Why do candidates sometimes self destruct in a job interview? Here are some of the common mistakes I see:
Lack of Preparation.
In today’s electronic environment, there’s really no excuse for not knowing a great deal about your prospective employer in a job interview. Yet, you would be surprised at how many senior level people are willing to take short cuts on this step. This is especially true when interviewing with a recruiter. There’s a feeling that an interview with a recruiter does not warrant the same level of due diligence as when an interview is scheduled with the direct hiring manager.
If a recruiter is involved in the process, they are the gatekeeper. If you fail to prepare for this interview, you’ll never get to meet the hiring manager!
Not listening – or answering a question that wasn’t asked.
Sometimes, candidates are so busy thinking about what they plan to say next that they fail to listen to the question asked. This is one of my pet peeves, and something that I am not shy about in an interview situation. Good listening skills are critical to most jobs, and most hiring managers zero in on this skill quickly.
Failure to highlight accomplishments.
Resumes come alive when they are accomplishment focused. Interviews are similar. Weaving accomplishments into your answers will give the interviewer deeper insight into your capabilities. Take a look at the key requirements for the position you’re applying for, and match some of your key accomplishments up with them.
Candidates need to tell a cohesive story. They need to be in command of the information that appears on their resume. They also need to anticipate questions they’ll be asked, and have an answer ready. Responses should contain brief examples that highlight key strengths.
Giving real weaknesses.
I believe in honesty, but candidates need to be careful about how they answer questions about developmental issues. You can always spin a weakness into a positive. I work too hard. I’m a perfectionist. This strategy has been way over played, and truly lacks credibility. Try answering with a weakness that you’ve overcome. For example:
I used to be afraid of speaking in front of large groups. This is actually something I’ve worked hard to overcome. I joined a Toast Masters organization and worked one on one with a coach to conquer my fear. I don’t really think about it now, but earlier in my career, this was a huge problem for me.
Name dropping is usually not a good strategy. Hiring managers recognize it for what it is — a shameless attempt to make yourself look well connected and suggests that you’re an expert in your field. It usually comes across as too slick, too self serving, and too “I” focused. In other words, you’re a little too full of yourself to work well in a team environment!
Recruiter: Friend or Foe?
As suggested above, candidates often think that interviewing with a recruiter is not the same as interviewing with a hiring company. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard a candidate say “I would never say this to an employer, but…” Before they know it, they’ve knocked themselves out of a good job opportunity.
This false sense of security is rooted in a belief that the recruiter wants to help. They are a friend in the job search process — someone who will help you get that ideal job. In most cases, this just isn’t true.
Misrepresenting Your Credentials.
Resume fraud happens. In fact, it happens a lot. Dates are fudged; degrees are listed that were never earned. If you follow the news, you’ll know that some very high profile people have been caught over the past few years lying about their backgrounds. Academic credentials are a prime source of resume fraud. Sometimes I believe that candidates have lied about having a degree for so long that they come to believe it’s true. Not only is the degree non-existent, it’s often embellished with honors and awards.
This information can be easily verified. If you misrepresent your credentials, chances are that you will be caught in a lie. This is likely the fastest way to eliminate yourself from consideration.
Candidates often have difficulty figuring out whether they are qualified for a particular opening. If a candidate is out of work, there’s a tendency to apply to any position remotely connected to their background, thinking that this frenzy of activity will lead to a good opportunity. This is not a good strategy. Over qualified candidates wonder why someone isn’t willing to snatch up a seasoned employee. From the employer’s perspective, an over qualified candidate is likely to leave sooner, become bored with the position, perhaps become competition for the hiring manager, and the list goes on. In short, if the company wants 5-7 years of experience, and you have 25 years of experience, you are not going to be a good fit.
Likewise, if a company needs a sales professional who has regularly sold into the C-suite, and you have sold to Purchasing, you won’t be qualified for the job. Candidates will often try to argue the experience point. “I know that if given a chance, I can do this job. My skills are transferrable.” That may well be the case, but with the job market being a competitive place, companies don’t need to settle for transferrable skills. They can hire someone who matches their requirements across the board.
Spend time applying to positions you are truly a fit for, and more interviews and offers will follow.