Archive for May, 2014

Top Reasons Why Candidates Don’t Do Well In Interviews

May 21, 2014

If I had a dollar for every time a candidate told me how great their interview went – only to hear the polar opposite from the hiring manager, I’d be a wealthy man. And when a candidate says it went “pretty well,” that’s usually code for it stunk to high heaven. Over the years, I’ve heard so many reasons why candidates didn’t rise to the interview occasion. Here are the most common causes.

* Nerves – Nervousness is quite common. After all, interviews can be intimidating. Plus, there’s a lot at stake, especially if the candidate really wants the job. I’m putting nervousness first because it leads to many other reasons why candidates don’t make the cut. Nervousness in and of itself is not a reason, unless that nervous energy isn’t controlled and channeled in constructive ways.

* Loquacity – What do most people do when they get nervous? They talk too much. Questions don’t get addressed on point and one run-on sentence mercilessly leads to many more. Landing the plane becomes elusive. Since a hiring manager is trying to envision a cultural fit, how could someone who can’t answer questions succinctly fit in the organization without annoying everyone? And what does this say about self-awareness?

* Lack of Listening Skills – Again, nerves can play a role here, too. It’s astounding how an otherwise good listener suddenly loses all control over comprehension. Instead of focusing in the moment, some candidates overthink and answer questions with TMI or go off on unrelated tangents. Answering questions directly demonstrates good listening skills. If a question is vague or convoluted, it behooves the candidate to seek clarification before trying to answer.

* Lack of rapport – Granted, some hiring managers don’t exude warm and fuzzies. Yet, they tend to give off at least some hints about themselves that enable candidates to at least make an attempt at establishing rapport. Mirroring the interviewer’s demeanor, pace and use of language can help in an underlying, almost subliminal way.

* Losing touch with the past – Many interviewers ask for specific examples that invite candidates to draw upon their past experience to help paint a picture of a job fit. Yet, many candidates draw a blank, struggling to give good, specific examples of relevant situations. This compromises credibility.

* Weak moves – Another credibility compromiser. Everyone has made career moves and should know what happened and why they decided to move on. Explanations that engender more doubt than plausibility will make interviewer wonder what really happened.

* Extemporaneous challenged – All jobs, no matter the role or level, necessitate the ability to think on one’s feet. In the interview, some questions are designed to see how well a candidate can articulate thoughts extemporaneously. It might be pop quiz questions about technical skills, or perhaps a creative thought question. These aren’t easy as it involves thinking on the fly. But again, many roles require this ability.

* No prep – Candidates who don’t demonstrate preparedness, by doing deep dive research into the company and corresponding market, formulating thoughtful questions, and anticipating discussion points, will come across as having a lack of initiative an resourcefulness.

* Questions as an afterthought – Similar to lack of preparation, the inability to prepare and ask thoughtful and poignant questions is usually a death sentence. Many hiring managers put just as much weight into the questions candidates ask as the answers to the interview questions they’re asked. Good questions posed by the candidate point to forethought, strong thought process, genuine interest, and a natural sense of inquisitiveness – all critically important traits. The “what’s in it for me” questions (e.g., benefits, compensation) amount to interview suicide. If all goes well in the interview process, there will be plenty of opportunity down the road for the company to sell you on the opportunity.

* No sale – Many candidates, including sales candidates, seem to have forgotten the importance of selling themselves. Without being overbearing or schmaltzy, candidates can and should extol their relevant virtues. This demonstrates persuasiveness and confidence – two positive attributes. It also portrays a candidate who wants the job.

* Listlessness – Energy and enthusiasm, combined with a positive mental attitude, speak volumes and generally attract interest and appreciation from others. Lacking these characteristics makes it exceedingly difficult for any interviewer to come away with an uplifting feeling. No, we’re not expecting candidates to swing from the chandeliers and finish answering each question with chest thumps and high fives. But being engaged, interested, poised, and confident will help the cause in a big way.


Action items:

1. Self-awareness is key. As a friend or trusted mentor to interview you and give honest feedback afterwards. Knowing how you come across and how you can control it, is powerful.

2. Proactively seek honest feedback, either directly from the interviewer, or later from your recruiter. You can’t address what you don’t know.

3. Prepare, prepare, prepare. This means researching the company and space they play in; researching the interviewers to learn ahead of time about their background, tendencies and hot buttons; formulating thoughtful questions; reviewing examples from past work situations that highlight your strengths and relevancy; and anticipating questions about your ability and experience relative to the role.