“Sometimes when I consider what tremendous consequences come from little things, I am tempted to think there are no little things.” –Bruce Barton
Years ago, before starting my own business, I interviewed for my “Dream Job”—a Director of Sales and Marketing position over four states for a hospital chain based in Tennessee. I was one of two finalists for the position, and we were both flown in to Nashville for interviews.
My interview lasted hours! They sliced me, they diced me—you get the picture. At one point, I was talking with one of the interviewers in her office. While we were talking, a man walked up and leaned against the door jamb. My back was to him, but I sensed him in my “space” because he was so close to my chair. I felt really uncomfortable, because I didn’t know whether I should acknowledge him and include him in our conversation or not. Since the interviewer paid him no attention whatsoever, I decided to do the same. My focus returned to the conversation at hand.
Suddenly, after having stood there for about five minutes, this guy walks around to where he can face me, leans down in my face, proceeds to tell me—very sarcastically—that I’m “full of ****,” then turns and walks away.
I was stunned, and then I started to laugh—really laugh. I stood up, followed him down the hall—laughing all the way—and called after him, “Hey, wait a minute. What do you mean I’m full of ****?” All the people watching this spectacle started laughing too. Months later, I learned that the interview team had been trying to determine how I would deal with conflict…
All in all, that interview turned out to be the most grueling one I have ever had.
Two months after I got the job, my boss and I had traveled to a city to market our hospital chain. While we were driving to an appointment, I turned to her and said, “Cheryl, I never did ask you why you selected me for this job.” She started laughing and responded, “That’s actually a fun story. Remember when I walked you out to your car Friday evening in Nashville?” I responded that I did. She then continued, “Well, I went back in the building and met with the whole interview team. We spent about two hours trying to decide who to hire—you or the other candidate. I don’t want to hurt your feelings Mark, but you two were so close in our eyes that we couldn’t make a decision.” I thought, ouch!—you’re “killing” me Cheryl! Looking calm and collected on the outside, I turned to her and asked, “How did you end up choosing me?”
Cheryl put a serious look on her face and proceeded, “Monday, when I arrived for work, I noticed a small envelope in the middle of my desk. I’m sure you remember it.” (I did remember it. I sat in my car and wrote that thank you note to Cheryl after my interview before leaving for the Nashville airport. En route, I found a mail box at the side of the road and placed my note in it.) She continued, “Mark, there was only one envelope in the middle of my desk.” Was I ever happy that I had taken the time to write and mail that little note!
You might find this hard to believe, but to this day, I can still remember the words I wrote on that Friday afternoon:
I wanted to thank you, once again, for taking time from your obviously busy schedule to meet with me and discuss the Director of Sales and Marketing position. I really enjoyed talking about all the things we could do to grow the business. I particularly enjoyed strategizing about how to introduce our services to new markets. I want you to know that I want the job. I know that your job is to hire the person whom you feel is the best fit for your organization. Whatever your final decision, I wish you continued success!
I learned an incredibly important lesson from that experience—a lesson that I share with every client I coach as a career counselor, and a lesson I share in every job search workshop I conduct. This is that lesson:
When you are competing for a top-shelf job—regardless of industry or geography—chances are very good, that all the other candidates are just as good as you are! You better keep your humility close at hand. When all of the candidates are so close on all the major selection criteria, how does an interviewing team make a decision? They make it on the “little things” that separate the candidates. That’s all they have left!
To this day, I still find it hard to believe that I landed my Dream Job because I took five minutes to write a thank you note to the hiring manager.
If you are currently trying to land your Dream Job, the first thing you should do when you leave any and all interviews is hand write, hand address, and hand stamp a personalized thank you note to every person you interviewed with. Mention in your note the topic you connected with that person on. Then, always tell them that you want the job—“close the sale!”
This strategy worked for me years ago when I was interviewing for my Dream Job! I believe it just might work for you as well. I wish you success in pursuing your own Dream Job!
Daily Renaissance, LLC, offers Career Planning and Job Search Coaching—including a Resume Writing Service.
Note: The note cards pictured in the visual that leads this Blog were all created by Mark Swain. He has created a number of blank note card sets featuring his pen & ink drawings, watercolor and acrylic paintings, and photography. They can all be purchased through Daily Renaissance. For more information, contact us at: