Dear Candidates, You're Your Own Worst Enemy.
Interviews are inherently no fun. While candidates can spend days worrying over the right outfit, the right answers, and the right cover letter, recruiters (or as we liked to be referred as, search consultants) spend just as long or longer slogging through incomplete resumes, prepping questions for our clients, and defining outcomes for our placements. The interview? That's the part where all the pieces are supposed to come together. No wonder everyone is stressed out and thirsty.
But let's say you get through the phone screening, the interview, the reference and google check (yes, we do that) and we send you in front of the employer. That's where many of you seem to lose the interviewer's interest. Maybe you didn't notice us wincing during the interview, but, you're surprised. You thought it went well, but then - no offer. You call us, wondering what went wrong. What changed? Apparently all those self-help articles you read were a total dud. Because in the process of interviewing, you completely eliminated yourself from the running. And you committed an interview sin so egregious, we search consultants definitely can't save you. Candidates, you are your own worst enemy because you broke one of these rules.
1. You got caught in a lie.
We really can't believe we have to ask this, BUT CAN YOU PLEASE NOT LIE?! We know its uncomfortable, but an ugly truth beats a pretty lie every day of the week. We probably already know you got fired from your last job and that your twitter account is a hot mess. Assume we also can check 990's and that someone from your board knows someone on this board. So please, be truthful. No one will hire someone dishonest. If you get caught in a lie, you're done. Moral: Don't lie.
2. You didn't follow directions.
We asked you to wear blue and show up with a writing sample. You showed up in red and decided you were going to "mix it up" and do a presentation instead. We said, "NO HANDOUTS" and you brought handouts. You wanted to stand out, but now the employer just thinks you can't follow simple instructions. Maybe your presentation was completely amazing, but no one at the table can get over those initial missteps and you're eliminated. Moral: Don't ignore the directions. Yes, they apply to you.
3. You didn't do your homework.
It might be acceptable to mix up facts on your phone screening, but by the time you get to the third interview, you really should have researched your potential employer. You SHOULD have questions. Smart questions. Questions that reflect both the current situation at the organization and your inherent curiosity. If you don't have any questions, employers assume you don't really have an interest. Moral: Do homework and have natural questions about the organization.
4. You asked the wrong questions.
Ok, so you took us to heart and now you definitely have some questions you want to ask. About compensation. About medical and dental. About time off (please don't ask about time off in advance of an offer). The employer discusses it with you broadly and politely, just hoping to get to the next question and then you ask about "administrative support." Because you aren't doing your own copying! They answer, and cross your name off of consideration - forever. Moral: Slow your roll. Save these questions until the offer stage - although, if you don't want an offer, go ahead and ask these questions here.
5. You complained about your last boss. At length.
This is starting to feel like interview 101, but c'mon people. Be polite, be diplomatic, be as direct as possible - then drop it. Going on and on about your toxic work culture or "founders-syndrome" boss just makes you look whiney and makes hiring employers wonder what you'll have to say about them. Moral: Come up with a better reason why you're leaving your last terrible boss.
6. You didn't sell yourself.
Ok, this is weird. But sometimes you completely whiff on the softballs that are thrown your way. Take for instance this exchange: Hiring employer: "Have you ever worked on high-profile events?" Candidate: "Oh yes! I've worked on events of all sizes!". Um, ok. Tell us why it was high-profile and talk about your method, your outcomes, the outfit you wore - literally anything else. We're sure you put it on your resume, but can you elaborate a little? Moral: Sell yourself at every opportunity.
7. Your resume had dumb mistakes.
Sometimes you get recruited by us. Sometimes you applied. But somehow in the shuffle you got past us with dumb errors on your resume, unexplained gaps, or grammar gaffes. We're human, we get it. But remember that any potential employer doesn't know you nor do they know how amazing you are, but they KNOW what a resume should look like. Screw that up and they'll assume you screw everything up. Seriously. Moral: Review the resume one more time before every interview.
8. You got defensive.
Employers know that no one is perfect. They want to get to the root of what makes you tick. That means sometimes they ask questions that are...difficult. And they know it's difficult, and they want to see how you react. Pro-tip: Defensiveness and anger don't play well in interviews. Suddenly talking about your inflexible reporting structure and unreasonable boss don't reflect poorly on them (no matter how true it is), it reflects poorly on you. Moral: Stay cool, and take time to think if you need it. Don't rush to give an answer and give the wrong one.
9. You fumbled a hypothetical.
Let's say a hiring employer has a very real problem. They change some of the facts around and present it as a hypothetical. Without considering that this actually MIGHT be a problem, you go into a diatribe about how, with you in charge, this would have never happened. You talk about the missteps that got you there, you talk about how you avoid this scenario entirely. Well, great, because you just totally insulted the hiring employer. Conversely, we ask you to actually pitch the organization and instead you tell us how to make a pitch. Any old pitch. But not the one we asked you for. Moral: If you're asked to role-play a situation, do it exactly as presented.
10. You insulted the employer.
You're going through the interview and the rapport is strong. You're feeling comfortable and clearly everyone is getting along. They lean forward a little and ask about their website. Well, since they asked, you tell them how much you hate pink and think it's 100% the wrong font. Then you talk about how the copy is vague. And how you would totally fix it. And now you've sunk the interview because your potential boss designed that website, they love pink, and what do you know anyways. Moral: You can be thoughtfully critical, but tread lightly. You don't know who is responsible for what.
11. You didn't send a thank you letter....or even an email. (Bonus)
Maybe we're just showing our age here. We fully admit to not understanding Snapchat, but when did thank you letters become optional? It was always drilled into our heads that thank your letters are critical after an interview. And they are. It doesn't have to be a novel. Even if it's a one-line email, just reinforcing your interest and thanking them for their time is enough - because some employers actually disqualify candidates based on the absence of the letter. Moral: Do you want the job or not? Write the letter.