by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D., and Katharine Hansen, Ph.D.
The best job-hunters understand the power of marketing in the job-search, and comparing the job interview to a sales call is vital to achieving greater success — in obtaining the job offers you seek. But the burden is not all on the job-seeker, because the employer also sees the job interview as a sales call — and just as much as you are selling yourself as the product to be purchased by the employer, the hiring manager is also selling the employer’s value to you.
And anyone who knows even just a little about sales knows that the key to success is in overcoming objections and then closing the sale. This article shows you how you can do the same in the job interview — and how using this technique will take you one step closer to the job offer.
Overcoming Hiring Manager Objections
In sales, it’s a proven theory that if you can overcome all your prospect’s objections, s/he will have no choice but to agree to your offer. And while you are not doing the exact same thing for the same reasons, the logic holds that if you can overcome all the objections of the hiring manager, then you’ll be more likely to move on to the next step in the process.
Overcoming objectives can be done in a number of different ways, but the keys are to acknowledge the interviewer’s objection, understand the true cause of the objection, and respond with enough information to defuse the objection. It’s best to anticipate these potential objections before the job interview so you can practice your responses.
What do you do if no objections are raised? It might not mean that there none exist, so it’s best to probe to uncover any — again, because it’s much better to get them out in the open and address them than to let them sit, clouding your future. As the interview winds down, if no objections have been raised, consider asking a question such as, “Do you see any concerns that stand in the way of my succeeding in this position?”
Some Common Objections Raised by Employers in Job Interviews
Here’s a collection of some of the more common objections raised in job interviews.
“I’m concerned you have too much experience for this position.”
- This comment is the most loaded of objections because it can mean one of several things — and it is your job to discover which one it is. The good news is that if you got the interview, your qualifications make you an attractive candidate. Most often, this comment is concealing a concern about your age, attitude, or motivation. Obviously, the interviewer cannot ask your age, but someone with a lot of experience is often older, and the employer may have some concerns about fit, especially if the rest of the department is younger. Older workers also sometimes put out a vibe that because of their vast experience they know it all — and are seen as having an attitude problem. Finally, if you have years in the same type of position, some interviewers will question your drive and motivation to move ahead (incorrectly assuming that everyone wants to do so). [Read more in this article:
“I’m not sure we can pay you the salary you are seeking.”
- Related to the over-experience comment is the salary issue. Employers are always concerned about salary — and hiring employees that best fit their budgets — so the employer may be interested in you, but has a nagging question about affording you. In this case, it’s important to defuse the objection without giving away too much information so that you still have leverage if you do get the job offer. [Learn more in our
“I’m just not sure you have the experience for this position.”
- On the other side of the spectrum is a job-seeker who shows potential — and thus gets the interview — but with whom the employer has some lingering doubts. Perhaps it is not quite enough years of experience, or perhaps the experience is in a different field. As a job-seeker, your goal is to show exactly how — regardless of the time spent or where it was spent — you have the skills to get the job done. One great tool for this objection is a career portfolio, in which you not only can tell the story of how you are qualified — but show it as well through examples in your portfolio. [Read more tips in this article:
“I’m not sure you would fit into the team.”
- So many jobs require workers to participate in one or more teams that it seems inconceivable that a job-seeker would not have experience working in teams, but if for some reason you do not have much experience in teamwork, you must demonstrate that you understand the importance of teams in the workplace and how you can be a team player. Demonstrating your knowledge of the organizational culture will also be a plus in this situation.
“I’m concerned about the number of jobs you’ve held in such a short period of time.”
- If you have had an unusual number of jobs in the last few years, some interviewers will raise the job-hopper question, so you need to be able to explain the logic of your job history. It’s important to note that even though employers are not as loyal to their employees as in the past, they still expect employees to be loyal to them.
“We really like you but are just not sure where you fit.”
- The good news about this objection is that you have won half the battle because the employer likes you and wants to hire you, but is simply unsure of how to best utilize your skills. The key to your response has to be having the confidence in yourself and the knowledge about the employer to explain clearly why you are a fit for the position you are interviewing for.
“Were you fired from your last job?”
- Unless the employer has inside information about you — or you are currently unemployed while job-hunting — this should not be a common objection. However, if you have been downsized or fired from your last job, you should at least anticipate this objection. It’s pretty common to be defensive about the subject since no one likes being fired — even if you were let go simply because your job was eliminated — so you need to put that behind you when responding to this objection. [Learn more in this article:
Closing the Sale
Once you have made your salient points about how you are the perfect candidate for the position and overcome any objections from the interviewer, your final step is closing the sale. How aggressive you are in this step is sometimes the difference between an offer and nothing, but it is up to you to decide how strongly you want to close the interview. At a minimum, you should ask about the next step in the process, how many other candidates there are, and an estimate of the timetable for completing the process — what some marketers might call the trial close, where you are feeling out the interviewer. However, if you truly feel the interview was a good one, that you are a great fit for the position, and that you have overcome all the interviewer’s objections, you should ask for the job. Best case, you’ll get the offer; worst case, you’ll be told you need to wait. [Find more tips for closing the sale in this article: Closing the Interview.]
Final Thoughts on Overcoming Objections in Job Interviews
In attempting to overcome these objections remember to not dwell on the objection, but instead, once you are sure you understand it, turn it around to overcome it. If you do have a weakness that the interviewer has uncovered, find a way to turn it into a strength. For example, if you have been fired from your last job, find a way to showcase how the experience has given you new insight into making sure your boss knows the contributions you are making.
And for those of you who do not have experience in sales, one piece of warning. While it is helpful to think of the interview as a sales call, do be careful not to overdo it — to not oversell yourself to the point where you actually turn the interviewer off about your candidacy. You need to walk the line between being too modest about your accomplishments and fit with the organization and talking too much about yourself.
Finally, always remember that the interview really is a conversation between two parties who are both trying to showcase their best points. Your goal is to leave the interview knowing you did your best to sell your unique mix of skills and accomplishments while overcoming any objections raised by the interviewer.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
Katharine Hansen, Ph.D., creative director and associate publisher of Quintessential Careers, is an educator, author, and blogger who provides content for Quintessential Careers, edits QuintZine, an electronic newsletter for jobseekers, and blogs about storytelling in the job search at A Storied Career. Katharine, who earned her PhD in organizational behavior from Union Institute & University, Cincinnati, OH, is author of Dynamic Cover Letters for New Graduates and A Foot in the Door: Networking Your Way into the Hidden Job Market (both published by Ten Speed Press), as well as Top Notch Executive Resumes (Career Press); and with Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D., Dynamic Cover Letters, Write Your Way to a Higher GPA (Ten Speed), and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Study Skills (Alpha). Visit her personal Website or reach her by e-mail at kathy(at)quintcareers.com. Check out Dr. Hansen on GooglePlus.
Dr. Randall S. Hansen is founder of Quintessential Careers, one of the oldest and most comprehensive career development sites on the Web, as well CEO of EmpoweringSites.com. He is also founder of MyCollegeSuccessStory.com and EnhanceMyVocabulary.com. He is publisher of Quintessential Careers Press, including the Quintessential Careers electronic newsletter, QuintZine. Dr. Hansen is also a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. He’s often quoted in the media and conducts empowering workshops around the country. Finally, Dr. Hansen is also an educator, having taught at the college level for more than 15 years. Visit his personal Website or reach him by email at randall(at)quintcareers.com. Check out Dr. Hansen on GooglePlus.