At work, I am being given the opportunity to oversee my first full-time hire. Because the position requires a niche technical skill-set, we have been working with several recruiting firms to source resumes. I have been conducting phone screens for the past two weeks and have found several reoccurring gaps in interview etiquette among candidates. Check this out and don’t allow these to happen to you!
1. Have a story for why you want to leave your current position and more importantly, why now. If I ask you why you are looking for a full time position at my company now (and are thereby leaving your current one), especially if you have been a free-lance consultant for the past five years, please don’t tell me that you just want to make an impact. Furthermore, don’t tell me that you like everything about your current job but that it doesn’t pay you enough money and you have a son and a mortgage. The reality is that finances may be a major consideration in wanting a new role. But the interviewer just doesn’t want to know. I would argue that there are several better things to express about wanting a change of scenery. You can say that you would like room for further growth but due to management or the structure of your currently company, you are not getting that opportunity. You can also suggest that the position was described to you one way when you were joining the company but turned out to be a different ball game and you’ve been misled. Whatever you do, don’t tell the interviewer that you’re in it for money. They are simply going to conclude that money won’t keep you happy on a bad day…and probably be right.
2. Prepare for introspective behavioral questions. Or at least be honest when asked. It is very common for interviewers who are looking to ascertain cultural fit to ask a couple of questions about things that have likely happened to you at work. A common example is “tell me about a time when you had to work with a team to accomplish something” or slightly less common is something like “tell me about how you handled an instance in which you’ve disagreed with a colleague.” It is generally easier if you’ve rehearsed the main points of the answers to such questions in advance. On-the-spot nervousness can make it harder to recall simple things. Google ‘common behavioral questions’ and practice answering them. If you don’t prep in advance, however, if you have so much as 1-2 years of work experience under your belt, you should absolutely have instances in which you’ve disagreed with colleagues. If you don’t, then I really have to question the authenticity of your work experience. If you’re caught off guard by the question and don’t have the answer easily mentally available, I suggest that you stop yourself and think about an actual instance that answers the question. I had a candidate who was clearly caught off guard by the question but paused and came up with a genuine answer. The absolute wrong thing to do is talk just to fill the space and answer in hypotheticals. For example, if you say “in a time of disagreement you have to sit everyone down…”, instead of explaining your particular situation and how YOU handled it, I, as the interviewer, begin to feel like you’re not listening. Then I naturally start to wonder whether you would do the same at work.
3. Do research on the company you’re interviewing for. I may be sounding like Captain Obvious but you’d be surprised how many folks don’t do basic research. And if you haven’t done the basic research, how can you hope to effectively make the argument that you’re the best candidate for the position at a company? Believe me, someone who works at a company will immediately know if you haven’t put in the time to figure out what the company does or, at least, come up with educated questions on the topic. Oh, and last thing. Dress up please! Wear a tie if you’re a dude, or a well-pressed suit if you’re a female…and don’t stroll in drinking a coffee, while continuing to sip on it during the interview. Distracting and unprofessional – both things you don’t want your interviewer thinking about you.