You just got a call from a company and you find out that they want to interview you for a job face-to-face at their office. Obviously, you are very excited that you are getting an opportunity to discuss your background with a company and find out more about the position so both you can determine whether it is a good fit for you. You undoubtedly are going to prepare hard to do your best and believe, rightfully, that since the company has invited for a face-to-face interview that you have an excellent chance of getting a job.
But before you get too excited, one thing you have to remember is that you are playing this interview game on the company's turf. Though it may turn out well for you in that you may end up with a job offer, but you are at a disadvantage since you are not playing this on your home turf.
We have always known in sports that a home team has a big advantage playing on their home turf. Annie Murphy-Paul summarizes this finding ( in her blog "Performing On Your Home Turf: Advantage or Disadvantage?" of a study conducted by British psychologists Mark S. Allen and Marc V. Jones.
One thing that results in an advantage is home crowds, Murphy Paul writes that "that larger home crowds that show encouraging behavior, like cheering, are linked with home-team success. Crowd noise may even impact the kinds of decisions that officials make: When the home crowd is noisy, officials are more likely to make discretionary decisions (such as awarding extra time) that favor the home team and dole out harsher punishments (such as warnings) for the away team."
But the advantage is maintained even when there are no crowds, as she writes "that the home advantage remains even when there is no audience. This may be due, at least in part, to travel fatigue suffered by the away team—one study indicates that the home advantage increases by as much as 20% with every time zone the away team must cross."
What the study does not focus on if this applies to non-athletic endeavors. But we know through our own experience that it applies to non-athletic endeavors activities such as sales presentation, job interviews, meetings, etc.
If you think this only happens to only athletes or people who are looking for a job, think again. It can even happen to someone who is running for the President of the United States, as Richard Nixon discovered when he met with Nelson Rockefeller at his home in New York City.
What can one learn from Richard Nixon?
Richard Nixon was put in a difficult situation by Nelson Rockefeller, Governor of New York, just days before the Republican Convention was to take place in Chicago, Illinois. Rockefeller threatened that unless there were changes made to the party platform, he would seriously consider engaging in a floor fight to bring his ideas for progress to the delegates at the floor of the convention. Though Rockefeller had no chance of winning a floor fight; however, by engaging in it, he would hurt Nixon's chances against John F. Kennedy for the Presidency in the fall.
To address Rockefeller's concerns about the platform the party had endorsed, Nixon agreed to meet with Rockefeller in New York City at a hotel---a neutral setting. Nixon thought that by meeting with Rockefeller and listening to his concerns and making some minor changes to the platform it would satisfy him such that he would withdraw his threat of a floor fight and would give Nixon a united party to go up against Kennedy. But Rockefeller insisted that the meeting take place at his home and since Nixon was looking for a compromise, he agreed to Rockefeller's demand.
Nixon essentially agreed to everything Rockefeller wanted since he already showed weakness by flying from Chicago to New York City to meet with Rockefeller and then agreed to meet him at his home instead of a hotel. After getting this much, Rockefeller was in no mood for any compromise and drove a hard bargain in order to give up a floor fight which is what Nixon wanted as the price for unity. According to Theodore H, White in his outstanding book, "The Making of the President: 1960," the change to a more moderate position on civil rights ended hurting Nixon in key swing states in1960. If Nixon had stayed with what was drafted originally by the Platform Committee, he may have won a close race in 1960. We can speculate, but one thing is certain is that Nixon lost his advantage by meeting with Rockefeller at his place.
Nixon showed he was not ready for prime time in the way he dealt with Rockefeller as he did not seek any advice from his closest advisers or consult with party leaders on where they stood with Rockefeller's stance (or some may call it blackmail). Nixon made an unforced error that eventually hurt him in the general election against Kennedy.
We all occasionally have to play on someone's turf when it comes to sports, business, politics, shopping, life, etc. but that does not mean we will lose or end up with a bad deal. If you plan ans prepare well, then you can neutralize this disadvantage; sports teams do win on the road quite often on the road.
When you go to a company's site for a job interview, you are not meeting them half way, but all the way. They know that they are in the driver's seat, so you need to think about a strategy before you accept the invitation to meet with the company face-to-face.
What to do to avoid this at a job interview?
- Get an agreement on the purpose of the meeting.
- Know exactly what to expect since there should be no surprises.
- Obtain high level questions ahead of time and let the interviewers follow-up on your answers since you are not going there to take a test.
- Focus on the outcome you want to obtain.
- Get a profile of people who work at the company and find out what they are looking for and determine whether you are a close fit.
- Prepare only for what is likely to come up at the interview.
- Rehearse and act the part of the employee that they are looking for.
- Act professionally all the time; it's a game after all.
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