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I went to dinner with a dear friend (and repeat client) whom I had not seen in some time. As we spent time catching up with family, careers, and life in general, we ended up on the topic of interviewing and how important it is to prepare.

We swapped stories on our experience interviewing candidates – the good, the bad, and the downright ugly. 

As we talked about the right and wrong way to interview. She captured my attention with her own story as an interviewee about 10 years ago in front of a panel.

In her story, I found several nuggets that I will share in another post. I decided to start with this one as I found it to be the most intriguing.  

Why? Because it included using the word “please”. 

During the interview, the panel asked her a thought-provoking question. 

My friend, being the visual person that she is, took out a pen and drew a diagram of her answer. She turned the paper around and began to explain her visual answer to the panel.

A few days after the interview, one of the interviewers called to tell her she was not selected for the job. She was told, they were impressed with her as a professional and she was very competitive. However, she was not selected for the job. Mind you, she is well educated. Very accomplished. Well spoken. Knows her stuff like the back of her hand. But, nevertheless, she was told “no“.  

The interviewer provided her with feedback. Which we all know is a gift. And, it’s even better when you get it after an interview. However, this feedback was, well, different. 

The interviewer brought her back to the answer she gave in visual form. He expressed while they were impressed with her answer, she did not ask “permission” to demonstrate it in the manner she did. 

Hmmmmm……in other words, her ability to answer the tough question was not in question. Her ability to ask “permission” was. (Yes, I was surprised too.). She simply did not say, “May I please” before proceeding. He stated the panel felt intimidated and put off that she “took charge” and just did it. 

The panel, I guess, if I were able to read their minds, was looking for my friend to demonstrate the soft skill of “humility”. Not that she is not a person of humility because she is. She just didn’t demonstrate it at that crucial moment. 

In all fairness. Her not saying “May I please” was not the only reason she did not get the job. They also said she didn’t have one technical aspect they were looking for. Nevertheless, the latter part of the story got my attention, hence I had to write about it. 

I guess the moral of the story is, sometimes you have to watch for subtleties such as asking for permission before you present something to the interviewer(s). While technical skills, as well as soft skills, are a must. We have to make sure we demonstrate both. 

All in all, a great thing happened in the end. She and the interviewer became great colleagues. And, she found herself on a panel, 10 years later, interviewing a candidate. And, guess what? The candidate asked “permission” to show something to the panel. She said she had to chuckle to herself as her mind went back to her own interview years ago. She appreciated the fact the candidate asked “permission”. 

We learn. We grow. 

What are your thoughts on this? I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below. Or, share your story of interview feedback that was a little unusual. We are all here to learn and grow!