Getting an interview is a really big deal. It means that you have achieved a level of confidence with your resume and cover letter and have made it to the next steps of the hiring equation. This is something that you should be proud of; this is also something you should take very, very seriously. The interview presents a lot of opportunities to shine, but it also presents plenty of ways to disappoint a hiring manager and lose the chance at a job.
Have you ever wondered what things don’t just annoy hiring mangers but actually make them cringe in frustration? Well, wonder no more! MonsterCollege did the research for you. We sat down with real-world hiring managers and found out their biggest interview pet peeves, so you won’t have to find out the hard way.
This isn’t the Middle Ages and it certainly isn’t 1950s Madison Avenue. That is why, during your interview, you will likely be interviewed by a hiring manager of the opposite sex. When that happens, greet the person with a firm handshake, a smile and eye contact. Your eyes should then focus on the interviewer’s face for the remainder of the interview. Sometimes your interviewer will be attractive, and sometimes, you may be tempted to let your eyes drift around on a little ocular field trip, this is a bad idea. Nothing is more distracting to an interviewer who is trying to assess your ability to do a job than a pair of eyeballs traversing his or her random body parts.
It’s true that nobody likes to answer the question: “What’s your biggest professional shortcoming?” While that question may not be comfortable to answer, it is equally uncomfortable for the hiring manager to hear things like:
“I work too hard, I guess that’s my biggest professional imperfection.”
Or:“Sometimes I am such a perfectionist that I just want to work 24 hours a day, every day, seven days a week on all of my projects!”
While these types of answers do avoid making you sound like a lazy employee, they also make you sound like you aren’t very authentic. A better option could be mentioning a shortcoming that you used to have but that you took steps to overcome. This answer allows you to show that you are proactive and can learn quickly. Just because you don’t exhibit superhuman excellence at every single facet that every job requires, it still proves that you are able to adapt and overcome shortcomings as they arise.
If you don’t know an answer and you can’t think of an appropriate response, it’s okay to be honest and to say, “I don’t know, but by golly am I’m going to find out!” However, if you don’t know the answers to multiple questions and you refuse to even try to think quickly, it sends the signal that you are slow on your feet. Not being able to answer questions tells the hiring manager that you are unversed in the requirements of the job and not a very agile thinker. Hiring managers appreciate honesty (see example #2) but they don’t want to see honesty at the expense of competency. If you don’t know the answer to one question, move on. If you don’t know the answer to multiple questions, then why should they offer you a job? You already used this answer. Hint: They don’t know either.
Answering the wrong question can be just as bad as not answering any questions. Hiring managers have one goal in mind: Finding the right person for the job. Their interviews are structured to quickly evaluate candidates and to eliminate inappropriate fits. They have many things to do besides listen to expansive tangents from unqualified candidates. If you don’t have a good answer for the question, you shouldn’t then assume that spending 10 minutes answering a completely unasked question is an appropriate strategy. If you are asked to talk about a time that you had trouble working with a teammate, please give specific examples of that experience, then discuss how you resolved it. Don’t instead explain “that this one time at band camp…” Well, you get the idea.
Whatever you do, never fail to show up to an interview without a call to explain your situation. Likewise, being late is better than not being there at all, but it still should be avoided if at all possible. If you have to be late, like when you have to be absent, always call and explain the situation post haste. This makes sense. After all, if you can’t make the interview on time, it is fair to assume that you won’t be making any other important deadlines either.
Sure, sometimes the universe conspires against you and you get into a fender bender or your subway gets stuck or your bus goes out of service at exactly the wrong moment. In these circumstances it is okay to be late as long as you call.
In good news, most of these situations can be avoided simply by leaving hours early for your interview. Instead of rushing around at the last minute, get up early, head to the interview neighborhood, then prepare at a nearby café. If you need to go to a place you’ve never been, why not take a trial run the day before so that you know exactly which floor and which building you are looking for? The last thing you want is to be frantically running around looking for a Kinko’s to print your resume and then realizing that you only thought you knew where your interview was taking place…
Prepare, Prepare, Prepare!
This is the single biggest complaint expressed by 100% of the hiring managers surveyed. Like being late — which is itself a form of logistical unpreparedness – lack of preparation means a lot of things to a lot of different hiring managers. At its essence, it means that the candidate is not ready for the responsibilities of this job. Lack of preparation can mean that you are not dressed appropriately. If you come to a finance interview in gym clothes you are unprepared. If you come to an interview without fresh copies of your resume, you are unprepared. If you come to an interview unaware of what the company does, you are unprepared. If you come to an interview without researching the competitive space and market position of your potential employer, you are unprepared.
The best way to avoid unpreparedness is simple. Research, research, research. Find out the history of the company, find out about the team that built the company. Find out about the culture of the company, the accomplishments and the sensitivities of the company. Find out about everything that you possibly can, so, when you are asked —“Why exactly do you want to work here?” You’ll have 20 good reasons that you actually know, believe, and can articulate.
Remember, hiring managers don’t want you to fail. They don’t want you to stumble. They actually really want you to succeed. In fact, hiring managers WANT you to be the RIGHT candidate for the job. They want to find THE ONE so that they can get on with their many other important tasks besides wasting time with unprepared candidates who are late to interviews, can’t answer questions, and don’t tell the truth. Now that you know how to avoid these deal breakers you can better prepare for your big day. Don’t forget, they want you to be perfect. With a little practice and a little confidence and a lot of preparation, you can be.