How to Kill a Job Interview in Five Easy Steps
In the latest edition of this classic guide, Martin Yate paves the way with his proven advice on everything from crafting resumes with keywords and leveraging social networking to the latest thinking on interview skills.
So you want the job? Are you sure? If so, then you need to avoid strategies that drive job interviewers crazy.
1) Tell the interviewer how to change the company.
Recently, a gentleman provided a laundry list of suggested improvements for my company. They were very good. His presentation was well-organized, and his points were clear. When he finished, I asked if he had anything to add. He didn't. I thanked him and ended the interview.
It wasn't the ideas he presented. It was those he ignored. I'd asked how he envisioned the staff position and encouraged him to comment on the information I'd provided. His ideas were all about the business side of a magazine. He didn't present a single idea about the editorial job he wanted.
I needed someone who was focused on the position offered. I didn't need someone to run the company. Because he ignored the position completely, I had to assume his focus would be the same if he was accepted on staff. His misplaced focus also left me wondering if he knew how to handle the duties he would be expected to perform.
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2) Talk down to the interviewer.
An effective interview technique is to provide the applicant with opportunities to express their personality. One way I do this is to be honest with them about my limitations. For instance, if I'm interviewing for a new poetry editor, I frankly state I am not a poet which is a handicap when assessing their poetic skills or their qualifications for becoming an editor. Many people have blown this opportunity to show their people skills -- an important facet of being an editor.
One woman lectured me on the importance of my being prepared for the interview. Another assumed I could not understand the basic principles of poetry. Still a third thought she could bluff her way through. If they don't treat me with respect, how do I know they will treat our authors with respect?
The winning applicants always pass this phase of the interview. They incorporate their own skills into discussing how they would approach the job, how they would handle contacts with authors and the qualities they would look for when reviewing submissions.
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3) Get angry when you or your ideas are rebuffed.
I always contact applicants a final time, letting them know I've picked a person to fill the job. If they got the job, they are thrilled. If it went to someone else, that's not happy news. I know. I've been on the receiving end of those disappointments.
One person replied with a point-by-point rebuttal of why I should not have selected the other person (even though they'd never met), that she'd fully expected to get the job because I'd praised some of her ideas and how angry she was that "I'd deceived her."
I'd given my reasons why the other person was chosen, which included her existing network of potential authors and links to prior accomplishments. The rejected applicant expressed anger that I had not asked her to provide the same. That only confirmed my decision. I hadn't asked the winning candidate for these either. She provided them because she was prepared rather than trying to make me responsible for her omission.
Even though I didn't think this applicant was ready for the job in question, she had good qualities. I was considering her for another position until she choose to go on the offensive. Her response reinforced a faint vibe I'd picked up during the interview process: she might be a difficult person to deal with on a daily basis. I decided against further contact with her.
It is never acceptable to react with anger. Every contact should be agreeable and worded in a positive light. This might inspire the interviewer to offer another position or to keep your resume on her desk in case the person they hired doesn't work out.
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4) Lie and deny
An applicant arrived in my office with an impressive resume. It included everything the job position called for and more. Any company would have been proud to hire her. Except little of it was true. That became apparent five minutes into the interview. She was skilled in areas that would have been valuable to us, but the lies made her seem untrustworthy.
Another candidate tried to present such an aura of perfection he could not admit his weaknesses. I already knew them based on his resume and test scores. I wanted to hear his view on how he could improve and rise to the occasion. He failed to get the job, not because of those weaknesses but because he could not admit they existed.
Both of these candidates sabotaged themselves by believing they weren't good enough exactly as they were. I had to consider what would happen if they made a mistake on the job. I needed someone who could admit it, point it out and help create a strategy to correct resulting problems.
"The excellent book... includes a wealth of suggestions on how to walk out of an interview with a best offer." -Joyce Lain Kennedy, syndicated career columnist
5) Don't ask questions.
I really liked the candidate sitting across from my desk. She presented an excellent resume and provided well-thought out answers. I considered myself lucky because she was the second such applicant that day. I told her about our company and the position, then gave her time to ask her own questions. She chose not to. That choice lost her the job because the quality of the questions asked by the other candidate was impressive.
Too many are afraid questions make them look unqualified. It's just the opposite. A large part of how I assess the thinking of the candidate is based on the questions they ask. Questions that go to the heart of the matter tell me they are focused. Questions about my company reveal how well they know our standards, goals and vision. Questions about the details of the tasks show how they will approach those tasks. Questions even provide a good picture of their creativity.
A good rule is to arrive with five intelligent questions in mind. Some of them may be answered before you get a chance to ask. That's normal. It's also normal for new questions to arise during the interview. Pick the best on your list and the new, then ask away. Your questions make you memorable, which leads to obtaining the job.
This last category is just as important, but I didn't include it in the headline because it seems too obvious. Even so, job applicants skewer their chances by not attending to the basics.
It's best to be qualified for the job
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6) Don't come prepared.
One candidate was shown into a waiting area, handed a job application and told she would have to wait a few minutes. She interrupted the secretary's tasks to ask for a pen. It was provided. When she came into my office, she verbally told me her skills but did not have a resume section listing them. After our interview, she was asked to take three tests pertaining to the position. She'd given the pen back to the secretary, so she had to ask for another. She interrupted my work to object to the part of the tests that covered certain bookkeeping skills.
I'd decided not to hire her by that point. Her test scores could have been fabulous, and it wouldn't have made a difference. Candidates who are unprepared defeat themselves before they get a foot in the door. Every job needs a person who is organized. If they cannot organize themselves, how will they organize their desk?
Applicants should know what the job entails before they apply. This can be easily ascertained by a simple search on the Internet using the job title as the key word. They should be aware that they are being observed from the moment they walk through the door or send that first email. The receptionist or secretary may not be the person who will do the hiring, but their boss may ask their opinion before making her decision.
An interviewer only has a short period of time to learn all they need to know about you. Your interview techniques should include keeping the interviewer focused on your strengths. Have a solid plan in mind before you apply. Make sure you cover each of your qualifying talents and skills before you leave.
Taking responsibility for your own performance is a sure way to be among the top candidates under consideration.
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