My experience as an interviewer.
While you’re in the interview hot seat watching for clues from your interviewer, he or she is busy watching you – looking for their own clues. Interviewers look for things they want to hear in your answers, or ways you handle yourself during the interview, or simply some sign that shows them what you might be like if you worked for them.
In my 10+ years of experience, I interviewed around 300+ folks, about half didn’t make it past the phone interview, and even after carefully rejecting 70% of all applicants a lot of the interviewees were just plain unsuitable.
It wasn’t that they were unqualified, they just didn’t know how to interview. They didn’t know how to present themselves, what to wear, and what questions to ask & how to answer.
Let me tell you top things as an interviewer, the mistakes interviewees made generally. What you can do (and say) to stand out and be remembered from among the crowd.
1- Arrive 15 Minutes Early
My mentor told me once: “If you’re early – you’re on time, if you’re on time – you’re late, and if you’re late – you’re fired.”
I’ve seen candidates talk about the wait time they need to bear before their slot come. Think Again On the flip side, some candidates arrive as much as an hour early – forcing the interviewer to alter their schedule. Arriving 15 minutes before time seems to be the sweet spot.
2- Wear a suit or a blazer
Suits and blazers are powerful clothing, that’s why top executives, bankers, and presidents wear them. Chances are, most interviewees are going to show up without one, making you stand out in the crowd, This is still applicable even in the virtual interview era due to COVID.
3- Give the interviewer a firm handshake
Don’t Just Say “Hi/Hey/Hello”, Say “Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening”.
This isn’t too important, but it shows that you’re awake and aware.
Your handshake is the first physical contact you make with the interviewer.
4- Tell me a bit about yourself
The most common and predictable question & candidates still mess it up.
This question goes to demonstrate how much you prepared for the interview.
A good answer should cover: “I’m [Full Name], I have [x] years of experience as an [position] in [Industry].” + “I would say my strengths include [3 strengths customized to the job].” + “My hobbies and interests are [xyz].” Fill in other details about yourself.
5- Why should we hire you?
When you’re answering most interview questions, you’re selling yourself indirectly. This question, on the other hand, is essentially asking you, nay, inviting you to market yourself in a more direct tone.
Avoid using words like “dedicated”. “driven”, “hard-working”, “confident” in your answer. A good answer should cover
“You should hire me because of my experience in [x], [y], [z], and previously I have been involved in projects involving [x], [y], [z].
6- Research the interviewers
Read your email carefully which HR shared with you, you’ll be told the names of the people who’ll be on the interview panel.
Google them and find their Twitter/LinkedIn account and search if they’ve published any pages or articles. Read through them, because people tend to ask questions about things they are already an expert in, and you can really impress people by using their own words to answer their questions.
7- Eye Contact
Eye contact helps you develop a connection with the interviewer and makes it that much more likely for them to remember you. -Plus it shows that you’re alert and listening.
Again, as with the smile, you don’t want to overdo it and create a staring contest. But easy eye contact during the conversational exchanges can help create that connection.
8- Do you actually answer the questions I ask?
Preparing for an interview ahead of time is really important but when it comes to the interview itself, listen carefully at the moment and answer the actual questions asked. I’ve had people come to interviews so overly prepared with canned answers that they try to use their memorized answers even if it’s not exactly what was asked.
So listen to the whole question and respond naturally. If you jump ahead to practice your answer in your head while the interviewer is still talking, that’s a big turnoff. Trust yourself and find your own words. Be conversational. It will help you connect with the interviewer, which is what you want to do.
9- Are you showing me your real self?
Whether you’re using canned answers or spontaneous answers, are you telling me what you think I want you to say or the real story based on who you are and the experiences you’ve had so far?
I’ve had job candidates giving me only the part they think I want to see, and they come off phony or one-dimensional. And they just don’t connect well with me or the other interviewers. If I think there’s enough there, I try other ways to get them to open up to us, but many interviewers won’t go that far.
10- Do you understand the job you’re interviewing for?
This may seem so obvious, but I’ve interviewed people who didn’t seem to know what the job entailed, even though they applied for it. Of course, you can’t know everything about it.
Asking what the job is like on a daily basis is a valid question for you to ask at the end of the interview. But at the very least review the job description and look up anything you aren’t completely familiar with.
11- Did you take time to learn about us?
In addition to researching the job, you need to research the company. What is business all about? What are the specialties of the division/department you’re interviewing with?
Use the internet to find out all you can – even possibly names of people who work there. Then put together a picture of who they are, as best you can, again looking for ways that you and the company match.###
12- Do you have the personality to do the job?
This is an important part of an interviewer’s job. If the job calls for lots of people contact and public interactions, we don’t want someone who seems especially shy.
But conversely, if the job takes place in a cubicle with almost no outside interaction, an extrovert might be bored.
13- Do you have reasonable expectations?
Employers not only want to know if you’re a good fit for the job, but they’re looking to make sure the job will be a good fit for you. An unhappy employee isn’t good for anyone. And no employer wants to go through the hiring process again too soon.
While most employers want you to look to grow both horizontally and vertically within their company, it’s also important that we get a sense you understand what the position is and isn’t … and how quickly any kind of advancement can be reasonably expected. Something you might want to ask about if this is your concern.
14- Are you adaptable / flexible?
Employers often use behavioral questions, where interviewers ask you how you handled things in the past, to assess your ability to respond to new situations with ease and success.
If you prepare your jobs to experience stories well – things you’ve managed to improve or solve or help get done – you’ll present a picture of someone who does rise to the occasion without bringing their own rigidity into the picture.
15- Are you high maintenance?
Some job candidates come in with complaints on their faces about having to wait too long or not being able to bring their parents (yes really). Or they’ve called/emailed with lots of questions ahead of time. Not good.
And during the interview, the way you tell a story can show if you expect way too much from others (without pitching in yourself) and see things mostly from your own point of view. High maintenance is a big red flag.
16- Are you a problem solver?
We love these. Of course, you want to wait until you’ve gathered all the facts and are really sure there is a problem to solve. I’ve seen people come into interviews ready to fix the company – sure that their ideas would win them the job.
Stories about how you solved problems in the workplace are very good. But trying to improve the company while you’re still in the interview process – not good.
[NOTE]: If by slim chance they do ask you how you’d improve the company, base your answer on facts you’ve gathered during your research and not conclusions you’ve jumped to. Focus on steps you’d take to gather what you need to know. And show respect for current management/staff and what you can’t possibly know.
17- Are you a self-starter?
While companies want you to work well with management, they also want to know you won’t just twiddle your thumbs and wait to be told everything.
I always look for clues that the person can operate independently, while still respecting the management structure and coworkers. Not that you can always figure this out in an interview.
18- Do you know who you are and what you really want?
Sounds so simple. But if your answers and stories seem to touch on too many disconnected things, you may be presenting a picture that is too disjointed to leave an impression the employer feels solid about. We are too complex to fully present ourselves in a single job interview. Don’t even try.
Be real and be natural, of course. But give them the pieces that help create that unified story we talked about earlier – one that matches the job you’re applying for.
This means taking the time beforehand to really think about yourself and the job – and how the two come together as a result of your past experiences, skills, abilities, and personality. If you know this well, then your answers will flow more naturally.
19- Do you know your own resume?
Again, so obvious. Yet folks come into an interview not having looked at their resume in a while. And I’ve had people have to think a bit when I ask them about something right there on the resume they sent me.
Please give yourself some time to look at it before you arrive at the interview. You should also review it carefully when preparing stories to help you answer interview questions.
20- Would I like to work with you on a daily basis?
Of all the things an interviewer looks to answer – once we get past “can you do the job” – this may be the most important one of all. Are you a positive addition to the workplace? Can you carry your fair share of the load?
Do you play well with others? Will you pitch in when needed without grousing? Will you be someone I can trust and rely on?
No one answer will tell us this. But when we add up all the pieces, we do our best to find that person who is a match – one whom we’d love to have join us.
You can ask politely about their contact information Get the e-mail ID or the phone number of the interviewer (not HR). This enables you to follow up at a later date.
P.S. This is an excerpt from my latest book The Prime Guide For Next-Gen Developer.
It’s available for pre-order now.
Jack of all trades, master of my life.