The 7 Deadly Sins of Interviewing
Over our 15+ year tenure in marketing recruitment, we’ve seen a lot: The good, the bad, and the “yeah-they’re-definitely-not-getting-the-job.”
Apart from the obvious faux pas (arriving late, being rude, etc.), some interview gaffes aren’t always as easy to spot, and can leave a less-than-ideal impression that puts your chances of getting the job at risk. Give yourself the best possible shot at securing the role you’re vying for by familiarizing yourself with (and taking our best advice to avoid) the following seven deadly interview sins.
Walking into an interview without preparing is like strutting down the street in your underwear. Highly frowned upon. Don’t do it. Hiring managers expect you to come to the meeting with a good understanding of their company, where this role fits into the organization and how your past experiences can add value.
Prepare a few thoughtful and curious questions to demonstrate you’ve done your research. (Please don’t regurgitate something already featured in a social post or on their website.) Want to impress? Learn something about the person you’re meeting – a publication quote, a recent award, an exciting achievement. Review the job posting in depth and come up with a couple ideas about what you’d do if you stepped into the role. These extra bits of effort demonstrate your interest and ability to take initiative – something that catches every employer’s eye.
Among all the deadly job interview sins, rambling is one of the worst. And sadly, even some of the most experienced professionals fall into this trap.
If you’re rambling on and on, you’re unable to listen and absorb – which, for many cross-functional or leadership positions, are crucial skills for your success. It’s also painfully boring and uncomfortable when a candidate dominates the conversation and fails to read the room.
If you’re currently having flashbacks of conversations gone rogue, consider structuring your stories via the STAR method before your next interview:
> Situation (Describe the challenge you faced)
> Task (Describe your responsibility and the goal you want to achieve)
> Action (Explain what steps you took to move toward the goal)
> Result (Outline the outcome of your actions and solutions)
Once you finish your story, look the interviewer in the eye and simply ask, “Would you like me to expand?” It’s a courteous way to open up the conversation and ask for real-time feedback or follow-up questions.
Skipping the specifics
Being vague about your accomplishments – sticking to high-level employment overviews or regurgitating buzzwords – is not enough. You need to be specific.
Share your contributions and results in precise, quantifiable terms. For example:
> How have you increased revenue, streamlined efficiencies or decreased expenses for your employer(s)?
> What steps did you take to create strategy and lead your team through the process?
> What’s your proudest work accomplishment, your biggest failure (and lessons learned)?
> How do you handle difficult work situations?
Show that you can deliver results. For all the weight given to analytics, metrics and KPIs, it’s amazing how many marketing professionals can’t articulate their own contributions. Hiring managers want to hear about the numbers, percentages, step-by-step plans – just make sure they’re legit.
Is every employer perfect? No. Is work always a state of sunshine, rainbows, clear skies and smooth sailing. Nope. Does that mean you need to dive into every nitty-gritty detail about your employer’s perceived shortcomings or your team’s perpetual state of disorganization during an interview?
Launching into a laundry list of complaints during an interview can leave lingering questions about your ability to cope with challenging circumstances or tricky personalities within the new company. It also creates questions about your role in the situation and concerns about whether those problems may follow you.
Negative experiences need to be properly framed. Consider sharing what you learned about yourself and your working style. How would you handle a similar situation in the future? Instead of saying that your boss was a tyrant, perhaps he had a “challenging personality,” which helped you hone your interpersonal skills and develop an empathic managerial style. A disorganized team that can’t seem to pull it together was a chance to exercise your resourcefulness and be proactive, creating systems to consistently complete your work on time and within budget.
(Helpful hint: Industry circles tend to run much smaller than expected. You never know who knows whom. Always be respectful when talking about others.)
Focusing on your needs first
“So, what’s in this for me?”
Walking into a first interview primarily focused on how the role will serve you and your career path leaves a poor impression. It can be (and has been) interpreted as arrogant or egotistical – neither of which are desirable qualities in a future employee. It also causes hiring managers to question whether you’re genuinely interested in the opportunity.
There’s a time and place to dig into what you want/need from a role. Asking this question too early in the process – before you’ve demonstrated your fit, the value you can bring, and how you stand apart from others – can work against you. Start by establishing why you’re a strong candidate and how you’ll add value to the organization. Once that’s determined, opportunities to discuss the benefits to you and your future will come about – and likely at the interviewer’s lead.
Playing it too safe
Chalk it up to nerves or past poor advice but being too cagey or discreet about your interest in the role (or, at the very least, having conversations and learning more) won’t do you any favours. When you seem uninterested, hiring managers take notice. They don’t want to hire someone who’s apathetic from the get-go. That’s a recipe for a poor fit.
Non-verbal cues (e.g., smiling, looking them in the eye) effectively show you’re engaged and interested. At the end of the interview, you could say, “Thanks for your time. I’ve enjoyed getting to discuss the role and am excited about the possibility of being part of your team.” It wraps up your conversation on a positive note and leaves a clear impression that you want to move forward.
Failing to follow up
Taking a minute to contact the hiring manager and express gratitude for your interview is always appreciated (and often expected). A concise email outlining a few points about the value you can bring to the organization. An invitation to connect on LinkedIn with a couple sentences thanking them for their time. Whatever method you choose to get in touch, keep your sentiments genuine, succinct and solutions focused.
While this gesture doesn’t guarantee you’ll get the job, you’ll leave a positive impression that could serve you well either in this process or later on in your career.
(Helpful hint: Sending flowers or a gift can work against you. Don’t do it. And always double-check your spelling before you hit send!)
An interview is a fact-finding conversation to determine if you, the job and the company are a good match. Hiring managers pay attention to your poise, attitude, basic social skills and ability to communicate. The impression you make can often outweigh your credentials and education.
Mistakes get made. After all, we’re all human. However, if you want to maximize your chances of getting the role, you’ll want to do your best to avoid these deadly interviewing sins at all costs.
Smart, Savvy + Associates is a recruitment agency that specializes in finding talent for marketing, communications and creative roles. Since 2008, their team of marketers-turned-recruiters have successfully placed hundreds of qualified professionals into companies throughout Vancouver, B.C., and the surrounding areas. Learn more about Smart Savvy’s recruitment services or apply for one of the open roles on their job board.