The rules have seemingly changed when it comes to hiring. There was a time when a company sat you down, looked at your merits, and made a decision based on how, where you could make a contribution to their company. They listened to your background, learned of your past experiences and decided then and there if you had the potential to “pick up” and “learn” their products in a reasonable time. Not quite the same anymore.
Today, companies are looking for reasons “NOT” TO HIRE YOU. Just like a good speech, where someone makes one misspoke comment, and that comment, just like a sound bite that goes viral, becomes most of how someone is judged. The wrong sentence or answer is all your interviewer will recall when summarizing your interview. When that happens, you can expect to hear “thanks, we will call you if we are interested”. Worse perhaps, is when a company opts to placate you by saying something like “we really like you, give us a few days to talk about it”, knowing full well then and there that they have no intention of bringing you in again. Personally, that is so upsetting, because you walk away optimistic and excited, hopeful that this could be your next place of employment. I would rather a company tell the truth then and there…”sorry your coding skills were not up to our standards”, “you did not have the depth of knowledge in our domain”, whatever. Just say something! End of discussion, no one waits, hoping for good news; they know…just simply tell them the truth.
Clearly, the new reality is to look for something you say wrong in your interview, rather than see all that you offer, or could quickly learn. Now more than ever you must be prepared, so you do not become the next “sound bite” when being discussed internally, post interview. (Remember Tony Hayward, (BP) who will always be remembered for saying, “I want to get my life back”, and little more).
After each interview, I always like to discuss what happened and how everyone thought the process went. This is how I learn about how the interview was conducted, some of the questions that were asked, and the approach of the company. To my amazement, I all too often realize that the only people some companies will hire are people that already work there. I know that sounds confusing, but what I am saying is that the responses many companies are looking for, can only be given by someone that knows the product and culture of the company…i.e., someone who works there. The expectation of that kind of answer is unrealistic. It defies logic; it is a totally different approach to interviewing and hiring. It alters the thought process that this candidate is someone that has the potential to learn what a company does. Companies should not, cannot expect a potential candidate to walk in the door knowing all the answers to what a company is doing…hence their tool being “proprietary”. It is not fair to expect the interviewee to answer questions like they would expect from a colleague.
Now lets be fair; I am well aware that there are plenty of good interviews conducted, and a heck of a lot of hires resulting from them. We do not need to discuss the successful situations, just the problematic ones.
Bottom line, Companies need to do a better job interviewing, but more important, you need to do a better job of preparing yourself for the interview(s). In today’s information age they’re scores of materials available to learn about a company before you talk to them. When I say talk to them, I mean each time you talk to them, from the first informal phone screen, through the hopeful offer. Before any of my candidates go in for their interview, I make sure they are as prepared as possible and have done their homework. I make sure they understand that preparing and fundamentally understanding what the company does, and whom they compete with, will help them enormously. Make no mistake about it, interviewing is a “real-life test”, and those that have studied and are prepared, have the best chance of doing well.
Here are a few really important things to remember…
- Speak loud (not screaming) and clear, (especially if English is not your first language), and make sure your voice projects confidence. (Imagine a voice that is hard to hear, made even more difficult by an accent). There is nothing worse than barely hearing or understanding the person you are talking to.
- Know the position you are interviewing for, know the surrounding technology, and be prepared to talk about how your experience directly reflects what you could contribute.
- You only get one chance at making a good first impression, so make sure you make it in your interview! Make them feel your confidence.
- Discuss your more recent successes, and make them feel your energy and excitement to contribute.
These are but a few things to think about, but no different than a good golf swing where dozens of components are crucial when you step up to swing, focusing on a few of the more critical factors can make the difference between getting on the green, or ummm not getting the job.