Job Interview Wins and Fails

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The big day is fast approaching. Yep, your job interview: an hour or two that could possibly alter the course of your career and the rest of your life. No big deal. Seriously, though, it can be hard to avoid feeling nervous. The good news is, the more you prepare, the more confident you’ll feel when interview day rolls around. We’ve spoken to hiring managers and recruiters about what makes candidates sizzle and fizzle in job interviews. Read on to make sure you’re on the right side of the spectrum.

FAIL:

  • Assuming You Know Where the Company’s at (Literally)

“Make sure you’re on time. Oftentimes interviewers will have interviews scheduled back to back, so I expect you to be ready to go exactly at the time of your appointment. You can tell the people who ran through the lobby as opposed to the people who planned everything and got there with time to spare. I always tell people, be there, checked in with the receptionist at least ten minutes before the meeting.”

Chris Mann, Business Performance Advisor at Insperity

  • Assuming You Know Where the Company’s at (Figuratively)

“Some job descriptions aren’t clear, and so it’s okay to ask questions and make sure you understand, but guessing about what the role entails and guessing WRONG makes you look ridiculous. I once had a candidate say that she thought she was interviewing for a pharmaceutical sales job and that I was a staffing agency. Two minutes of research and paying even a small amount of attention would have helped her not appear so completely lost.”

Matt Baum, Director of Sales at AfterCollege

WIN:

  • Knowing Your Strengths—And How to Share Them

“I’m looking for someone who can look at the issues we’re dealing with and come up with something innovative and take ownership of problem-solving. Think of something tough you’ve come up against and seen through, what you’ve learned from it, how it got the group beyond where they were. Practice telling your story in a succinct way (be mindful of the time), talking about your life experience, and how it can correlate to a professional setting. Show that you are open, collaborative, and pleasant to work with because we’re all going to be working together to get to the same result.”

Melanie Graff, Senior Recruiter at Yammer

FAIL:

  • Bringing Nothing to the Table (Literally)

“Bringing résumés may seem old school, but I’m looking for people who are prepared for anything, whether it be an old-school interviewer who expects a paper résumé or someone who expects them to be well-dressed). I also expect them to come armed with good questions and a pen and paper with which to write down notes and answers. I see so many candidates nowadays who show up at the interview with nothing but a smile and it makes me feel like they’re not taking it seriously.”

Matt Baum, Director of Sales at AfterCollege

  • Bringing Nothing to the Table (Figuratively)

“The biggest mistake I see is candidates not having a project to talk passionately about. Be ready to talk about your favorite project. I’m going to want to know about the challenges you faced, and the cool, new technologies you learned to overcome them. If we can geek out over some aspect of your project, it’s a lot easier to see you as part of my team.”

Mike Feineman, Lead Developer at Room 214

WIN:

  • Being Interested And Interesting

“To stand out? Tell me about the conferences you’ve been attending, or whose blog you’re reading, or what book has been most helpful. Demonstrate that you are a person who is always learning, and excited to share.

I also tend to like people who have opinions and will explain why they have them. If you think JSON is better than XML, I want to know your reasons why. It helps prove you know what you’re talking about, and shows that you have considered other points of view. The discussion we have of your opinions in an interview is pretty close to the discussions we are going to have when you’re on the team. The better that goes, the better the likelihood you’re hired.”

Mike Feineman, Lead Developer at Room 214

FAIL:

  • Not Being Your Own Cheerleader

“A mistake would be the inability to advocate for yourself, your life, your academic career, what kinds of problems you’ve encountered and the steps you’ve taken to solve those problems.”

Melanie Graff, Senior Recruiter at Yammer

WIN

  • Getting Over Your Nerves And Being Yourself

“The biggest thing they can do to stand out is be fun to talk to. If I enjoy interviewing you I’m a lot more likely to want to spend months training and mentoring you and working alongside you.

Remember that sales (and therefore interviewing for a sales role) is a lot like dating: It should feel natural, not forced. It should be fun, but not completely wacky. You should be confident but not arrogant. And at the end, you shouldn’t expect to close the deal, but you should still try.”

Matt Baum, Director of Sales at AfterCollege

Further Reading

Got a phone interview coming up? Ms. Career Girl doles out useful advice in “How to Ace a Phone Interview.”

Make sure you put your best face forward in a Skype (or any type of video) interview with

Looking For Your Next Job? Here Are the Definitive Top Five Skype Interview Tips” from Skype.

As some of the recruiters and hiring managers mentioned above, a big part of the interview is giving your interviewer a sense that you’re someone they would like to work with. Need a little help figuring out how to do this? Read The Daily Muse’s “3 Ways to Instantly Connect With Your Interviewer.”

It’s pretty inevitable that someone will ask you, “Why should we hire you for this job?” Unsure how to answer? Levo League’s got you covered with “How to Answer the Most Important Question in Your Job Interview.”

On the flip side, you should be prepared to ask some questions as well. Just make sure they’re not what Melissa Anzman from Launch Yourself calls “The Most Annoying Question You’re Asking in an Interview.”

For quick and easy job interview advice, check out these infographics: “Acing the interview: How to score that new job” from Mint.com and “What You Wish You’d Known Before Your Job Interview” from Classes and Careers.

And finally, the AfterCollege managers shared a ton of advice on job interview techniques in our video interviews. See them all here: Teresa Torres, VP of Products; Steve Girolami, VP of Engineering; and Matt Baum, Director of Sales.

Good luck! Be sure to leave a comment and let us know how it went.

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