The #1 Reason Candidates Fail Interviews
For over 20 years I have sat in on thousands of interviews; in person, over the phone, via video and whatever other scenario is available. Some of these numerous interviews have been impromptu, others well planned, some with just 1 interviewer and others with a panel of interviewers. In almost every interview that has gone off the rails, the people being interviewed have failed for the same reason, they are not succinct in their answers.
Open ended questions – the questions that require more than just a “yes” or “no” answer, tend to send candidates off on rabbit trails, which will derail an interview in a matter of minutes. Short and concise answers are ideal, but even the most polished professionals can get lost in their responses.
Here is a prime example of a popular open ended interview question: “Tell us about yourself” – I’ve heard people go off on tangents about their hobbies, their pets, their middle school heartbreak, college sports achievements, health issues, prior employment issues, and other even less appropriate topics. Consider the industry you’re in and think about how you’d answer that question in an interview…..(I’ll wait)….. Are you at a loss, or do you feel you know exactly what to say? Here are a few things to consider prior to answering:
1. What do you know about the company you are interviewing for? (Culture, Philosophies, Environment etc.)
2. What do you know about the people that are interviewing you? (Background, Education, Personality etc.)
3. What do you know about the position you are interviewing for? (Management, Responsibilities, Why the position is open, Who was in the position before etc.)
Now let’s dive into those 3 areas a bit: (1) Prior to your interview you should have researched the company’s web site to review their mission statement, their vision statement and learn anything else you can about the company history – where they started, WHY they started and where they’re going. Armed with that information you can align your answers to their company objectives.
(2) Your second internet search should be to Google the person or people interviewing you – what is their title at the company, where did they come from and where did they go to school, have they done anything interesting (charity work, etc). If Google doesn’t turn up anything, search LinkedIn. Once you’ve gained some insight into their backgrounds you can potentially touch on things you might have in common, like graduating from the same college or volunteering for the same charities.
(3) And finally, do you have a complete job description of the position you are interviewing for? If not that is absolutely something you should request prior to interviewing. Will you be required to travel, to manage people, to work late, to work weekends? With this information you will be able to express your past experience in other roles and give the interviewers spot on information on why you are a fit for the role.
Once you’ve completed your research, you can prep for the interview by jotting down questions you have about the company and the position, along with some guidelines on how to answer anticipated questions like the one I mentioned above.
Below is an example of how interviewers want the “tell us about yourself” question answered:
Interviewer: “Now that we’ve discussed our needs, why don’t you tell us about yourself?” –
The interviewers want RELEVANT information, not what is relevant to you, but what is relevant to the job you’re applying for. They also want the abbreviated version. Let’s pretend you are applying for a Healthcare IT position (since that is the industry I’ve recruited in for the majority of my career).
You: “I began my career about 20 years ago in nursing, a few years after I began my nursing career the hospital I was working in upgraded to a new EMR system and I was able to assist with the end-user training process. This really piqued my interest in technology and after the implementation was completed I started my transition into the IT dept. Over the last 15 years I’ve gained substantial EMR application build experience in both Inpatient and Ambulatory settings (naming the applications you specialize in). I’ve also gone back to college and obtained my MBA in Informatics Management and have lead multiple upgrade projects.” “What else would you like to know?”
By providing a targeted description of your career in bullet points, you’ve used the time you have wisely and reopened the floor to the interviewer to ask more decisive questions about your experience.
Personality plays an important part in whether a person is offered a position or not. Not all people will be inclined to take the time to do the pre-interview research or stay focused during the interview, however the people that do are most likely to land the job.