Can You Get Along With Your Next Boss?

Question: I’ve been using your methods for talking shop and about how I can be a profitable hire in interviews, and it changes the discussion dramatically. This has actually helped me reject employers who couldn’t cut it. But that’s all objective, practical stuff. After so many years of interviewing people, I’ll bet you’ve also got some methods for scoring on the interpersonal side of a job interview. If I’m not wrong, can you share a tip or two?

Nick Corcodilos: If you’ve used my suggestions for how to talk about work and how you’ll improve a company’s bottom line, then you know I’m not into interview tricks. (See “The Only Question You Need To Ask.”)

What I’m about to suggest might seem like a trick to some, but it’s actually a critical behavior in an interview: Show a manager that you can get along with him (or her).

When the interviewer asks, “Do you have any questions about this job?” ask about the interviewer. Research in social psychology shows that when people express an interest in us, we tend to like them and we tend to believe we get along well with them. While a manager should not hire anyone just because they’re likeable, the reality is that if the manager doesn’t get the sense the two of you will get along, you won’t get hired.

Be Ready To Talk About Yourself
In last week’s column, “Why Job Interviews Are An Illusion,” I pointed out that research shows managers make mistakes when they hire people because they like them. But this doesn’t mean a manager and a job candidate should not explore whether they can work together comfortably.

When the interview turns to questions about your interests, past jobs, hobbies, and so on, the interviewer is trying to get a feel for your personality. The manager wants to know if you can get along and whether working with you would be enjoyable.

Talk about yourself when the employer asks you to, but don’t go on and on about yourself. It’s important to express your interest in the interviewer as well. It’s a show of respect, and a demonstration of your interest in forming a good relationship.

People love to talk about themselves and to share their attitudes and experiences with others. Doing so forms a kind of bond between people, subtle as it may be. Promote this during your meeting—but keep this discussion balanced.

Be Ready To Ask About The Interviewer
Turn the discussion around to the interviewer. Show an interest, but don’t be presumptuous or ask personal questions. A good compromise is to create an opportunity for the manager to talk about both personal and work topics.

You can ask the interviewer:

  • What led you to work in this industry?
  • What other kinds of work have you done?
  • What company did you work in before you came here?
  • What do you find most exciting about your current project?
  • What concerns do you have about it?

Note that these questions are still indirectly about the job, but they’re also about the person who’s interviewing you.

You don’t have to ask these specific questions. You can come up with similar ones of your own. Ask them conversationally. There is no need to press for answers. Have a discussion. Remem­ber, you are trying to establish a comfortable relationship with the interviewer. You want to show you are interested and can get along.

This is not a trick. It’s a fundamental interpersonal tool for starting a healthy working relationship.

It can also help land a job offer.

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