references and second interviews

A reader writes:

I interviewed for a position at a local university last week and felt that it went very well. I was shocked though the following Monday when one of my references called me and told me the hiring manager had called her and asked her about my attendance. (My reference is my former boss.) The hiring manager stated they were very interested in me but had “heard” that I called off a lot. My reference was very shocked by this and reassured the manager that I was an excellent employee and didn’t know where that would have come from. I was very upset that anyone would have said this about me, I have always gotten excellent references.

I have just set up a second interview for this position and I am so excited! What is frightening me is that in the first interview I asked if there would be a second interview and they said no. I am thinking it may be that they liked me but aren’t 100% sold. What do you think? What could I do to give me an edge over the other candidates? I really want this job!

If the second interview wasn’t part of their original plan, it likely does indicate that they are strongly interested but want to be absolutely sure (or that they are having trouble deciding between you and another candidate).

Regarding the attendance issue: Have you had any attendance issues in the past? If you have, they might have heard that from another reference, so be prepared to discuss that in the next interview, as they might ask about it. If you haven’t had attendance issues, their question might have simply been worded that way to make your manager feel telling them if you had, who knows. But either way, just figure out in advance how you’ll address the issue if they ask about it. (One possibility: “I’ve actually always had really good attendance, and I could put you in touch with previous managers who could speak to that.” Or: “I did have some health problems during that job, but that was an unusual situation and they’re long since behind me now.”)

If it doesn’t come up at all in the interview, one way to give yourself the chance to tackle any doubts they might have about you is to say something like, “I’d love to know what reservations you might have about my fit for the position, so I can try to address them.” If they bite, that can open the door for you to clear up any misunderstandings. Good luck!