Should You "Friend" the Job Interviewer?
People buy from whom they like. Most are even willing to pay more for the comfort level. Companies are no different. They hire whom they like. They hire whom they know. They hire friends of who they know, and so forth. Your first objective in an interview immediately following the word “hello” should be to shrink the world. One of the easiest ways to do this with the interviewer is to find your commonalities or connections. I recommend doing it as early in the interview as possible to gain maximum benefit from it. I call it “friending” the job interviewer.
"Friending" the Job Interviewer is the fastest way to develop a connection with the interviewer is to shrink the world.
Once you are able to establish your commonalities, the interviewer’s demeanor might become more welcoming or relaxed. More importantly, the interviewer will start to fill her communication gaps with positive, rather than negative, assumptions regarding you. In effect, you have altered the interviewer’s biases and likely will start gaining the benefit of the doubt rather than receiving the more often present detriment of the doubt.
How do you find these commonalities? A few clicks around the Web is the easiest way. You will likely uncover common colleagues or friends. Professional networking or social media sites such as LinkedInand Facebook are wonderful tools. With the onset of social media, there is a high probability you will find some valuable information. Sixty-five percent of online adults use social networking sites, according to Jobvite, a California-based software company that specializes in recruitment. Their 2011 study, The 33 Essential Recruiting Statistics, highlights this and other relevant information.
Shrinking the world is the fastest way, but sharing the same passions might be the most effective.
While having a personal connection through colleagues can create a nice bond, sharing the same interests might create an even greater one. Sharing the same experiences builds a kindred spirit that figuratively says, “I understand you.” This is typically a bit more difficult to identify early on, because an interview process would rarely start here. You can, however, be observant and glance around the interviewer’s office to see if there are books, pictures, plaques, objects, or other trinkets that expose the person’s interests. Comment if you think it is appropriate.
Another effective technique is to “cast your line.” Early in the conversation, insert comments about your interests and passions. How you introduce yourself and speak about yourself matters. If you integrate facts and interests into your stories, you will provide the interviewer opportunities to connect. That is also one of the most effective ways to create a picture for the interviewer.
Related: 17 Huge Job Interview Mistakes
Regardless of the technique you use, be sure to let the interview unfold naturally as opposed to being obvious that you are fishing for some common interests.
Interviewers are dog lovers too.
This is true for everyone but especially the nervous types. There is absolutely no reason to be anxious during an interview. The maximum “punishment” is you do not get the job. Last time I checked, anyone interviewing for a job didn’t have the job yet anyway, so technically you didn’t lose anything other than a bit of your time. (Technically, you gained an experience and insight about yourself, the company, and its people, so you are likely ahead from the encounter.)
One of the easiest ways to relax those worries is to remember you are interviewing with a human who has hobbies and interests. Interviewers are marathoners, fishermen, golfers, parents, siblings, and a host of other things. You might have gathered clues to those interests if you noticed pictures or surrounding trinkets in the office using the techniques cited earlier. One of my favorite “common interest” stories occurred with a reluctant client. I recognize this is not 100 percent analogous to interviewing for a job, but this story centers on a woman who would determine my company’s fate regarding supporting her organization, so I think the magnitude is sufficiently in line and hope you roll with me on this one.
A senior executive from a prominent software firm in Chicago called me based on a referral from another client. This executive needed recruiting assistance after a few unsuccessful attempts with other search firms. I went to his office to discuss his requirements. The next day, after a little homework on both sides, we had agreed to terms. He asked me to follow up with Global Director of Recruiting to ensure we executed the contract properly. She offered me twenty minutes of her time, so I went to meet her. I was out of her office in eighteen minutes.
Over the next month, she was relatively evasive to my calls. I’m not sure why, and it doesn’t matter. One morning, she and I were on the phone, and my dog uncharacteristically barked (I worked from home at that time). I said, “Sorry about that. I think my dog got excited about something.” She asked, “You have a dog? What kind? I have three. They’re my life.” This was followed by fifteen minutes of chit chat about the dogs. We were e-mailing each other pictures. You get the gist. From that moment, our entire relationship changed and evolved into one of the most successful professional relationships in the history of my firm. To this day, I would call her a friend.
You won’t know a person’s interests until they surface. In this case, it was by accident. In the case of your interviews, recognize that you can make your own luck by remaining observant.
For the really clever, you can give yourself a head start.
In addition to operating a recruiting firm, I am part owner and an advisory board member of an agency called 7Summits. We help our clients create and implement social business strategies. The company was named after the highest mountain summits on the seven continents—to represent our team’s resourcefulness and ability to reach a goal. My search firm also supports its recruiting activities.
Speaking of resourcefulness—the CEO is a charismatic man. He loves hiking, fly fishing, and photography. Anyone can surf the Internet to discover this with very little effort. One clever individual decided to take it a bit further. The CEO called me and mentioned he recently received a box in the mail. He said, “When I opened it, I saw one hiking boot. There was a card included, so I obviously opened it.” He opened it to find this letter:
Mr. [CEO], I have my boot in the door. Now I just need to get my foot in it. This boot has been to the top of four of the seven summits. Please accept my résumé for your review. I am extremely passionate about social media …
Is this gesture a bit over the top? Maybe. What is not in question is its relevance. It was also an extremely creative way to ensure he surfaced his credentials to arguably the most important person in the organization. It also demonstrated passion on the candidate’s part. While it remains to be seen whether we will hire this individual, one thing is certain—he will receive a call back, something that absolutely must happen in order for him to get the job.
All the Talk of an Accelerating Economy and Rising Inflation Just Doesn't Add Up
The biggest news for the markets this week came from the Federal Reserve. On Wednesday, it released the January Federal Open Market Committee meeting notes and they were interpreted as dovish by some and hawkish by others as analysts raced to divine insight from the text.
The recent data isn’t supporting the narrative of accelerating global growth and inflation while equities continue to experience higher volatility. What does it mean for stocks, bonds and yields? Glad you asked! Here’s my take on why all the talk on an accelerating economy and rising inflation just doesn't add up when you look at the data.
Equity Markets — A Relatively Narrow Recovery
The shortened trading week opened Tuesday with every sector except technology closing in the red. The S&P 500 fell back below its 50-day moving average after Walmart (WMT) reported disappointing results, falling over 10% on the day, having its worst trading day in over 30 years.
Walmart’s online sales grew 23% in the fourth quarter, but had grown 29% in the same quarter a year prior and were up 50% in the third quarter. We saw further evidence of the deflationary power of our Connected Society investing theme as the company reported the lowest operating margin in its history.
Ongoing investment to combat Amazon (AMZN) and rising freight costs — a subject our premium research subscribers have heard a lot of about lately — were the primary culprits behind Walmart's declining numbers. To really rub salt in that wound, Amazon shares hit a new record high the same day. This pushed the outperformance of the FAANG stocks versus the S&P 500 even higher.
Wednesday was much of the same, with most every sector again closing in the red, driven mostly by interpretations of the Federal Reserve’s release of the January Federal Open Market Committee meeting notes. In fact, twenty-five minutes after the release of those notes, the Dow was up 303 points . . . and then proceeded to fall 470 points to close the day down 167 points. To put that swing in context, so far in 2018, the Dow has experienced that kind of a range seven times but not once in 2017.
Thursday was a mixed bag. Most sectors were flat to slightly up as the S&P 500 closed up just +0.1%, while both the Russell 2000 and the Nasdaq Composite lost -0.1%. The energy sector was the strongest performer, gaining 1.3% while financials took a hit, falling 0.7%.
The recovery from the lows this year has been relatively narrow. As of Thursday’s close, the S&P 500 is still below its 50-day moving average, up 1.1% year-to-date with the median S&P 500 sector down -1.0%. Amazon, Microsoft and Netflix alone are responsible for nearly half of the year’s gain in the S&P 500. The Russell 2000 is down -0.4% year-to-date and also below its 50-day moving average. The Dow is up 78 points year-to-date, but without Boeing (BA), would be down 317 points as two-thirds of Dow stocks are in the red for the year.
Fixed Income and Inflation — the Coming Debt Headwind
The 1-year Treasury yield hit 2.0%, the highest since 2008 while the 5-year Treasury yield has risen to the highest rate since 2010, these are material moves!
What hasn’t been terribly material so far is the Fed’s tapering program. It isn’t exactly a fire sale with the assets of the Federal Reserve down all off 0.99% since September 27 when Quantitative Tightening began, which translates into an annualized pace of 2.4%.
As for inflationary pressures, U.S. Import prices increased 3.6% year-over-year versus expectations for 3.0%, mostly reflecting the continued weakness in the greenback. The Amex Dollar Index (DXY) has been below both its 50-day and 200-day moving averages for all of 2018. The increase in import prices excluding fuel was the largest since 2012 and also beat expectations. Import prices for autos, auto parts and capital goods have accelerated but consumer good ex-autos once again moved into negative territory.
Outside the U.S. we see little evidence that inflation is accelerating. Korea’s PPI fell further to 1.2% - no evidence of rising inflation there. In China the Producer Price Index fell to a 1-year low – yet another sign that we don’t have rising global inflation. On Friday the European Central Bank’s measure of Eurozone inflation for January came in at 1.3% overall and has been fairly steadily declining since reaching a peak of 1.9% last April. This morning we saw that Japan’s Consumer Price Index rose for the 13th consecutive month in January, rising 0.9% from year-ago levels. Excluding fresh food and energy, the increase was just 0.4% - again, not exactly a hair-on-fire pace.
The reality is that the U.S. economy is today the most leveraged it has been in modern history with a total debt load of around $47 trillion. On average, roughly 20% of this debt rolls over annually. Using a quick back-of-the-envelope estimate, the new blended average rate for the debt that is rolling over this year will likely be 0.5% higher. That translates to approximately $250 billion in higher debt service costs this year. Talk about a headwind to both growth and inflationary pressures. The more the economy picks up steam and pushes interest rates up, the greater the headwind with such a large debt load… something consumers are no doubt familiar with and are poised to experience yet again in the coming quarters.
The Twists and Turns of Cryptocurrencies
The wild west drama of the cryptocurrency world continued this week as the South Korean official who led the government’s regulatory clampdown on cryptocurrencies was found dead Sunday, presumably having suffered a fatal heart attack, but the police have opened an investigation into the cause of his death.
Tuesday, according to Yonhap News, the nation’s financial regulator said the government will support “normal transactions” of cryptocurrencies, three weeks after banning digital currency trades through anonymous bank accounts. Yonhap also reported that the South Korean government will “encourage” banks to work with the cryptocurrency exchanges. Go figure. Bitcoin has nearly doubled off its recent lows.
Tuesday the crisis-ridden nation of Venezuela launched an oil-backed cryptocurrency, the “petro,” in hopes that it will help circumvent financials sanctions imposed by the U.S. and help improve the nation’s failing economy. This was the first cryptocurrency officially launched by a government. President Nicolás Maduro hosted a televised launch in the presidential palace which had been dressed up with texts moving on screens and party-like music stating, “The game took off successfully.” The government plans to sell 82.4 million petros to the public. This will be an interesting one to watch.
Economy — Maintaining Context & Perspective is Key
Housing joined the ranks of U.S. economic indicators disappointing to the downside in January with the decline in existing home sales. Turnover fell 3.2%, the second consecutive decline, and is now at the lowest annual rate since last September. Sales were 4.8% below year-ago levels while the median sales price fell 2.4%, also the second consecutive decline and this marks the 6th decline in the past 7 months. U.S. mortgage applications for purchase are near a 52-week low.
Again, that’s the latest data, but as we like to say here at Tematica, context and perspective are key. Looking back over the past month, around 60% of the U.S. economic data releases have come in below expectations and this has prompted the Citigroup Economic Surprise Index (CESI) to test a 4-month low. Sorry to break it to you folks, but the prevailing narrative of an accelerating economy just isn’t supported by the hard data. No wonder that even the ever-optimistic Atlanta Fed has slashed its GDPNow forecast for the current quarter down to 3.2% from 5.4% on Feb. 1. We suspect further downward revisions are likely.
Looking up north, it wasn’t just the U.S. consumer who stepped back from buying with disappointing retail sales as Canadian retail sales missed badly, falling 0.8% versus expectations for a 0.1% decline. Over in the land of bronze, silver and gold dreams, South Korean exports declined 3.9% year-over-year.
Wednesday’s flash PMI’s were all pretty much a miss to the downside. Eurozone Manufacturing PMI for February declined more than was expected to 58.5 from 59.6 in January versus expectations for 59.2. Same goes for Services which dropped to 56.7 from 58 versus expectations for 57.7. France and Germany also saw both their manufacturing and services PMIs decline more than expected in February. The U.K. saw its unemployment rate rise unexpectedly to 4.4% from 4.3%
The Bottom Line
Economic acceleration and rising inflation aren’t showing up to the degree that was expected, and this was a market priced for perfection. The Federal Reserve is giving indications that it will not be providing the same kind of downside protection that asset prices have enjoyed since the crisis, pushing markets to reprice risk and question the priced-to-perfection stocks.
- 1 of 2497