For someone trying to land a job, the recruitment world has earned itself a pretty nasty rap since the downturn in the Great Recession’s wake. It’s arcane, candidates say. Fickle. A black hole. Résumés are rolled up into bottles and tossed into a digital sea, with the fleeting hope that the tides and currents of fate might eventually land it in the hands of someone with the common courtesy and wherewithal to respond. Too often, they don’t. But even when an interview is secured, it seems that there is all too much superstition and misunderstanding around the process. In reality, it’s more common sense than most people realize.
Over the past few years, I had the opportunity to serve as our Director of Recruiting. In that time, I have conducted well over one thousand interviews, both over the phone and in-person. And as I have steadily expanded my interviewing “sample size,” I have noticed a few insights and patterns that make great candidates stand out from the pack. Interviewing is more of an art than a science. Nonetheless, here are a few basic guidelines that you should keep in mind as you prepare for interviews.1) Try Your Best to Make the Interview a Conversation
This may seem counter-intuitive. After all, interviews are the company’s opportunity to question & evaluate your candidacy. However, as I think back on the 1000+ interviews that I have conducted, it has been the “conversations” that I recall the best. It makes sense though. An interview that consists of a repetitive pattern of interviewer’s question followed by interviewee’s answer, can become monotonous quickly. Even if the interviewee’s answers are adequate, the interview can lack life and the interviewee can seem disinterested.
Instead of getting caught up in the tangle of a Q & A, try to incorporate an interesting & relevant question at the end of your response. Not only does this break the repetitive nature of the interview, but it also indicates good critical thinking ability.2) Avoid Rambling Answers
Sometimes interviewees are so determined to talk about their strengths that they forget to answer the question that’s actually been asked. A question about your specific experience with Website Design should not illicit a 2-minute response that alludes to athletic & theater arts experience. The longer your responses are, the greater the likelihood that you lose your audience. Keep it short, sweet and to the point. There will be plenty of opportunity to discuss your strengths.3) Use the Appropriate “Strength” Adjectives
Always be conscious of and conservative with your use of adjectives in an interview. Expect the interviewer to hold you to the standard that you set with the strength of your adjectives. Whether you say that you are “pretty good,” “great,” or “amazing,” at something -- be ready to demonstrate that actual level of expertise.
If you claim to be “extremely good” at generating ideas for advertising campaigns, you had better be ready to pitch some ideas. If you say you make great decisions under pressure, be ready to cite some examples. If you cannot backup the strength of your own claims, you will quickly lose credibility.4) Avoid the Urge to Give the Perfect Answer
Interviews are intense, no doubt. However, it does no good to think of them like interrogations. You are not on trial, and there is never a “perfect answer.” Moreover, when candidates try to give the “perfect answer,” they typically come off as disingenuous and insincere. In most cases, these candidates are giving the answers heard most often. For example, here are the four most common “weaknesses” given by candidates:
- I take on too much responsibility
- I am too detail-oriented
- I work too hard
- I am a perfectionist
Notice anything amongst the four most common responses to weaknesses? They aren’t weaknesses. All of them are positive traits that candidates claim to possess in such dubiously great quantities that they actually become weaknesses. This type of response gives an interviewer reasonable suspicion about a candidate’s ability to self-assess and their willingness to be candid or address their real weaknesses.
Typically, honest interviewees have the most insightful and memorable responses. They come off more frank, open, and trustworthy. More importantly, their ability to be honest in their self-critique indicates desire for self-improvement that is critical to success.