From someone who has witnessed countless interview-fails – and failed a few herself.
Author’s Note: Hi, I’m one of the co-founders of Scouted–a job matching platform for early career talent. I wear multiple hats here (disclaimer: blogger is usually not one of them), but my main role involves working with our partner companies. I’m constantly talking to our hiring managers to get feedback on the candidates they’ve interviewed through our platform. Below, I’ve gathered my thoughts on common interview pitfalls. Check ‘em out, write ‘em down (cough, see #3), and get ready to crush your next set of interviews.
Interview Fail #1: You’re not prepared.
Grooan, you’re saying. I thought this list was supposed to give me actual insider intel into the interview process. I know, I know. It sounds obvious, but we hear this complaint from hiring teams ALL THE TIME. So we’re putting it first. Before every interview, some absolute musts:
- Review the company’s website, LinkedIn, social media profiles and Google them.
- If possible, test out their product or service so you can provide feedback during the interview.
- Often, you will be asked what makes the company unique in their space. This is a soft-ball. You should be able to answer this well and you should be able to explain why this company is different than similar ones in their field. (Hint: that means you know some of their competitors.)
- Google the interviewer if you know them! Check them on Linkedin. It might even make you connect with the interviewer better!
Interview Fail #2: You have no clear passion for the company or job.
I can’t count the number of clients who have said, “We really liked Corey, but he just didn’t seem that interested in the job.” Or, “Topanga would be awesome for the role, but she couldn’t articulate why she wanted the job or what she liked about our company.” FAIL. (Success, though, on winning our team bet to include a Boy Meets World reference in my blog article.) You are going to be asked what excites you about this opportunity and if you can’t answer this question with genuine passion and conviction, you will fail to get the job. People care deeply about their work and want to see that you will care too.
Interview Fail #3: You don’t have a pen and paper.
An interview is like a mock work day: people are trying to get a sense of what you would be like in their open role. You want to appear professional, and the first sign of reliability is having a pen and paper so you can take notes. Hopefully you will have questions and if you care about the answers, you should care enough to write down what the interviewers says. Even if you have a photographic memory like my childhood hero Cam Jansen, taking notes signals to the interviewer that you respect them and the time they’ve taken out of their busy day to talk to you. And yea, we do mean a paper and pen. Technology is great but it is WAY more distracting in a job interview.
Interview Fail #4: You don’t leverage your connections.
Internal referrals build social capital. If you know someone at the company, you should reach out before your interview. (Unless you stole their girlfriend in college or hazed the sh*t out of them during pledging. Then, perhaps lie low.) It’s a great opportunity to get insight into the company and opportunity. This is not about nepotism – it’s much more practical than that. It’s hard to really get to know someone in the span of an interview or two, so if you have a guy saying “I know her, she’s cool as ice”, that can go a long way. And let’s talk numbers, referrals are 7% of the average applicant pool but 40% of all hires! Plus, referrals get hired faster. Who doesn’t want those odds?
Interview Fail #5: You don’t follow ‘best-in-class’ interview principles.
When we were developing our initial product, a wise product manager helped me see the difference between ‘best in class’ and ‘differentiators’. A ‘best in class feature’ is one that all your competitors have, but without it you won’t be at the bar – like an easy to navigate website. (A ‘differentiator’ is something that none of your competitors have, like on-demand resume feedback). When it comes to your job search, you want to make sure you exemplify all the standard ‘best in class features’ to ensure you’re a real contender. This means, write THANK YOU NOTES within 24 hours of your interview and always be polite and courteous to everyone you speak/interact with. It’s a small world out there and even if you don’t get the job, you never know when your paths might cross again.
Interview Fail #6: You ask inappropriate questions too soon.
In a lot of ways, an interview is like a first date. Even if you really want to know if his maternal grandfather exhibited early-pattern baldness, you probably wait until at least Date 4 to pop that question. Same rules apply here: If you ask questions about compensation and work hours in the first interview, the company may think you care about the wrong things. These are important topics you should know about before deciding whether to accept an offer, but best to wait until you are going steady, if you know what I mean.
Interview Fail #7: You don’t have any questions at all. 🙁
Back to that “passion” thing again – people want to see that you are genuinely interested in and excited about their opportunity. It’s OK to ask the same questions to different people – in fact it can be a good point of triangulation – but if you don’t have any questions, most interviews will take that as a negative sign.
Interview Fail #8: You end an interview preemptively.
This also happens more often than you might think. Options have inherent value, so don’t do anything that might prevent you from getting an offer. You owe it to yourself to get the opportunity to turn it down. ALSO, sometimes an interviewer will realize you’d be a good fit for a different role, and will thus move you to that pipeline. So you should be open-minded, learn whatever you can about the opportunity and get the offer. Once you have it, then you SHOULD be selective about whether this is a good fit for you. It’s hard enough to get an interview, let alone a job. Don’t be your worst enemy.
That’s all I’ve got for today! Hope it helps – and if you’re eager to test your newly sharpened interview skills, come visit us at Scouted. We’ll hook you up.