What hurts more than rejection? Multiple rejections.
Being told over and over again that you’re not right or not good enough for whatever reason is painful—and at some point, you have to begin wondering where the problem lies.
One angle that needs to be explored, despite the discomfort, is whether you’re the one doing something wrong. The good news is warning signs are pretty clear. Here are three red flags—and more importantly, what to do about them.
1. You Never Make it Past the Final Round Interview
This can be an incredibly demoralising situation to be in. It’s also a huge red flag that I doubt you’ll miss. You’re clearly doing something right to get all the way to the final round interview. So, what’s preventing you from sealing the deal? Frequently, when you get this far along in the process, you’re only competing with one or two other people. Plus, it’s likely already been established that you have the right experience or qualifications for the role. The last thing, then, is how well you understand the position, the company, and the team. If you’re not getting past the final round, you’re probably not getting across what you know about at least one of these.
This means you need to dial up your company research. Do your homework on the company by reading everything you can get your hands on about it, ask thoughtful questions about the role throughout the process, and make an effort to really connect with the team and show them just how well you’ll fit in. Finally, don’t forget that all this only matters if you actually show off what you know during the interview. Here’s a checklist to make sure you’re getting across everything you need to.
1. You’ll Start Making an Impact on Day One
If you’re able to get the hiring manager to imagine you contributing meaningful work on your first day, you’ve done well. This is goal number one. To do this, lean on your relevant experience and make a clear connection to the position you’re interviewing for.
Good interviewees will talk about how good they were at their most recent job, but an exceptional one will paint a picture of how he or she can be great at this position because of the skills and knowledge acquired at the last one. Connecting the dots makes all the difference.
2. You’ll Fit in With the Team (and Not Just Socially)
Fitting in with the team isn’t just about being getting along with everyone. So, while you definitely want to be likable, you also don’t want to forget to indicate that you know what you’re getting into in terms of the actual job—a.k.a, what role you’ll play within the current team structure. By making an effort to clearly articulate your understanding of the job, you’ll stand out among all the other charming and friendly candidates.
3. You’re Enthusiastic About the Job
It’s common sense that an excited candidate is almost always better received than one who seems, well, bored. That said, it can be a fine line between enthusiasm and desperation.
Asking questions about every shiny thing that catches your eye in the office will make you seem overeager (and distracted), while asking thoughtful questions that simultaneously show off your company research is impressive. Know the difference. Being able to talk about the company, whether in the format of a question or not, will make an impression.
4. You Sparkle
Finally, don’t let your attempt to be professional hide too much of your personality. After all, interviewers are looking for candidates who “sparkle” (more on that here). While you don’t want to get so carried away talking about how you biked across Europe that you forget to bring up your more relevant experience, you also don’t want to avoid discussing it if the opportunity presents itself.
Chatting about things you’re interested isn’t just a confidence booster, it makes you a more compelling candidate as well. Everyone loves a little quirkiness.
2. You Only Get to the Phone Screen
You definitely have a polished CV, because you’re landing plenty of first round interviews and phone screens, but strangely, you’re not progressing beyond that. What gives?
Your skills and experiences are obviously eye-catching and relevant enough to get someone’s attention, so it’s not that you don’t have anything to talk about. Instead, you’re probably not conveying your stories well. Sometimes it’s all about the delivery.
In the end, the only way to address this is through practice. You have the raw goods. Now, polish them up by going back to the basics and answering practice interview questions aloud with a friend. Read up on how to structure a response to a behavioral question here.
Pick the Right Story
All these “Tell me about a time when…” questions require stories. As a hiring manager, it’s incredibly unsatisfying to interview someone who has no stories to share. After all, how can someone know what you can do if you can’t talk about what you’ve done? Don’t be that job candidate. So, how do you find the right stories to share? Go through the job description and highlight all the soft skills that are featured. You’ll likely find things like “ability to work on a team and independently,” “comfort with multitasking,” or “strong communication skills.” Then, come up with an example of a time you demonstrated each of these traits—though keep in mind that you don’t necessarily need a different example for each. In fact, it’s better to come up with stories that are flexible, since you’ll likely have to adapt them to the exact questions anyway.
There are, of course, a few things that interviewers frequently like to ask about that will not be on the job descriptions. Be prepared for “negative” questions, like “Tell me about a time you had to deal with a conflict on your team” or “Tell me about a time you failed.” It’s not that interviewers are out to get you—how you handle conflict and failure are good things to know—it’s just not the best idea to put “must deal with frequent team conflict” in a job description.
Finally, brainstorm a few more questions that could potentially come up based on the position you’re applying for and your particular situation. For example, if you have a big gap on your CV, you’ll want to be prepared to talk about why you’re no longer at your previous job or if you’re coming into a newly merged department, you should be prepared to discuss a time you’ve been part of a big change.
Make a Statement
Once you have your stories, it’s time to think a little deeper about why these questions are asked in the first place. What does the interviewer actually want to know? Take a few seconds to think about this before you start answering the question—even if you have the perfect story prepared—so that you can make an appropriate introductory statement about essentially what the moral of your story is going to be. The reason for this is that even though the interviewer is specifically asking you to tell a story, the idea is that he or she will learn something about the way you do things. The problem with this is that what the interviewer gleans from your story could be very different from what you were hoping to share. For example, say you tell that story about standing up to the director of marketing when asked to talk about conflict with a previous manager. You eloquently move through the story about how you shared your hesitation about the new marketing campaign to no avail, but once the initial numbers came in, it was clear that you were right. You triumphantly showed the performance to the director, and she agreed to scrap the campaign. While this story is definitely suitable, there are actually a few different ways it could be taken the wrong way. The interviewer could hone in on the fact that you really didn’t do anything until it was too late or that you were unpersuasive or a poor communicator the first time you raised concerns about the campaign.
To make sure your stories are as effective as possible, make a statement before you start telling the story. In this particular example, it might be something like this, “I learned early on in my professional career that it’s fine to disagree if you can back up your instincts with data.” Now, when you tell your story, it’s not about the various ways you could have approached the situation better, but about how you learned from that experience and how you use it to inform future disagreements.
So, when it comes to these behavioural questions, have some stories prepared and then practice framing them based on the question you’re asked. Practice, practice, practice, and you’ll sound like a natural in no time. The final piece of the puzzle is wrapping up your answers well. You don’t want to ruin your perfect frame and story by ending your response with, “And… yeah.” Instead, try connecting the story back to the company or position. Quickly explaining how your experience would be useful in the position you’re interviewing for is always a strong way to wrap up. Another way to finish up a response is to give the “in short” version of the answer. For example, “In short, it’s not that I’m an amazing multi-tasker—I just set and review my priorities frequently.” Wrapping up an interview answer is such a commonly neglected area of preparation, but it can really help you nail the “strong communicator” impression, so don’t disregard it when you’re practicing. The thing people assume about these questions is that they’re all about the story. And, yes, that is a critical component. But even if your story isn’t exactly what the question asked for, if it’s framed well and you go the extra mile to tell the interviewer what he or she should take away from it, you’ll actually end up making a stronger impression.
For additional questions and invaluable insight on how to maximize your recruiter relationship, to build stronger organisations and develop a winning hiring strategy contact:
Helen Henderson 44 (0)1189 000839 0r firstname.lastname@example.org