I have spent the majority of the last seven years of my life working in talent acquisition. I have worked for two fortune 500 companies in that time, once as a head hunter and once as a corporate recruiter. I have looked at thousands of resumes for many different roles. I have also interviewed thousands of candidates over the last 6+ years. Truthfully, I have been blown away by some candidates whilist others left quite a bit to be desired. Usually it doesn’t take long for a seasoned recruiter to tell whether a candidate is going to be a rock star or the opposite. Now some of that decision making process happens before you even pick up the phone. The recruiter looks at your resume and can tell if someone is going to have the necessary skills.
In all honesty there have been times where I looked at a resume and based on the conversation with my hiring manager, felt as if my conversation was all but a formality. There have been times where I literally thought to myself, I am going to have this conversation and as long as the person doesn’t say something appalling or offensive I will most likely be sharing them with the hiring manager as soon as I can type up a paragraph and hit send. Now to some of you that might be a little disheartening. You might be thinking, “well Ben, if your mind is already made up what is the point of me even showing up for this interview?” Fair question but I would counter that by saying that despite what opinions may be formed prior to the conversation taking place, you still have the power to change the recruiter’s opinion of you. But how?
Well I am glad you asked, this brings me to the most frustrating thing candidates get wrong when they interview. The one thing that differentiates the best candidates from the candidates who don’t make it past the first round is preparation. There is a noticeable difference between those candidates who sound prepared and those who sound like they are really winging it. If you want to place yourself amongst those who excel during interviews then the key is to control what you can control, which is your level of preparation. Many times I have gotten into a conversation with someone only to find out very quickly they were woefully unprepared to speak with me. I can tell you for a recruiter that is a very frustrating thing to deal with. When someone comes into an interview unprepared like this, it tells the recruiter that not only do they not value your time but they also don’t value the opportunity.
Now if you care about an opportunity those are thing you obviously don’t want your recruiter thinking. So these are three basic things you need to know about the company when you're going into an interview (Oh, by the way, check out this link and you can download my free interview prep guide so that you are full on ready for your interview):
Look, this is the easy stuff. If you are interviewing with a company, you owe it to yourself to have this information. Anyone with access to a computer can easily get all this information, commit a good deal of it to memory and go into an interview relatively prepared. What I like to do is write down the information I want to know on a piece of paper and once I find that information, I write it down on the piece of paper under the question. The fact of the matter is you remember things better when you write them down. Just reading it won’t always be enough.
Not being extremely familiar with a job description can also be a huge mistake. If I am on a phone interview I like to have a tab open with that information right on the screen in front of me. Pro-tip: copy and paste it into Word, leave a few lines of space between the must haves and then write how you meet those requirements in the blank space. That way if you talk about the role you will be well prepared to address this topic.
The fact of the matter is you know several questions you are going to be asked already. They are going to ask you why you are looking. They are going to ask you what you like about the job you applied to. They are going to ask you how much money you make or how much you are looking for or both. Any recruiter worth their salt will in some way or other ask these questions. Since you know they are coming it would be crazy for you not to be prepared to answer them. On my website, I have posts on how you can answer each of these questions.
Well there you have it. Don’t be one of those candidates who just assumes they will be able to win over their interviewer with their wit and charming personality. Control what you can control and come to that interview ready to kick butt and make a name for yourself. In today’s competitive job market you might find yourself going head to head with candidates who are just as qualified as you.
Ultimately, more than you know, it comes down to who did that little bit extra and was prepared. I have had people tell me that they don’t want to prepare because they want to like them for them and not just what they prepared and said during the interview. While I understand that sentiment; but I would counter with this - in my opinion, you always want to be the one making the decision. If they give you an offer and you don’t want to make the move you can always say no. But it’s much better to be in the position to make that decision, as opposed to the other way around. Thanks for reading and I hope this helps!
Back to Candidate blogs