There’s alot that goes into nailing an interview and walking away feeling like a champ. And there’s equally as many things that will make an interview go south fast and leave you feeling like you need a career change.
Regardless of the roles or years of experience that you may have, there are certain things that will put you out of the running and fast.
Maybe you aren’t doing any of these on purpose. They could be just habits that you pick up in your day to day lives. I know I’ve done these myself in the past. But maybe shedding some light on them can help you out on your next interview.
Because the more you know what “not” to do, the easier it is for you to notice what you should do.
Don’t say “I don’t know”
Or “I’m not sure”, or “next question”. Or any phrase with a negative connotation associated with it. It’s perfectly fine to not know things. That’s just us being human. But as soon as you say it, you lose points. Maybe not consciously, but on a subconscious level the interviewer won’t forget those words.
Even worse, they may have a long list of questions related to this topic and your “I don’t know” has pretty much invalidated half of the interview notes. In which case, this is going to make for either one short interview or a very long anxious one in which you don’t answer too many questions.
I’ve been there from an interviewer perspective. When I interview people I typically start my interviews with very fundamental questions about the position. On one occasion, that question was “How familiar are you with front-end development?” Pretty standard question for a web development position. Except the person answered with “I don’t know front-end development.”
So what do you do when that cryptic question appears that makes your heart race as you navigate for an answer? Well, as I mentioned, don’t say “I don’t know”.
Answer what you do know. Even if its wrong or completely in the wrong direction, it at least shows that you might know it. Maybe you misunderstood the question or maybe you have different experiences with that topic, which is more valid than the “I don’t know”.
In the example above, the person could have definitely won some points by telling me more about their particular role in relation to the front-end development at their company. Or could have explained that while they did not directly participate in the front-end portion, this is what they do know about that field.
Knowing anything is always a better option than knowing nothing.
And I don’t mean having a bad memory.
It sounds rude, but truthfully most of the things that we hear and see on a daily basis are quickly forgotten. This includes humans and in this case interview candidates. This typically depends on the size of the HR department and the company as a whole, but from my experience large organizations want to bring in 4 to 5 people for every job opening. This ensures a large enough pool of talent so that the company can hire better.
From my personal experience though, it was more like 8 or 9 people. And truthfully there were times when candidate 2 just seemed like a great choice for the job. Until candidate 3 showed up. And then candidate 4. Alot of that has to do with novelty. A suspense movie is great the first time around. But when you try and watch it a second time it tends to lose its charm.
Don’t lose your charm. Bring your A-game regardless to each interview. But then prepare something extra. It could be a story about how you saved your company billions of dollars. It could be an amazing project that you’ve been keeping secret from the world. Something. Remember, you are only as interesting as the next person that is going to walk through the doors with their own story.
My old trick was to bring a small portfolio of my work with full color screenshots and notes to a few interview, in a relatively nice portfolio mind you, and to let the person keep it afterward.
“No please, keep it for reference, it’s fine”
First off, not fine, those things can be expensive. But second of all, there’s a good chance that this portfolio is going to linger on the persons desk for some time. At a minimum, they’ll empty it out and keep the folder.
But they’ll have to go through my name one last time before they do so.
This might go without saying, because we can all come to a consensus that lying typically doesn’t boast well for anyone. But we all tend to lie whenever the moment is opportune for us. I’ve read hundreds of resumes in my time, some boasting every skill known to man. And when the big moment comes when I ask about it, the person on the other end has no clue what I am saying.
At this point, I can only assume that there are other stretched out truths on the paper in front of me. And it really isn’t so much about the fact the you might not know this skill. Because that’s totally fine. Not knowing everything that I am going to unexpectedly ask you in the next 30 minutes isn’t wrong. It’s expected as we discourse and navigate through your particular skillset.
It really is about breaking that trust that agree to momentarily give each other, at least for 30 minutes. We don’t appreciate it when our friends lie to us, or our families, or even the media. And the same goes during an interview.
There’s something about a resume that makes us want to stretch the truth out a little bit at times. I’ll say now, I’d rather have a single page concise look at your actual skills, than a 2 page quasi-accurate one.
Landing that second and third interview really isn’t as hard as you think it is. Companies want to hire quickly and efficiently and so do the people that are doing the interviews.
Just to recap, limit your “I don’t know”’s to a more friendlier “What I do know is this”, aim to stand out in whatever way best reflects your personality and keep it honest so that you don’t get thrown off guard by your own lies in the future. Landing a job can be challenging, but we can mitigate that challenge with a few simple rules.