The Value of Letting Your Reputation Precede You
With the rigors of professional competition forcing employers to make quick decisions on who to hire and a long history of individuals losing out on positions that they were otherwise qualified for, it is little wonder why many stress preparing for the interview as one of the most important aspects of the job searching process. Based on personal experience, however, I would argue that there is also a certain value to letting your reputation precede you and having something available that can speak for you, so you won’t have to.
If I could get a little academic with you for a moment: in the world of organizational communication, there is a concept known as ventriloquism, which despite its name is only tangentially related to the age-old art of talking puppets.
When one ventriloquizes for say, an organization, they act on behalf of it, serving as its voice when, in reality, it cannot speak for itself. Though this is a role usually filled by corporate communicators and public relations professionals in the workplace, it is possible for a text to serve as an object of ventriloquism: speaking for something or someone when they cannot. Think of mission statements or monthly newsletters. Despite being corporately developed texts, they manage to take a life of their own and “speak” for the body that they represent.
This same practice can be applied in the interview process.
Perhaps an example might help. Some summers ago, when I was a young, fresh-faced undergraduate student of 20—as opposed to the grizzled graduate student of 22 that I am today—I applied for an internship experience at Cincinnati Educational Television, a local PBS station. As the day of my interview arrived, I had made extensive preparations, dressing to the nines in my best—and only— suit, and developing a series of stock answers for the more obvious interview questions. The only thing that I had not prepared was the transportation.
Due to the concerning lack of a car on my part and an even more concerning lack of friends with cars, I turned to public transportation and scheduled a taxi cab to pick me up beforehand. As luck would have it, the taxi never arrived. In all honesty, some part of me believes that this cab is still on its way to pick me up, all these years later. The bus became my only option, a choice which ultimately ensured that I would arrive egregiously late for my interview, barely before the station’s closing time.
Disheveled, disgruntled and disastrously unfocused, I promptly mangled the interview experience, rendering all of my preparation for the face-to-face meeting moot. To my surprise, in spite of my poor interview, I would leave the station with the internship.
Why, you might ask? It would seem that before my tardy arrival at the station, my then future supervisor had looked up my profile on the social media website LinkedIn, and was convinced enough by what was available there, that she had elected to provide me the position before she had even met me that day. In essence, the profile had done my interview for me, convincing her to hire me when, I most certainly could not.
While my experience was considerably more on the extreme side of things, there is certainly a value to be found in keeping in mind the importance of having some material to speak for you. When you let your reputation precede you, letting your experience and online presence magnify your capabilities, you become an impressive force capable of what may at the time seem impossible.