I have been interviewing over 20 candidates in the past few weeks for the three full time positions we are hiring. I would like to summarize the good and the bad about the interviewees and share some interview tips for potential job seekers.
I found many interviewee does not understand what an interview is about. Many new grads has this problem, but it also shows up in quite a number of candidates with many years of work experience. An interview is not an exam, not a Q&A session. You don’t get any points for getting the right answer. The answers are not not the end, rather it is just the mean to sell yourself to the interviewer. An interview usually just an hour long. The interviewer has to make the decide whether or not hire the you from this hour long conversation. The interview would like to find out as much as possible about you to judge whether you fit the job. You should should provide as much information as possible to convince the interviewer to hire you.
On the other hand, some candidates provide too much information. They talk too fast, they talk too much, they even make me totally lose about what they are saying. The general rule of thumb is the more Information the better, but only relevant information counts. I have candidate start introducing himself with the first job he had 10 years ago. I lost my patient before he got to year three. Always prioritize what you say, put the most attractive experience first. You want to grab the interest of the interviewer. If the interviewer is interest to know more, he will ask you for more details. Don’t get too excited talking about yourself and assume he is still following you. Make sure you pause often to give a chance to the interviewer to clarify any points in you just said. The information is useless to the interviewer unless he understand what you are talking about.
When answering a question, if you find a question is vague, don’t hesitate ask for clarification. Very often the interviewer only knows what he kind of information he want to know, but did not know exactly what kind of questions can get the candidate to demonstrate he has the right quality. Upon hearing the question, some candidate jump to answering right away without a thought on the intention of the question. Their answer usually totally miss the point, did not give the interviewer any useful information. It would not hurt to step back for a brief moment, think through the question, ask more to find out what is the best way to present the answer such that it means the expectation of the interviewer.
If you have multiple interviews with different people in a row. I advise you always talk a short break between the interviews even you feel you don’t need one. The next interviewer may already waiting outside the meeting room, but you should still take the chance to ask to use the washroom and have a cup of water. It is reasonable request and no one expect to test the endurance of the candidate. Having a break not only unwind your stress level such that you will perform better in the following interview, the break is also a good chance to leave a good first impression to the interviewer. The interviewer probably would have to walk you to the washroom or the water cooler. The interview has not officially start at that point, the interviewer is in more relaxing state of mind and his is less critical on the conversation. You can ask some basic information about the interviewer, such as how long he is working in the company or you can make some generic comments about the office environment. It is easier to get the interview connect with you personally or even get him to like you in the short walk to and from the meeting room. Once the inside the meeting room, interviewer sits behind the table, he would be more self aware about his authority as the interviewer. He would keep some mental distance from the candidate and it is harder for you to impress him.
I believe in the blink theory. Most interviewer already make a initial judgment whether or not reject the candidate within the first five minutes of the interview. The interviewer just spend the reminding time of the interview to confirm his judgment. Most people with a reasonable mind would correct his judgment if new evidences surfaces that contradicts with what he currently believes, however it seems only works one way in an interview. Once the idea of rejection gets on the mind of the interview, it is really hard to shake it off. The candidate survives to the end of the interview does not imply he is hired. He still have to rank against other candidates who survives to the end. There are less competition in the ranking stage, because over three quarter of the candidates is already rejected in the interview.
If the candidate survives the first five minutes, he would still be rejected anytime in the interview if he raised a red flag to the interviewer. What clicks the red flag is difference to difference interviewer. I really hate people bluffing about their experience. At the end of the day, the red flag is just an feeling hard to quantify at first. The red flag is that the interviewer is simply saying he feels uncomfortable working with you. Once the interviewer has that uneasy feeling, he would confirm it by directing the questions in a different way. It’s surprisingly easy to find post-hoc evidences to back up the initial doubt. It may not sound very scientific, but the interviewer is a human and that’s how psychology works. It is a human making the hire or no-hire decision at the end of day.