taken for granted? Or would you choose someone like me?

Pick me

Pick me

My zeal to work for you is true (is true).

What more, What more

To prove it what more could I do?

Top notch is my research and writing. Assignments delivered on time. I know what you’re thinking, don’t worry. Not all of my work product rhymes.

Choose me

Choose me

You’ll find I’m the one for the job (the job). At least, I have

distinguished myself from the mob.

A resume comes with these lyrics.

Included for you to peruse.

Perhaps I’ve been too informal.

I really have nothing to lose.

Call me

Casual Encounters interview 2 Best Way to Conduct Casual Encounters During Interviews

Call me

In person we really should speak (should speak)

Thank you, Thank you

I’ll contact you sometime next week.


The letter did not have its intended effect. And I don’t recommend singing your answers in an interview to the tune of “Clementine,” either.

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