Have you seen those new Bud Light commercials?  The ones that showcase people doing things (e.g. playing paintball, getting a waiter’s attention, showing up to a neighbor’s party, etc.) in ways that are either “too light” or “too heavy” as a way to showcase Bud Light as the beer that’s just right in terms of taste/calorie balance?  If you haven’t seen them, they’re pretty darn funny, and you can click here to view one of my favorites I found posted on YouTube.  I’m sorry to say, however, that this posting isn’t about beer.  It’s about interviewing — and about how to “close” an interview on just the right final note that will maximize your chances of getting called back.

Based on some recent conversations with clients, and a debrief of their latest interview experiences, it struck me that a number of these folks were wrapping up these meetings on notes that were either too light (soft, non-committal) or too heavy (pushy, aggressive).   So I thought it might be useful to quickly address this topic and share some suggested closing steps/statements that, at least in my experience, would tend to be most effective in the majority of situations.

To help illustrate this point, however, let’s continue following the Bud Light advertising format.  Below, you’ll find a brief list of the closing strategies that I feel tend to be either Too Light or Too Hard for the average interviewing scenario.

The “Too Light” Interview Close

1)  Not stating clearly and assertively that you’re interested in the job
2)  Not making eye contact or ending on a firm handshake
3)  Not remembering (and using) the interviewer’s name
4)  Not thanking the interviewer for their time and consideration
5)  Not sending a follow-up note or e-mail after the interview

The “Too Heavy” Interview Close

1)  Asking the interviewer “how you did” or for ANY type of immediate feedback related to your performance or offer chances
2)  Any hint or suggestion that the person may not have interviewed you properly (“Would you like me to share anything else about XYZ?”)
3)  Talking as if you’ve already been offered the job (“When hired, I promise you I’ll….” or “I look forward to working with you”)
4)  Asking for a tour of the office/facility, if they haven’t volunteered
5)  Any statement that seems melodramatic or reeks of desperation (“I really need this job” or “I’d kill for this job”)

In particular, I’ve come across a number of folks lately who I feel are violating rule #1 on the “Too Hard” list.  Several people this past week have told me that they’ve closed recent interviews with statements like “How do I stack up against the other candidates?” or “Based on our conversation, do you think I’m the right fit for the job?”  As soon as I heard this, I cringed, since I instinctively felt it was too aggressive for most interview situations in the Seattle area.  Most hiring managers, myself included, hate feeling pressured to make a decision about a person right on the spot — or to provide any strong feedback, one way or another, about a candidate’s chances of landing the job.  Most of us need (or at least want) more time to process the overall interview experience, talk to other candidates, and mull over our decisions.  So the clients of mine who used the “hard close” tactic probably didn’t do themselves any favors, I’m afraid to say.  And when they told me that this aggressive technique was recommended by some books they read, or by another career coach, my thought was that this advice was probably geared to the more in-your-face communications style I’m told is acceptable on the East Coast — versus out here in the insanely passive-aggressive Pacific Northwest.

Here in Seattle, I’m afraid to say, even a relatively innocuous-sounding comment like “Is there anything else I can share with you that would increase my chances of getting this job?” or “Did I effectively address your concerns about the XYZ issue?” can easily be taken as a backhand slight or as an implication that the manager didn’t interview you properly.  It’s a character flaw, we realize, but if you love living here in the region, you’ve got to deal with it.

So what should you say at the end of the average interview?  I believe it’s usually best to shoot for the middle ground, just like Goldilocks would.  In general, a good “balanced” close would be about 20-30 seconds long and would sound something like: “Thanks so much for your time, Matt, and while I’m sure you’ve got plenty of other quality candidates to choose from, given economic conditions out there, I want you to know that I’m sincerely interested in this job — and that based on our discussion today, I’m even more confident I could knock the responsibilities out of the park for you, if given the chance.  I hope to hear back from you soon in terms of next steps.”

Obviously, you can tailor this response to the circumstances at hand, but in general I feel this is the type of “close” that’s most effective for hiring opportunities here in the area.  It shows your respect for the interviewer’s time and states your sincere interest in the job at hand without stepping on any toes or pushing the interviewer into a corner that could hurt your candidacy.  It’s assertive, not aggressive.  So if you’re not currently winding interviews down with a statement along these lines, you might want to try it, going forward!