TOP TEN INTERVIEW BLUNDERS
By Frank G. Risalvato, CPC
The Top Ten interview blunders that cost people jobs and offers have been compiled from nineteen years of record keeping and observations. Here they are:
- Poorly Designed/Unflattering Resume
- Bad Telephone Interview Etiquette
- Neglecting to Research Company
- Lack of Position Knowledge or “Client M.D.O.”
- Inadequate Interview Closing Techniques
- Dropping the “Post-Interview Follow-up” ball
- Failure to Follow Recruiter Instructions
- Forgetting to Ask for the Job
- Email Addiction
- Circumventing your Executive Recruiter or Staffing Consultant
#1 Poorly Designed Resume
Sixty percent of the resumes floating around in cyberspace and landing in Email inboxes are not doing the job they’re supposed to do – which is to highlight the strengths of the underlying candidate in the best possible light. Expert staffing consultants and executive recruiters possess more sophisticated training than conventional corporate human resource staff members … and may see past the formatting snafus to identify the candidate and help correct the resume. Not everyone will be fortunate to encounter an executive recruiter to bail them out. The resume must:
- Present the strengths and highlights
- Be electronically scannable
In cases where the resume is well-composed it is usually not electronically friendly. This creates the next hurdle. Using excessive tables, cells and “styling” with MS Word actually works against you. MS Word also inserts excessive formatting when someone chooses the “Resume Template” option (one of the worst choices for building an electronically friendly resume). Search Google under “Scannable Resume” and you will find thousands of articles explaining why no one is calling you back.
#2 Telephone Interview Etiquette
Assuming your resume succeeds in accomplishing its objective, your next hurdle will most likely be responding to a telephone interview request by an “in-house” company recruiter (from the human resources department) or contracted search professional/recruiter. If you’re invited to a telephone interview, this indicates your experience, education and job history as portrayed are seen as a match by the company to within at least the 75 – 85% range as based on their internal job specifications. In other words, the “hard skills” were found to be present. From here on, the only remaining reason for not getting an offer is mainly due to your interviewing skills. It is a shame to lose job opportunities for something you can practice and have full control over improving – especially in this modern era where a quick glance through Amazon.com reveals nearly 3,000 books containing information on “interview skills.” Interviewing techniques can be mastered just like tying your shoelaces was something you once had to practice.
Many of these books have internal 1“Search Inside ®” features which will let you read many pages without even buying the book. Spending two hours doing this alone would give you a 100% advantage over another candidate that was too lazy to invest in their career in this manner. A telephone interview will most likely focus on “Soft Skills.” These skills include characteristics and attributes which are best determined in a dialogue and conversation such as:
- Listening Skills
- Interest Level
- Level of research conducted on the hiring company.
NEVER allow yourself to begin a telephone interview while:
- Using a cell phone/in a noisy area
- At a location where you cannot speak freely and candidly.
If you must use a cell phone pull over, shut off the car engine, make sure you have a fully charged battery or adapter, have the strongest possible signal and have at least 30 minutes to devote.
Any of the above can and will jeopardize your telephone interview results. Each week I personally see dozens of candidates being “knocked-out” for reasons listed above, even though we warn them preemptively.
#3 Neglecting to Research Company – (Then having no questions during interview)
In the twenty-first century with the world’s information being one quick “Google Search” away it is completely inexcusable to fail to possess at least some basic knowledge of the company you are about to meet. Working through a Professional Recruiter will provide many advantages in this area, as your recruiter may have a decades-old relationship with the managers you are about to meet and can advise you accordingly to assist you in having an edge.
There’s still much you can do on your own. 1 “Search Inside” ® is a registered service mark of Amazon.com . ALWAYS research the interviewing company thoroughly. While helpful hints may have been provided to you by your recruiting consultant, eventually the hiring manager will want to see what you did on your own to prepare yourself. The Internet should be a good tool to help you prepare. Besides a “quick Google Search on the company name” you can try:
- Yahoo Finance – if it is a public company with disclosures required by the SEC
- www.zoominfo.com (for looking up the hiring manager’s past history of employment)
Understand the job and company thoroughly before interviewing. This will allow you to compile pointed, intelligent, thought-provoking questions that demonstrate your interest.
Conversely, not having any questions during the interview will result in management deeming your interest is shallow and perhaps you are lazy and uninterested in information.
No interest = No Job Offer!
#4 Lack of Position Knowledge or “Client M.D.O.”
M.D.O. represents the client’s “Most Dominant Objective.”
This refers to the outcome, goal or accomplishment they seek as a result of hiring some-one for the position for which you are interviewing. It is the real reason behind the hiring you must get yourself to understand to have an advantage.
Finding out this “Hiring Objective” will provide you with tremendous advantage over any other candidate. Once you know the “M.D.O” (Most Dominant Objective) you can tailor your responses, discussions, and dialogue toward addressing this specific topic.
Some common Dominant Objectives may include:
- Adding to staff to bolster the department so company can take on new accounts and reach new revenue targets
- Adding new sales talent to enhance revenue
- Cutting costs by improving accounting department’s credentials
- Shortening customer service response time to less than 24 hours
- Improving marketing deadlines
- Motivating staff which has lost focus by adding a New Manager
While many managers will know their objective, some may not. Your questioning to raise this issue alone will be seen as a keen approach few other candidates will have bothered to inquire about.
#5 Inadequate Interview Closing Techniques
At the end of the interview the interviewer may ask, “Are there any more questions?” Most candidates would reply “No” which leads to the immediate conclusion of the interview and being escorted to the elevator or office exit with an interview conclusion that fizzles out. This would be what we refer to as example “A.”
A better reply instead of simply, “No” and leaving without a final strong positive “finale” is the following technique known as “Restate, Reassure and Reaffirm,” refer to as Example “B.”
In this formula you first restate the hot topics management indicated necessary for an offer to be justified; secondly, you reassure how your experience fits; and thirdly you ask for action by reaffirming yourself as the ideal candidate.
“I have no further questions at this time, except that I’d like to reiterate what I understand are the key strengths sought for this position. May I review my understanding with you?”
This almost always results in the interviewer replying with “Yes” and now puts YOU in control of the final closing process.
NEXT, RESTATE the key required points. Example:
“I understand you’re looking for someone with strong _(Fill in with stated skill requirements) who can (Fill in with reiteration of dominant projects and goals new candidate must accomplish. Is that correct?” (This is a “trial close,” you will elicit confirmation as to whether you’re on the right subject ‘hot points.’) “In that case I’d like to reiterate my strengths.”
If “Yes” then REASSURE:
Repeat the hot buttons you just received confirmation on. Example: “analysis, interpersonal skills, and relationship building, etc. and I believe I’m ideally suited for this position.
“Where do we go from here?”
”Because I’m very interested and confident of joining the team, what remains required from me in order to proceed?”
Which person would you hire?
Person A, who was escorted out of the inter-view with a wrap-up reminiscent of a dud fire-cracker that fizzled out and then never exploded?
OR person B who restated, reassured, and closed the client firmly and convincingly on his/her interest and desire to move forward?
This almost always results in the interviewer replying with “Yes” and now puts YOU in control of the final closing process.
#6 Neglecting Post-Interview Follow-up
Call your recruiter immediately after your interview (if you are working through one). Never wait more than twenty-four hours to do so. Companies frequently ask those of us contracted as recruiting consultants to monitor how long it took for a candidate to get back to us as a prime indicator of interest. Some make their choices based on an hour’s difference in behavior.
If you tell the company you’re interested during the interview … and two days later we haven’t heard from you … your inaction will over-shadow your words expressed during the meeting. Whatever you stated will no longer matter. In sum, you will be pegged as someone whose actions are not congruent to their spoken words or statements.
#7 Failure to Follow Recruiter Instructions
If you change your mind about the job or company at any point during the process, or received another offer, call and notify your recruiting consultant at once. Notice we say “call” over “Email” as this will enhance your rapport in your best interest. If you are asked to call – then call! Don’t Email! If you are asked to confirm an appointment by Email then do so via Email.
Since Email is not as reliable as the telephone, I recommend leaving a voice message or calling to confirm that any important Email was received by the designated recipient. These days with many anti-spam programs often deleting business Emails … the telephone remains the most reliable means to confirm important communications.
#8 Forgetting to Ask For the Job
Just as it is important to close during your first and each subsequent interview, it is important to simply ask for the job. This is especially true if you are in the latter stages of a face-to-face interview process and are on your second or final meeting. Many times, all a hiring manager is waiting to hear are the words “I’m excited … when can I start as I’m eager to come on board.”
#9 Kicking the Email Addiction
In this twenty-first century of multiple means of high speed electronic communications, many seem unable to step away from their Palm, Blackberry, or laptop Email application … Even when specifically ASKED TO NOT USE EMAIL!
If you are asked to CALL don’t frustrate the interviewer by continuing to respond by Email, disregarding the telephone call request. This is annoying, rude and demonstrates inability to pay attention to what you’ve been asked. Quite often we find people Emailing once, twice or three times after a request was made to continue the dialogue verbally by telephone. Sometimes recruiters will purposely ask you to call at a certain time as a simple test of listening skills, ability to follow simple instructions, and as a test of your interest level.
#10 Circumventing your Executive Recruiter or Staffing Consultant
Most search firms invest a great deal of time formulating a working relationship and agreement with their client companies. Many will even visit the client hiring company should it be a new account never represented before to obtain a hands-on feel for the work environment – or may have a decades old relationship in place.
Despite the investment of time and due diligence toward developing partnering alliances with only ethical company entities, every now and then an unethical company account may succeed in duping the search firm into providing their services.
Should a hiring manager you meet, as a result of a search firm, suggest “Let’s discuss this among ourselves,” or “I want to offer you the job directly … let’s pretend we knew each other already.” DO NOT let yourself fall into such a trap!
Keep in mind any company that attempts to circumvent its clearly spelled-out contractual
obligations is most likely going to CONTINUE to exhibit less-than-ethical behavior toward any other contractual obligation, statutory guideline, law, or regulation imposed upon their industry. Leopards don’t lose their spots overnight!
Companies that try to bypass any obligation with their executive search firm or for that matter, any vendor or partners, are usually the same ones which later:
- Conveniently forget your performance review anniversary
- Forget to pay the raise that was promised
- Switch job responsibilities to a lesser de-sired position you did not originally bar-gain for
- Present a host of other problems.
When a company is honest, forthright, and behaves with integrity, it most likely treats its allies, business partners, vendors the same way it will treat its employees. Company personalities percolate from the top down.
Do you really want to work with a company that is suggesting you join under a suspicious arrangement? NO!
If a suggestion is made alluding to:
a) Presenting an offer directly to you OR b) Scheduling an interview without your recruiter’s knowledge, simply reply with the following in a polite tone of voice:
“Ms. Hiring Manager I’m happy to hear you want to move forward. However I must ask you work through my agent as he’s been a great help so far and I don’t want to cause problems by leaving him out of the loop. I’m sure, as a company with integrity, you can understand my wanting to continue to work through the recruiter who has been a great help to the both of us. Go ahead and (present the offer … schedule the interview, etc.) through him. Thanks” It takes two to tango. A company cannot in-gage in circumvention unless a candidate cooperates. A company can never act unethically unless you as the candidate cooperate in allowing them to do so.
Your recruiter is an expert on the successful conclusion of job offers and acceptances. While the recruiter’s first goal is to assist the client, most are there to help you as the candidate as well in their dual capacity as a career coach with:
- Making certain you have a valid offer in writing
- Ascertaining that all pertinent conditions relating to the offer are within the offer letter
- Guiding you through the resignation process
- Providing assistance with resignation letters
- Providing assistance with references …
- And much, much more.
Cooperating with a company whose desire it is to “cut the recruiter out” cuts both ways by preventing you from obtaining many of the protections that recruiter was about to provide you. Fortunately this happens rarely.
NOTIFY YOUR RECRUITER AT ONCE if any motion is made by the company that is suspicious. The average search firm will be around far longer than the 12.5 year average life span of most companies. You will want the search firm in the future.
Follow up Letter / Email
Even if you are not 100% sure you want the job you’ve just interviewed for, you should always take the time to write and send a follow up thank you note. Quite often when there is a tie between two candidates for a position, it is the candidate who showed the greatest interest during the interview (by asking for the job) and just as importantly followed up with a professionally written thank you note that breaks the tie and gets the offer. The following is a suggested format for writing a thank you note to your prospective employer after your interview has been completed. Always send the thank you note promptly. The thank you note is also going to be the first thing a person opens and will be remembered over other competing candidates. So, write three short paragraphs.
FIRST PARAGRAPH: WHAT’S IN IT FOR THE EMPLOYER?
Here is where you want to remind the employer of some of the main benefits you could provide if they were to hire you. During your interview, there were points of agreement between you and your potential employer that are worth noting. When the hiring manager said, “Ah, Aha or I agree with you,” these are what I mean by the “points of agreement.” Don’t focus on possibilities or projects too far into the future. Focus on short- term projects and activities or projects where you can hit the ground running. Identify recognizable goals or skills you know your potential employer agrees you could accomplish or provide as a valuable asset to the company. Then outline them in a point-by-point manner usually hitting on 3 to 5 key points.
SECOND PARAGRAPH: WHAT’S IN IT FOR YOU?
Here is where you tell the employer why you want the job. When you interview for a position, one of the key questions the employer is thinking about is, why does this person have interest in this job? One of the first screening questions employers use to determine whether or not they will even interview a person (who’s at least qualified on paper) is, “Why is this person looking now and why did they leave all their past employers?” Answers to these questions can tell an employer a lot about the way you think and what motivates you. These answers can commonly be just as, if not more important, than the compensation and experience qualifiers. So it goes without saying, employers want to make sure the person they hire is interested in the job for the right reasons. Hiring, from the employers point of view can be a very stressful experience. The employer is under internal pressure and scrutiny to hire people who will get along well with other employees. The employees need to be able to deal with all the corporate politics involved in their office, represent the company professionally to customers, eliminate (or at least) avoid the myriad of risks associated to all sorts of legal litigation but just as importantly, perform the job as outlined. Hiring can also be very expensive, so the employer wants to be sure you’re the right fit for the long term. You’re an investment in time and resources and the employer wants to be proud they made the right decision to ask you to join the company. www.ciresiandmorek.com 330-659-0875
Reasons like, “I’d like to be closer to home, I’ve been out of work for 6 months and need a job, or I can’t stand my boss or job anymore,” are all valid reasons why you might be looking, they’re just not what the employer wants to hear. The employer wants to know that you’re interested in the job because you feel you could really fit into the corporate culture well. They want to hear you say that you see solid opportunities, where through contributions you could advance and develop new skills. You enjoy and would be challenged by the responsibilities of the position and really like the employer and people you met during the interview process. These are a few examples of reasons you might want this job, and not just any job that would be better than the one you have now or at least until something better comes along. So outline your reasons for interest in a point-by-point manner usually hitting on 3 to 5 key points.
THIRD PARAGRAPH: ASK FOR THAT NEXT STEP IN THE INTERVIEW PROCESS AND OR THE JOB.
When do you ask for the job? Early and often! Especially if asked with enthusiasm. You can ask for the job with a statement as simple as, “I am really excited about this opportunity and hope to hear from you soon.” Or in an intermediate level close you might say, “I am hoping to hear from you soon and as I am quite busy and sometimes hard to reach, if I don’t hear from you in a week I’ll give you a call on the following Monday. A hard close might sound like this, “It’s been a long time since I felt this comfortable about an opportunity and want you to know that I am looking forward to entertaining an offer and would like to begin discussing preliminary details as soon as possible.”
FINALLY, SOME FOOD FOR THOUGHT:
Sometimes first and second interviews don’t always provide you with answers to all of your questions. That’s OK though, as long as you get an offer. Once you get an offer the tide turns. Up until the employer makes a decision to hire you, you have very little leverage to push for confidential or sensitive information or to ask tough questions about policies, vacations, work hours etc… to aid you in your final decision. With an offer in hand, you now have a position of strength. Getting an offer puts you in the driver’s seat and gives you the right of first refusal. With a decision made, the employer becomes motivated to answer all your questions thoroughly and will feel much more comfortable bringing you in on the inner details of the company because they feel you’re worth trusting and worthy to share more intimate details. No one’s got the right to push you, let alone the ability to force you to accept an offer, so if you still have questions now is the time to outline them. Be prepared to ask all of your remaining questions during the offer stage. Also, complete your process of questioning the company quickly so as not to drag out the acceptance process more than a day or two after the offer is made.