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Want the job? Tell the manager you want to get married!

In the January 9, 2018 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader who is “killing the interviews” still can’t get a job offer. What’s the secret? 

Question

Interviews I had for the last three jobs I applied for all went great. I got compliments from the hiring managers, all the team members who interviewed me, and even from HR. Especially from HR! On two of the jobs the HR managers told me they were going to recommend I be hired. So what’s the problem? I’ve gotten no offers from any of these employers!

I know I’m killing the interviews. I follow all your main tips. I show how I’ll do the work. I talk about how I’ll add to profitability. I ask for live problems to show how I’d handle them. But nada. I walk out of those meetings all pumped, but no offers! What am I missing?

jobNick’s Reply

This is easy. You’ve already done the hard parts.

Make it clear you want the job.

I’m going to explain this straight from my book, Ask The Headhunter: Reinventing the interview to win the job. (The book is out of print, but I’m working on a new edition. Many of the concepts and methods in that book can be found in the Fearless Job Hunting books.)

All too often, a candidate for a job leaves the interview convinced he (or she, of course) did well. He wants the job and thinks the interviewer knows it. But he has not explicitly expressed his commitment. This can be a fatal mistake.

The interviewer knows you want the job only if you say you want the job.

It doesn’t matter what comments you successfully “slipped into the conversation” to make him think you want the job. You have to tell him.

Tell the manager you want to get married.

Let me try to explain this another way. My wife would never have accepted my marriage proposal if I hadn’t come out and explicitly told her, “I love you.” Similarly, I would never hire someone who didn’t specifically come out and tell me he wanted to work with me. That they love me. We all need to hear a commitment.

Make the commitment.

The manager needs to hear it.

Keep in mind that until a company makes you an offer, the ball is not in your court. You have no real decision to make until an offer is presented to you. Completing an interview without letting the interviewer know you want an offer is like playing basketball without ever taking a shot at the basket. You can’t just dribble and pass. You have to shoot.

If you would consider an offer from the company, you must say so.

The manager doesn’t expect you’ll accept an offer on the spot. But she would like to know how motivated you are to do the work and to work together. Most interviewers will never ask you. They want you to take the initiative and tell them.

If you want to hear a job offer, make a commitment at the end of the interview. If you want the job (assuming the offer is right), say so — because other good candidates won’t bother.

How to Say It

Look the manager directly in the eye and maintain eye contact as you say this:

“I want this job. I hope I have convinced you that I can do it, and do it well. I want to work on your team. I would seriously consider an offer from you.”

Remember, this doesn’t mean that you have to accept an offer if it’s made. The offer must be as attractive as the job. (See Job Offer Too Low? Here’s how to ask for more.) This is a crucial distinction. The commitment you have made is to the work, the manager and the job, not to any particular salary or other employment terms. Everything else still needs to be discussed. (See Negotiate a better job offer by saying YES.)

It is perfectly legitimate to turn down an offer for a job you really want, if the offer isn’t acceptable and you can’t negotiate a mutually acceptable deal.

Stand Out: Say the words.

If you’re killing the interviews like you say you are, you’re way ahead of the game. But if then the employer doesn’t make you an offer, something’s missing: You failed to offer the commitment that distinguishes a capable candidate from a motivated one. (If you’re a job seeker who doesn’t stand out, learn how to Get In The Door (way ahead of your competition)).

Should you win that offer by telling the employer you want to get married? Of course not. Just say you want to work together — that you want the job!

At the end of the job interview, what do you say to close the deal? Does it work? Is it as good as a marriage proposal?

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24 Comments
  1. Nick – I respectfully disagree.

    It could happen in 1 or 2 of the cases that the person didn’t get the job offer because of not asking it, but not in all 3. Also in terms of terms of company side, would you ignore one of the best candidates if they wouldn’t ask for a job offer?!, I wouldn’t!

    In my mind there must be something else that your reader either doesn’t know about, didn’t notice or didn’t think was relevant.

    • Agreed. So far, we only know that the candidate ‘thinks’ he has “killed it”.

      We’ve no feedback from anyone doing the interviewing.

      Something is missing from this situation; we don’t have all the information that would explain why the candidate has not been made an Offer.

      There are a million things that could be the speed bump here. Presuming it is all about not having specified out loud the candidate wants the job is just a guess.

      Paul Forel
      Executive Search

    • Pedro, Paul: Points well-taken. It could be anything. My intent was to point out what I believe is a crucial element of convincing a manager to hire you. Readers never provide all the facts or relevant information so it’s impossible to make a definitive conclusion. I discussed what could be one huge problem.

      Given how little we know, what one or two big mistakes do you think a job applicant — any job applicant, not just this one — might be making?

      • I agree to that one needs to show the intent that they are serious for the position. However, I do not fully agree that not showing this could be the only mistake you made.

        From a personal experience, if I feel I did well in the interview, I would expect them to make me an offer. Ofcourse, I would not consider doing well and killing it if, in my sincere belief, I think that I failed to convince them.

        Recently I had been interviewed and it went pretty well and I did not specifically mentioned I want the job, however I did not spend a single minute in which I did not try to convince them why I would be good choice for this position.

        To sum it up, you have to tell them your commitment but it could be Explicit or Implicit.

  2. Kudos to you Nick. I have been successfully recommending “Asking for the job” for 35 years. Best one I heard and recommend in the 21st century,”I would be honored to join your company, should you make me an offer.”

    • I think you mean “should you make me an ACCEPTABLE offer”.

  3. Have a friend check your references. Perhaps one of them is saying unflattering things about you.

    • Amy: That’s a great tip. I’ll add another one. Check your social media presence.

      Example: I was just pointed to a young friend’s old Facebook page (the guy has a new one, has left the old one up). If I were considering interviewing him, that FB page would lead me to reject him.

      How many people have left a social media trail that leads them to be rejected — and they don’t even realize it? Check your own social media tracks.

  4. Asking for the job is crucial to an offer but keep in mind there may not be a fit based on chemistry with the hiring team.

    I remember interviewing for the perfect job, asking for the job and not getting an offer. In passing, I was talking to one of the interviewers who said the team just didn’t ‘feel right’with hiring me.

    I understood based on my personality as predominately dominate and the hiring team wanted passive leadership.

    In the end, I was glad it didn’t work out.

    • While I don’t advocate misleading an employer, or taking a job you don’t really want, I do advocate attracting an offer. Because until you have an offer in hand, you have no decision, no choice to make. So my rule is this, if there’s a 50% or higher chance you think you’d take a job, tell the manager you want the job so you’ll get an offer so you’ll have a chance to make a choice.

      So often, I see job seekers who are not sure they want a job, so they won’t make a commitment, so they don’t get an offer. But you don’t get to decide whether you want the job and the offer until an offer is made! First things first. Get an offer.

      • Nick,

        I strongly disagree. The whole point of your being there, to meet with the interviewer, is part of the larger process of “asking for the job.” Speaking those words, presumably not in response to a question to which that could be an answer, makes the job candidate appear desperate. Should be fairly obvious what then happens if the candidate gets to the negotiation stage.

        More important than using a questionable phrase in discussion, is the candidate’s attitude. Attitude is everything. If the candidate goes into an interview with a positive attitude with a strong desire to want to work for this company, to want to work there and work with these people, to show what a great fit you would be for the company’s goals, and have the freedom to produce great results and show how valuable you can be to the company’s future. You must believe that, so that you can convince the interviewer to believe it, too.

        You’re not there to just answer questions and fill out forms. Every second that you’re in front of the interviewer (literally or virtually) you are making a professional appearance and presentation. If you do this, the rest should fall into place…or not.

  5. I don’t recall all that many people I’ve interviewed explicitly said that they wanted the job. And I can’t conceive not giving someone who was a great match an offer because of it.
    However, the best candidates came across as interested in the job and the company. I have not given offers to low energy candidates, ones who kind of sat there, who gave short answers to my questions, and who had no questions of their own. In other words they acted as if they didn’t want the job, no matter what they said.
    I also wouldn’t put too much credence on encouraging words from interviewers and HR. Being positive might increase the chances of getting someone they want, while having no negative impact on them if they don’t make the offer. Maybe these people tell every reasonably good candidate how great they are – and they might mean it until the next one comes around.
    Not marriage, more of a singles bar.

    • I’m looking forward to the day when an interviewer is honest and says “we’d love to have your experience, only in a younger package”.

    • @Scott: Point well-taken. But:

      My tech clients in Silicon Valley used to tell me, “I see loads of qualified engineers. They’re everywhere. Find me one who really wants this job!”

      I’ve had more than one perfectly qualified candidate rejected because they never told the manager, “I want this job and I want to work with you.”

      In fact, that led me to write an 8-page tip sheet for all my candidates that included that tip. And that tip sheet turned into my first book.

  6. Another possible explanation is company politics that are invisible to the candidate. Two employers back, I got a ring side seat to watch upper management decree that the organization wasn’t “diverse” enough. In this case diversity was a code word to hire young, minority candidates even if their qualifications were less than white males that applied for the position. This applied to both internal and external candidates. In my field there were not a lot of acceptable diverse minority candidates so the requirement was modified to mean younger white females.
    I had friends tell me that they wanted to hire a candidate only to be told by upper management through HR that they needed to interview more diverse candidates even if the pickings of qualified candidates was scarce.
    These policies were running the place into the ground, and as a result, a corporate raider took a large position in the company and subsequently purged the old upper management.
    This kind of stuff is probably why a lot of intelligent people held their noses at the polls in 2016 and pulled the lever to elect a fraud and con man for president.

    • Be careful, we are not to bring politics on to this blog.

      Also remember that, that is your opinion. Many people disagree.

  7. @John Zabrenski

    What @Borne said.

  8. Wise advice as usual. Thanks again!

    I don’t want to sound too cynical, but in my experience interviewers and HR always say wonderful things about me. Whether they mean it or not. It costs them nothing to do this. It may even be a legal tactic so I won’t claim harassment or discrimination. And then as soon as I walk out the door, I don’t hear a thing from them ever again.

    • These days, the experience of applying for jobs, Interviewing, etc., very much resembles gaslighting. What you describe is from the “positive reinforcement” part (HR always says wonderful things = love-bombing stage; you don’t hear from them again = devaluation and discard stage; rejection email that includes “while your background was impressive…” = “the odd compliment”) — http://www.businessinsider.com/what-is-gaslighting-2017-7

  9. Stating an interest in the position was definitely helpful in the interview process but that worked in the past. Today, that may be a little too sophisticated for today’s scattershot process, although it may not hurt.

  10. There could be any number of reasons you didn’t get a call back:
    Maybe you aren’t the affirmative action candidate.
    Maybe you can’t fill a desperately needed quota.
    Could be you aren’t the diversity candidate.
    Maybe they are looking for military experience.
    Maybe you have directly applicable military experience, but some snowflake in HR doesn’t want to hire any ‘baby killers’. Or they are worried about PTSD.
    What, you don’t have 10+ years Windows 10 experience?
    You’ve been working with Red Hat Linux since it came out, but have never used Slackware.
    Maybe you are fluent in Python, Ruby on Rails and Lisp, but your COBOL is weak.
    Or you aren’t familiar with the BOGUS scripting language.
    You wore your contacts where plastic-rimmed glasses are the rule?

    Could be anything.

    • Exactly, we shouldn’t think that it is always personal if we don’t get the job.

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