I’ve been on both sides of the interview table at different times in my career, but in the last three years, I’ve probably interviewed 80 job candidates for various openings. And here’s the amazing thing: Most of them disqualified themselves fairly quickly.
This wasn’t because of any interview trickery. It was for a simple reason: They didn’t adequately prepare for the interview — if they prepared at all.
Nothing annoyed me more as a hiring manager than dealing with unprepared interviewees. They not only wasted my time, but also assured I’d have to spend yet still again more time digging up new candidates.
But it’s never been easier to prep for a job interview. Companies have websites that clue you in to their values; job sites such as Glassdoor can give you a strong idea of the questions that will be asked; there are numerous resources that will help you prepare for what’s coming. If you don’t take advantage of this intelligence, you’re probably toast. It’s that simple.
Want to succeed at a job interview? Here are a few hints:
Know the product. I last worked at a business publishing company that put out more than a dozen daily newsletters and had a similar number of websites. All of those were available to the public. Yet when I started asking candidates about the publications, easily a third copped to never reading them, or just glancing them over.
Look, you’re going to be asked how you can improve the product. How can you answer that question if you don’t even know the product? Why would I hire you if you care so little about my product?
Prep for the obvious questions. “What’s your ideal job?” I often ask. Blank stares are a regular response.
C’mon, that’s a softball. Do a Google search on “common job interview questions” and prepare accordingly. Check out Glassdoor to find out what specific questions get asked during job interviews at your potential employer.
Look at the freakin’ interviewer. There have been times when I’ve felt like Quasimodo during a job interview, as the interviewee moved into a deep state of shoegazing or wall-staring because of my apparent and unsuspected loathsomeness. What you’re really telling me is that you can’t concentrate.
Does it bother you to look people in the eyes? Here’s a tip I got long ago: Look at one eye, not both. They won’t know the difference and it often solves that feeling of discomfort some folks feel when they look at someone this way.
Show some enthusiasm. Do you want to work at a given company? Tell the interviewer! Say it with me: “I really want to work here.” It’s an incredibly powerful statement. Enthusiasm at an interview is a big harbinger of workplace success for a candidate, in my experience. If you want the job, ask for the job! And here’s a related caveat:
Don’t be a jerk. I am on the cusp of getting a position that fell my way in part because a previous candidate turned off hiring managers with his attitude at the job interview. This happens all of the time! Many companies enforce the No Asshole Rule in hiring, and when I made that part of my hiring creed, I got employees who didn’t pollute the workplace.
Dress the part. My last job was at a workplace with a casual dress code. That didn’t mean I wanted you to show up for an interview with jeans and a flannel shirt. Wear business attire to an interview.
None of these points seem very hard, do they? Yet I’d estimate two-thirds of the job candidates I interviewed over the last three years disqualified themselves because they couldn’t follow these simple steps. To put it another way: You’re already ahead of 66% of candidates just by taking a little time to follow these. The rest is up to you.
And here’s a final hint: If I interview you for a job and you tell me you’ve read this post, I’m going to be impressed. It means you did some homework. I hire people who do their homework.