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Overcoming the Imbalance of Power in Job Interviews

Perceiving others accurately is fraught with obstacles and difficulty. We each have our own perception filters  that visual signals must first pass through. This initial assessment is typically immediate and doesn’t allow for more in-depth evaluation in the moment, which is something likely borne out of biological necessity: Friend or foe? Fight or flight?

For a hiring manager meeting a candidate for the first time, the instantaneous assessment may include such questions as: Trustful or deceitful? Cooperative or hindering? Facilitator or obstructor? Achiever or just another employee? These are the types of “running the gauntlet” instantaneous appraisals candidates are subjected to before the verbal exchange of information begins. Once an individual passes that initial assessment, a more conscious effort kicks in to determine a clearer perception as provided through words and behaviors.

Your career strategy will benefit from the understanding that the candidate-hiring manager relationship is one characterized by an imbalance of power, whereby the hiring manager (with the power)  is assessing your ability to function as an agent for his or her organizational/business goals. You may have the skills, knowledge, and experience chops for the position, but if you don’t come across as someone who can further the efforts of the hiring manager, you may be perceived as an obstacle to those efforts. That means you’ve gone as far as you’re going to go in the hiring process.

You have to be able to demonstrate your utility for helping achieve those goals through:

  1. Being genuinely likeable

  2. Promoting the future benefits of your expertise

  3. Serving as a facilitator for the hiring manager’s success

  4. Affirming the positive contributions of others

  5. Making yourself necessary by serving as a problem solver, game changer, solutions provider

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Former Fortune 500 hiring manager Donn LeVie Jr. is the author of Strategic Career Engagement (September 2015), and the book that reset the rules for successful job and career strategies:  Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 (June 2012, Winner of the 2012 Global eBook Award and Winner of the 2012 International Book Award for Jobs/Careers). He leads career strategy seminars at conferences, business/trade schools, colleges and universities, and U.S. Military Veterans organizations.

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