Archive for May, 2008

Prepare to close the deal

May 19, 2008

I’ve enjoyed Penelope Trunk’s Brazen Careerist blog for months now, and I finally picked up a copy of her book
Brazen Careerist the other day. It should be no surprise that I love a lot of it, and disagree vehemently with plenty as well. It’s more a collection of related columns than a cohesive whole, but I’m enjoying it.

Since I’m working on my Soon-To-Be-Officially-Titled book on job hunting, I turned immediately to the chapter on job interviewing. This phrasing caught my eye: “Prepare to close the deal.” It’s common advice to specifically work to get a job offer in the interview, and it’s one I hammer on in my book. From the current draft:

You must ask for the job, explicitly. It may feel awkward, or seem like it’s pushy or egotistical to come
out and say “I want this job,” but not doing so leaves things vague in the mind of the interviewer.
You can blow an otherwise fantastic interview by
seeming uninterested in the prospect of working for the company.
Don’t delude yourself into
thinking “Of course he knows I want the job, or else I wouldn’t be here.” What you see as obvious may look like
indifference to the interviewer. Don’t worry about being too enthusiastic by asking to move
forward. Part of what you’re being interviewed for is your enthusiasm and
interest in the company, the department, the team.

Trunk puts it in more sales-oriented terms in her book: “Prepare to close the deal. Leave nothing open-ended at the end of the interview.” I can’t disagree, but I know that for many of my technically-oriented brethren that that’s a level of assertiveness, and salesmanship, that may be tough.
Maybe the way for geeks less accustomed to closing a sale to think about it is like nailing down requirements on a project. Programmers hate to work on a project milestone without knowing what the milestone is, and so it is with an unknown interview outcome.

It’s worth practicing, out loud before the interview, how you’ll ask for the job. Train yourself to get over any discomfort of asking to close the deal. Write out a few sentences that you can practice saying. Try something like this:

I wanted to thank you for the time today, and I’m very excited
about working here at Football Town. My expertise in scrum and XP methodologies fit
where you’ve told me the IT department is going, and working in the sporting goods industry would be a dream for me. What are the next steps?

Does that feel weird to say? Practice until it doesn’t. You’re not memorizing the exact words, but getting used to expressing something that direct. When you’re in the interview, if you follow that structure, the words should come out naturally. If it’s true, and it comes from your heart, that’s gold.

On the other hand, if your practice deal closing isn’t true, that will come out in the interview. It won’t just be in your closing, but throughout the entire encounter. Lack of enthusiasm stinks, and interviewers can smell it a mile away.