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February 5, 2014

Interviews – you really ought to know this stuff by now

The Internet is littered with advice of the dos and don’ts of interviewing. Candidates still break the basic rules so I’ll elaborate on some of the more egregious errors and a few less obvious ones too.

1. Not knowing what the organisation does

You’d think with every company being on the Internet that candidates would have this cracked. Really you would. It’s my first question: “What do you think we do?” I’m looking for a single line. I know some company websites can be a bit heavy with the corporate speak but you should be able to interpret it into normal person speak.

You should also have tried a search on the company wider than their own website. Are they mentioned in press releases or articles? Who are the people that work for them? Is the person interviewing you on LinkedIn? Have they written posts online about interviewing tips? If so you had better have taken them in.

Sometimes you might be interviewing at short notice. You should still have some idea of what we do; after all you’re after a job here.

2. Asking poor/no questions

Always have a couple of questions. Always. Doesn’t matter if “We’ve covered everything” – have some questions that wouldn’t be covered. Questions about organisational culture. Ask open questions about what it’s like, where the company’s going, what keeps them there.

Don’t be asking detailed questions about terms and conditions until you’re at an offer stage. If the answer to the question wouldn’t really affect your decision to take the job then be wary of asking it. If you are working with an agency get them to ask those questions for you.

3. Being boring

Interviewing takes a lot of time and energy for both candidates and employers. At least try to make that hour or so feel like a good use of time even if you’re not ultimately successful. Droning on forever about what you’ve done isn’t the way to engage and enthuse me about having you on the team. Answer questions succinctly; try to use examples. An interviewer may ask you to expand or go further; that’s when you can talk at greater length.

4. Draw attention to your fantastic attention to detail

… and then litter your CV with errors. Really? Is that the best you can do with this document you hope to impress someone enough to give you money every month?

5. Be self-aggrandising

In “personal statements” and in interviews going on about how great you are has to be backed up with multiple examples of why you’re so great. Just stating it doesn’t make it so.

6. Claiming “Skills” that you don’t actually have

You may have once used an application that used Oracle as its backend database. You are not an Oracle expert. Keep that stuff out of your CV. If necessary put in an assessment of your skills (Basic, Intermediate, Expert, God-like abilities) to be more realistic.

7. Telling interviewers what they want to hear

You don’t know what I’m looking for. Don’t waffle on or wriggle to answer a question, we see through that. Nothing wrong with a resounding “don’t know” as it shows honesty and self confidence.

8. Be late or be weird about showing up

Obvious stuff but it’s a really poor first impression to make. Ensure you can at least ring up if you’re running late. If you’ve got second thoughts about the job don’t just not show up; your name will be mud. You never know when the people you’ve just annoyed may crop up in a different place. Just contact them to withdraw, you won’t hurt their feelings.

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