The sub-head in my copy of Saturday's New York Times today reads, "2nd Talk With Obama Persuaded Senator." The article reports that Senator Hillary R. Clinton's second interview with President-elect Barack Obama proved essential to her decision to go forward with the nomination to become Secretary of State.
Why am I not surprised?
Politics isn't my specialty. But in my role as a headhunter, I almost always advocate a second interview. I believe it helps both those doing the hiring and those hoping to be hired.
I am not referring to a second (or seventh) interview by others in the hiring organization. Those are commonplace. I mean that the same person (or persons) who interviewed a candidate the first time does so again. The second interview often takes places after all those other interviews with others have informed both parties.
Time-pressed executive clients and board search committees sometimes seem hesitant. I understand this. I suggest that most of us didn't marry after merely a first date. If that fails to prove persuasive, I mention that a broken engagement probably beats a divorce.
On the first interview, both sides are on their best behavior. They dress to impress. They sidestep some difficult questions. On the second, each party knows he/she has passed a hurdle: that the willingness to meet again, is significant as a demonstration of interest.
Then, for good or ill, each side reveals more. The candidate who is so impressive upon first meeting may simply repeat what he/she said the first time - with no significant expansion, application to the client situation, and so on. Conversely, he or she may have dug more deeply, done more due diligence and have much more to say. Additionally, the candidate will dig more deeply on matters of significance, such as authority.
Or the prospective boss, who also will be more relaxed, may become significantly more candid...also for good or ill.
Scheduling (and rescheduling) these meetings is challenging. As I write this, on a Saturday morning, my firm has a candidate and client meeting for breakfast. In order to fit in their second meeting, the sanctity of a Sunday may need to be disturbed or flight schedules shifted for Monday.
Clients usually want their searches completed yesterday. Many times I have mentioned to clients that the quickest way to complete a search is to set aside half a Saturday. Only twice (in 11 years) have I been taken up on this.
More often, and most markedly with board search committees, we outline far in advance a series of early mornings or early evenings that we will dedicate to interviewing. My calendar is filled with such meetings into January. It is far easier, and far better received, when we wind up scratching one such a meeting off everyone's calendars than scrambling to find one more timeslot for seven or so busy people on short notice.
Although, as a headhunter, I represent the hiring side, I do not mind when a candidate of interest to a client requests a second interview (but not a third or a fourth).