The world of interviewing for a job can be a cruel and unwelcoming world. I am here to let you know that it doesn’t have to be. This week I want to post up on how you, the candidate can take a lot of the cruelty out of the process. There are a lot of unknowns in the world of interviewing and even when you are working with a recruiter that is considerate to give you an idea of what to expect, things don’t always work out the way they should. There are just too many unknowns when it comes to job interviews. Even if we figure out the interview system at one company it may not work out at the next company you interview with. The interview answers that move you one step further with company A, may throw you out of the process at company B.
In my humble opinion, I would say that 80% of candidates TAKE THEMSELVES out of the process because of their own actions or lack of action. I call these interview killers.
Here are the biggest interview killers and in my opinion, there is no EXSCUSE for the following faux pas.
Resume Killer: Yes, the resume is one of the biggest interview killers. You would be surprised how often we still come across typos on a resume. I won’t dwell on what you have already heard but you would be surprised how many times I see a little red squiggly line underneath an incorrectly spelled work in a word.doc. PDF’s will mask these.
In my opinion, the number 1 reason why 100’s of resumes are submitted and are lost in the void is that the resume didn’t answer the requirements of the job spec. I am sure that the candidate feels adequately qualified for the position, but most resumes don’t reflect the appropriate experience. Presenting yourself via the resume as being “In the ballpark” isn’t good enough. Tailor your resume to the specific job description and focus on the first 4-5 bullet points. Every resume you turn in should be tailored to the specific job qualifications. If you have a single resume for all of the positions you are interested, you will fail. I cannot stress this enough.
Beyond the resume, there are a number of job interview killers out there. The number 1 way to avoid these is to talk with someone that is familiar with the company you are interested in.
LinkedIn and Twitter profiles can shed some insight into what makes the hiring manager tick, what activities they like, and where their passions are. Networking your way into the company can help a lot. You do NOT need to network yourself to the hiring manager. I am convinced that a 30-minute talk with someone who worked at the company, did business with the company, or is currently employed with the company will help candidates immensely and will help avoid a lot of heart ache for everyone involved. Even talking with someone that was fired from the company is better than going into an interview blind. Do everything and anything you can to network yourself into a position where you can ask the following and pin down the basics.
- What is the dress code for the department and what should I wear to the interview? You would be surprised how many candidates get this wrong and walk into a corporate culture overdressed or underdressed. Over dressed can be a good thing, but too much of a good thing isn’t. Don’t wear a suit and tie to a start up if you are applying for a developer position. It may be appropriate for a think tank or a corporate job, but unless you talk with someone, you are just guessing. Avoid the t-shirt and jeans if you are going to a business unit.
- What is the culture of the company? Does the company value work life balance or are they hard charging 60 hours a week machines? You would be surprised how many candidates interview with a start up and talk about their desire for work life balance.
- What are some of the new products or initiatives in the works? It really does boggle my mind these days when a candidate indicates that they haven’t done an iota of research on what the company does.
- How often does the company conduct reviews?
- What is the culture of the company?
- What is the review process like?
Finding answers to these basic questions and then confirming the info vs. asking the info with the person conducting the interview can set an entirely different tone for the rest of the conversation. Someone that is “confirming” facts did their homework and is obviously interested. Someone who is asking questions which could have been answered with just a tiny amount of research sends an entirely different message.
What you can control: I don’t know how many times candidate throw themselves under their own bus when interviewing, but if I had a nickel for each time a candidate took themselves out of the running, I wouldn’t be talking to candidates. I would be on an island surrounded by scantily clad women who know how to bait hooks, clean fish, and handle the accoutrements for lighting a cigar.
Don’t ever throw yourself under the bus. I don’t know what it is. Whether candidates are nervous, insecure, or haven’t heard themselves interview – I find most candidates take themselves out of the picture by saying too much. A wise man once said:
It is better to keep one’s mouths shut and let everyone think you are fool than to open it and remove all doubt.
Here is what I heard in the last month alone (mind you, these are all senior level candidates and all presented me with an interview killer):
- A candidate’s son had a life-changing event (it was positive) earlier in the week and for 30 minutes, the candidate talked about how proud they were of their son. As happy as I was for the candidate, I felt like I wasted 30 minutes of my life and I learned nothing of the candidates qualifications. “Easily distracted and lack of ability to focus on the task at hand”.
- Candidate doesn’t get along with their prior manager so they want to leave. I am surprised how often I ask a candidate “Why are you interested in leaving your current company” and I get something similar to “My manager is stupid”, “I don’t get along with my manager”, or “I don’t get along with my co workers. I can’t help but wonder what makes the candidate think that our company is going to be any different? Doesn’t get along with the manager translates to “Doesn’t play well with others”.
- Candidates that work in very large companies seem to take the initiative and explain the reasons they are looking for new opportunities with (something along the lines of) “There is no opportunity with their current employer”. There is ALWAYS opportunity. The only reason that there may be no opportunity is that your resume shows career progression and you are the leader of your department. No more opportunity translates to “lacks initiative”.
- A candidate takes the initiative to tell me they were let go for no reason and they explain that they don’t know why. It surprises me how often candidates feel that they need to vent to me about the last company. Yes, I work in HR, but for the record, HR people don’t share a Vulcan mind meld or database between companies. Being let go for no reason translates to “lacks emotional intelligence.”
- Candidate doesn’t know what job he/she is interviewing for. They are interviewing for any job and will literally ask “What jobs do you have open?” or “What jobs do you think would be a good fit for my skills?” This is what I refer to as a first round knock out.
My advice to solve for the above interview killers is to write down interview questions and your answers. In the same way most candidates ask a friend to proof read their resume, practice your answers with a friend. State your answers out loud so your tone, your attitude, and potential pitfalls can be discovered before I do. You will be surprised what your partner hears in your answers.
Sincerity and consideration are still valued in today’s fast moving world and showing a little goes a long way. In my opinion, it takes so little to show well in an interview because 80% of candidates don’t.
See you at the after party,