A reader asked if he should send a pre-interview letter to each person he was scheduled to speak with. On the surface, this may seem like a great idea.
While I applaud this candidate on his effort, it may be misguided. I see a more effective way to demonstrate how prepared he is and what a great addition he’d make to the team.
Reader D.S. asked:
“I’ve been through two rounds of phone interviews for a senior management position at an international organization.
I have face-to-face interviews scheduled where I will be meeting individually with the hiring manager and four other HR leaders. In preparing for the interviews, I have managed to ascertain the areas of focus for each interviewer. Since I know their emphasis, I have considered writing a cover letter to each interviewer addressing my skills and experiences specific to their areas of interest.
I would present the cover letter with a copy of my resume and job description specific summary of qualifications at the interview. My thought process is that we will have limited time in the interview process, and I want them to have a personalized take away which not only demonstrates my attention to detail, but gives them references for any questions they may have regarding my qualifications following the interview.
Is this a good strategy, or will it possibly be perceived as ‘too much’?”
D.S., First of all … congratulations for trying to go the extra mile to differentiate yourself.
But there are more effective ways to accomplish your goal.
If you know the areas of focus for each manager, you have some powerful information – you know each manager’s problem.
Even if sending a pre-letter worked (it usually doesn’t – I’ll explain why), you’re telling each interviewer why you’re a good fit. You’ve probably already done this in phone interviews already and hopefully your resume addresses your qualifications. Do you think that telling them again will make them more convinced that you’re the right guy for the job?
How do you make decisions about who you hire or what you buy? Are you more likely to decide to buy a product because a salesman told you that it would satisfied your needs?
… or because the salesman allowed you to realize on your own that the product satisfied your needs?
You can do the same thing in an interview, but not by clubbing your interviewers over the head with your qualifications another time through what’s essentially a sales letter. Instead of telling them you’re the right person for the job, could you guide them to make that realization themselves?
Which do you think would be make a more powerful impact?
You’ve got the information you need to do this … you know their areas of focus, their interests, their problems. Why not ask questions to draw out their focus, interests, and problems? Once the interviewer has stated their area of focus (which you already know), it can be a very powerful response to answer something like “What a coincidence, I helped my prior employer solve a problem just like that, saving them $X bazillion dollars. Here’s how I … “.
For the next interviewer, ask separate questions to draw out that specific interviewer’s focus, so you can be surprised ( ) that you also helped your past employer solve a similar problem. And so on …
In this way, when the interviewers meet, they aren’t talking about your qualifications, because you steered the conversation beyond simple qualifications. Instead, the interviewers are talking about how you can solve immediate problems, make impact, and make each manager’s life easier because you’ve already been the cure for each manager’s pain.
If the company has done heavy phone screening, then you can assume that most every candidate they interview is qualified. Few of these candidates will be able to demonstrate that they can make a fast impact on the business. The few that do have a name – they’re called finalists.
Why don’t pre-interview letters work well? Here’s why:
- Many candidates: The people interviewing you are interviewing a number of candidates, and have reviewed a number of resumes. Especially if you’ve never spoken with them before, it’s likely they won’t recognize your name as the person on their interview schedule next week. There’s a good chance that your name won’t be recognized, your letter won’t be read, and your email will just be forwarded to HR – so they can put your resume in the company database. Isn’t it already there?
- Many emails: They get hundreds of emails per day and have learned how to delegate emails so they can accomplish something with their day. Where do managers delegate resumes? To HR. Isn’t it already there?
- Communication: Does each manager know the names of the people they are interviewing with? Or just that they have to block out time on their calendar for interviews?
Even if these managers are incredibly aware, have gotten great communication, and have photographic memories, consider how you’ll be more effective:
Slamming them over the head with your qualifications?
Having them discuss their problems, so you can solve them?
Recruiters and employers – Who would you rather hire for your team?-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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