“You know, at the end of the day I remember the interviews that were exceptional. With candidates that blow you away. Not just with their experience or intelligence, but with the way they present it. You just know that they will go a long way. But equally, I also remember the train wrecks. The interviews that were absolutely terrible. Candidates that have no idea what they are doing, are arrogant or so ill-prepared it’s insulting. I can laugh at those now, but at the time, it’s just a waste of time, and honestly, insulting. Some of the mistakes I see in the interviews are so to avoid. It really pays off”
Sometimes, when you apply for a role, you know it may be a long shot. But you are just dying to get into that coveted role at the California tech giant, that North-East start-up or blue-chip company in the sunbelt. You know that you’re stretching it, and you know there’s only a slim shot that you even get considered.
But in general, you apply for roles you see yourself in. You want to do your best in the process, show the interviewers your skills and experience and how they match their requirements. How your personality and attitude match their company and culture. You try to shine and blow your interviewers out of the room or off the video screen.
Don’t be a Statistic
As a recruiter, the perfect interview is not what I see all the time. The number of interviews that are really, really bad would surprise you. And not because the candidate is not feeling well, had a stroke of bad luck, or blanked. No, candidates that just don’t deliver, don’t show up on time or don’t know what they are talking about.
A recruiter worth his salt will spot this in less than a minute. A recruiter who is still learning may take four minutes more. But before the interview is over, the candidate has tanked. And effectively is done. If the interview is for a dream role or for a solid role in an economically rough time, it’s a true shame.
Let\’s talk about the most common mistakes we see happening, and how you can avoid them. In three different posts, we will discuss mistakes you can avoid before the interview starts and mistakes you can avoid during the interview itself. Today, let’s start with your preparation and how to ensure you don’t mess up before you even open your mouth.
1. Have an Effective Resume
You want to make sure that your resume, your business card, your 2-sheet document shows what you have done and what you can do, is nothing short of perfect. Because recruiters will, especially for high-volume roles, scan resumes in seconds. If they don’t immediately see what they are looking for, or it doesn’t appropriately catch their attention, chances are you will be rejected right away. Check out our post about how to make your resume stand out and capture the advice and tips to create the perfect business card. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are scores of specialists that, for a fee, work on your resume and bring out the best.
2. Apply for the Right Position
It’s tempting to apply for roles you aspire to be in, but you know you’re not ready for. Not ready now, and sometimes, not ready ever. Like I said, if you see a Vice President role at one of those prestigious investment banks in Manhattan, it is pretty tempting to apply. Same with an Engineering role at one of the Big Tech companies. But save yourself and the recruiter time, frustration and energy, and avoid making the mistake of applying for roles you are not qualified for. I am not saying to play it safe, you can totally take some risk and aim high. But be realistic. Example: even though it may be a dream of mine to work on the launch program for commercial space satellites, with my HR background I don’t even have to worry about being laughed out of the room. A much, much scarier scenario is I get the job and I crash-land the satellite in your backyard and the booster rocket on the roof of your car.
Jokes aside–if you apply for roles wildly out of your area of expertise and not meeting the crucial criteria, you either won’t make it through the resume round. If you get invited, it will become clear in seconds, and that will be a true waste of time.
3. Not Looking at your Full Picture
Even though it is not allowed everywhere to include social media and all findings in the research process, it happens. Even when it happens in the wrong way–looking at and considering things they shouldn’t. Apart from the difficulty of proving it happened, you may never know why you didn’t make it through to the next round.
Well, it could be because of your online life. The post of your Binge Weekend at the Bar. The rant with people, fighting, cussing, and arguing. Photos of questionable nature, political comments, and slurs. If the rise of Social Media has taught us one thing, it is that everything blurs together. Work, Private, Offline, Online. Be mindful of what you post online, what you get tagged in, and what you say. You don’t know who may look. Next week, of 7 years down the line.
Do an online search every now and then. Check for results in the various social media channels and use the common search engines for information on the internet. Delete comments that have lost context or you don’t agree with anymore, or anything that stands out in a negative way. Find out how you can have posts, comments, or photos deleted that you don’t own.
4. Arriving Late
We’ll discuss what you can do to stand out in the interview itself in the next posts. Let’s focus the attention to avoiding the mistakes made in the preparation of the job interview itself.
One of the things that is the easiest to avoid is arriving late. Yes, sometimes you face a truly bad situation you couldn’t prepare for. Your flight is delayed. There is a snowstorm or hurricane. A massive pile-up blocks the highway and you’re boxed in.
All other excuses–all the stoplights were against me, I couldn’t find a parking spot, the bridge was open–mean you left too late. Arriving late is bad for quite a few reasons. First, it shows you have trouble planning and managing your time. Second, it shows you don’t care about the time of the people you are going to meet. Third, you will arrive stressed and sweaty from running or anxiety, and that will not help you have the best interview you may have. Leave on time and arrive on time. When you’re really early, wait away from the building or room so you are not the person sitting in the lobby for hours, but plan to walk into the office 15 minutes ahead.
Also–if you know that the company you are visiting has a safety policy and asks you to go through a safety video or training, make sure you build in time for that before your meeting starts.
5. Dress Appropriately
Let me clear up one thing. As long as you don’t go for a tuxedo and a full-length ball gown, there is no such thing as overdressing. Companies have dress codes and ‘uniforms’. Think of the blue suits for banks and law firms. Some tech firms are ok with flip-flops and flowery shirts. Make sure that your interview attire shows you understand the company dress code, and you dressed up for the interview nonetheless. I always appreciated interviewing internal candidates that never wore a suit in their every-day work, but dress up in a suit and tie for the interview. Trust me, recruiters will see. And if they don’t, you’re on the right side of the spectrum. Come underdressed, and it will stick out.
Next time, we will talk about the interview table, and the mistakes you can to avoid there to maximize your efforts. Want to share your experiences with interviews? Join the discussion and leave a comment!
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