For a couple of years now I have been involved in interviewing candidates, for a multitude of different roles. While the roles are different, the characteristics that are sought in candidates are always quite similar. It’s rarely the person that is “smartest” or has the most experience that gets hired. There are a number of different factors that are taken into consideration, at least from my experience. So, do you want to know how to smash your next interview?
“You don’t hire for skills, you hire for attitude – you can always teach skills”
Undoubtedly, if you have a bad attitude, you have a bad chance. Your attitude matters for a number of reasons, but the primary one, is because more than likely you will be working with a team. One question an interviewer will always ask themselves in the back of their mind as they interview you is: “How will this person get on with our team”? If the answer isn’t good, it’s highly unlikely you’re getting the job. You need to present yourself as a team player, and actually be one. Learn about what it means to work within a team, what good communication skills are, how to give and receive feedback, and so forth.
Everyone on the team, and in the organisation, has plenty on their plate to be working with. A toxic attitude is not something they need to add to this plate. If you’re arrogant, it’s going to be difficult to teach you, because you think you know it all. It means giving you feedback is going to be difficult, you’re not in a growth mindset. I will always seek the person that is open minded, that shows a willingness to learn, ask questions, and takes on feedback. This person is much more valuable to a team than the one who thinks they know it all and never asks for help.
Know Your Strengths & Weaknesses
If you’ve ever looked up common interview questions, strengths and weaknesses seem to always be on the list. Even if the question isn’t asked in an interview, your interviewer is assessing these as you answer questions. So, before attending your interview – I would recommend thoroughly, and accurately evaluating your strengths and weaknesses. Be honest with yourself, but don’t under-sell yourself. Look at soft skills and hard skills.
Don’t be afraid to be honest about your hard skills. I once went to an interview and was asked about my strengths and weaknesses (when I was in college). I honestly said “My weakness is probably programming” – for a technical job. Guess what? I still got it. Because I had programming experience, but I was honest in saying that I wasn’t a fully confident programmer. I explained how this was an area I’m working on and care about. I went on to point out the extra effort I’m making in this area due to it being a weakness.
What made me stand out in that situation? I showed self-awareness. I also showed a willingness to learn, and that when I know I’m weak in an area, I’ll take X and Y steps to improve it.
Expand On Your Points!
When in an interview, there is a sweet spot for how much you should be talking. You don’t want to talk too much where you are constantly repeating the same point in five different ways. But you also don’t want to just have simple one sentence answers. For instance, if your interviewer says “I notice your CV says you have experience with excel?” – a mediocre answer would be “yea I worked on it in college”. A great answer would be, “Yes, I did multiple projects in college with excel, for example I had to use A, B, and C formulas to get D when working on a project to understand E”.
Elaborate on your experience, it shows you actually understand the tools or technologies you have worked with. When you don’t have 10 years of experience, being able to elaborate on the experience that you do have is necessary. By doing this you demonstrate that you understand the purpose of something and how it applies to the business. That being said, don’t spend ten minutes talking about something that you can concisely explain in two minutes. Find the sweet spot.
Know The Business
Doing your homework for an interview does not mean knowing the date a company was established and where their headquarters are. That’s useless information to be quite frank. Doing your homework means understanding the business. Here are some questions you can ask yourself:
- What is the product?
- Who are their customers?
- How do they differentiate from their competitors?
- What technologies, tools, or best practices can I find out about that this company uses?
Check the job specification, when it mentions experience in a particular tool that you don’t have – go do your homework on that. If you really want the job, don’t leave it at some quick salesman pitch of understanding the tool – try to ACTUALLY understand it.
It seems like simple advice, you would be amazed at how many people don’t follow it. Do you have other questions on interviewing? Let me know in the comments!