With the Olympics kicking off this month in Rio, and the U.S. swimming and gymnastics teams winning 11 gold medals already, I have read many emotional and touching stories about the athletes and their journeys to be the best; the journey to win gold. With that said, it only seemed fitting to write a blog post about how job candidates can go for the gold when it comes to the interview process.
I have been interviewing candidates from entry level to the executive level for over 10 years and I have got to say that I have seen common mistakes among all age ranges and experience levels. On average, every corporate job opening attracts 250 resumes but only four to six of these people will be called for an interview (ERE Survey, 2013). If you are one of those lucky four to six people, leveraging these commonly underused and sometimes brushed off tips can help you be an effective job interviewee and land your next job.
Research, research and more research
47% of the time candidates don’t have any information about the company they are applying for. (LinkedIn, 2015)
While research is the first step you should take when preparing for a job interview, many job candidates fail to properly prepare. Conducting research beforehand and then utilizing this research in your interview can really position yourself as the best and most knowledgeable candidate. For a start, I recommend researching the following in advance:
- Key players and the company structure
- Company values and culture
- Company news and recent events
- Company financials
- Service offerings
- Typical interview questions (outline/practice answers in advance)
Create and practice your elevator pitch
33% of 2000 surveyed recruiters mentioned that they know within the very first 90 seconds of the interview if they will recruit the candidate. (LinkedIn, 2015)
Everyone interview I have conducted or been in has included some variation of the “tell me about yourself” question within the first five minutes of the interview. Nowadays, many candidates improvise this part of the interview, assuming they know enough about themselves to answer the question concisely and in an engaging way. Wrong! Summing up your entire life and career in 1-2 minutes can be very difficult. With an average human attention span of five seconds, candidates cannot afford to lose the interviewees interest.
Elevator pitches are the perfect opportunity to bring your resume to life, especially items that are not on your resume. This allows candidates to really showcase the value s/he can bring to the company, while also giving the opportunity to address any anomalies in employment history.
In order to communicate your unique selling proposition, I recommend you make your elevator pitches concise and tell a story, tailoring your pitch to each interview/company. It also helps to practice saying it out loud beforehand to someone to gain feedback.
Watch for verbal and non-verbal ques
I cannot tell you how many times I have interviewed candidates that are so nervous that they either 1) mumble and speak too quickly or 2) speak very little and are fidgety. Verbal and non-verbal ques can give interviewees a bad impression or indicate levels of honesty and readiness if not handled correctly.
In a survey done, managers noted the following mistakes as some of the major reasons for rejecting job candidates:
- 70% were too trendy while attending an interview.
- 67% did not make eye contact.
- 55% because the way the jobseeker walked through the door.
- 38% of candidates’ voice quality and overall confidence level were low; and a lack of a smile.
- 33% had bad posture during the interview.
- 26% had a bad handshake.
- And, interestingly, 21% of candidates get rejected for crossing their arms against their chest during the interview.
In any interview, I recommend breathing after each question to allow you time to gather your thoughts and concisely compile a thoughtful answer. This should help you relax and compose yourself in a professional manner.
Asking questions in an interview not only benefits you, but it is also valuable to the employer. Having questions ready can speak volumes to your level of interest in the position and the company, while also showcasing how knowledgeable and prepared you are. More importantly, let’s not forget that an interview is a conversation, a two-way street, and asking questions can keep things engaging.
Additionally, make sure the questions you ask are well thought-out and hit below the surface level. Having thoughtful questions that ask how performance is measured or touch upon culture and the day-to-day can really help both the interviewer and interview decide if this is the right opportunity for the right candidate.
Know your compensation range
18% of managers eliminate candidates with unrealistically high salary expectations. (Adweek, 2013)
In any interview, every candidate dreads but must know how to answer one question: “What are your salary requirements?” While some candidates are masterminds at maneuvering around the question, knowing the answer can make or break any interview. Going back to my first tip, do your research. Utilize sites like Payscale.com, Glassdoor.com and Salary.com to find the going rate for your position within the job market and average pay rates for the particular company you are hiring for. These sites can also give you details about the hiring process and the 411 (relevant information) on the company. In addition, examine your experience and determine your own worth within the market. Answering this infamous question based on research and past experience can be the difference between being offered a competitive rate, being low-balled or just not given the job.
If you want to give yourself an edge over the competition and position yourself as “Top Talent,” preparation is crucial. I cannot say this enough. While I don’t think you need to start preparing at the age of six like Simone Biles, the all-around Olympic Champion in gymnastics, if you can work years to get a job promotion, you can spend a few hours preparing for an interview.
Just like the Olympic Athletes, mediocrity will not get you the GOLD.