Beware of the Dangers of Grading Job Interviews on a Pass-Fail Basis

I understand why most job seekers have no interest in consolation prizes regarding job interviews. Being happy about making the cut from hundreds of résumés or reaching finalist status does nothing to relieve the stress of a job search or unemployment. However, perceiving any opportunity that does not result in a job offer as a failure can damage and extend a job search indefinitely. As I have noted in a previous post, a huge key to successful interviews is being able to position yourself as the solution to the needs and problems of the company or hiring manager. To succeed in doing this, the bulk of your interview preparation needs to be spent on determining what these needs are, then presenting your appropriate skills and experiences that demonstrate your ability to help solve these problems.

Unfortunately, when job seekers grade interviews strictly on a pass-fail basis, they can slip into a dangerous mindset. They review each interview looking for how they “blew it,” then vow not to make the same mistake in their next interview. The problem occurs when preparing for a subsequent interview, they focus on correcting their perceived mistakes from the last interview. In this mindset, the chances that they will uncover any of a hiring manager’s needs, challenges and motivations to hire become extremely remote.  Unfortunately, this often results in an interview where the candidate and hiring manager are on completely different pages, resulting in no job offer or call back. This pattern likely will continue as long as the focus of interview preparation remains on  “righting” interviews. Military folks compare it with the flawed strategy of “fighting the previous battle.” 

Let me sharing the experience of an executive I worked with that recently landed after a search of more than two years. He networked so extensively throughout and helped so many others, that colleagues nicknamed him the “Godfather of Networking”. Countless times when an opportunity failed to pan out, he spoke with me trying to determine a step in his strategy where he did something wrong, and I continuously assured him I saw none.

 Interestingly, once he started his job, one of his first assignments was to hire two staff members. He saw many candidates, including members of his own network, make outstanding presentations of their qualifications for these positions. He faced the difficult task of selecting the candidates he felt best fit his needs for the position. After making his decision, he let me know that he now understood why I kept telling him he hadn’t been doing anything wrong all those months.

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1 Response to “Beware of the Dangers of Grading Job Interviews on a Pass-Fail Basis”


  1. 1 Rick M. Esterson, PHR May 20, 2010 at 3:28 am

    Nice job Tom! Doing preliminary research on the company and specific role will go a long way. Plus, asking great questions and then (really) listening is key. Sharing stories and past scenarious that illustrate how you’ve successfully done exactly what they’re looking for will drive the “good listening” point home.


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