Dive 29: 4 People Who Fail Job Interviews
Hey, it’s Alvin!
In over a decade, I’ve done dozens of job interviews on both sides of the table.
Today, I’ll share with you 4 types of candidates who struggle with job interviews. You’ll get tips on what you’re expected to bring, and not bring, to the table at your next interview, to maximize your chances of landing your next job.
1. The Builder (named Bob)
Bob the Builder is a children’s TV show, where the titular character, Bob likes to ask, “can we build it?” And the other characters respond, “yes, we can!”
Some candidates are similar in that they claim to be able to do almost anything. My team once asked a candidate whether they’re familiar with a particular technology. He said he did, so we asked him how he’d use it to solve a particular problem. The more we spoke with him, the more we found ourselves explaining to him how the tech works.
If you don’t know something, it’s better not to lie about it. The interviewers are asking because they need help with what they’re asking about. So, they will dig deeper to see how much you know, and how much you can help them. You will be found out.
Instead, if you’re familiar with something similar to what you’re asked about, mention it. Talk about your experiences using similar technology. Or ask about what problem they’re trying to solve with it. Maybe you can propose a better solution.
Don’t hide your flaws. Show your value.
2. The Rambler
The Rambler is a candidate who likes to ramble in their answers. Details are appreciated, but only if they’re relevant to what the interviewers want. Of course, experienced interviewers will also stop Ramblers and get them back on topic. But having to do so repeatedly makes the interview hard on the interviewers. It also suggests a few things about the candidate. It could be a sign that…
The candidate wants to avoid talking about certain topics. That’s a bad sign if the topic is critical to the job.
The candidate doesn’t understand (and isn’t seeking to understand) the needs of the interviewers, so they’re broaching irrelevant topics.
The candidate doesn’t respect other people’s time.
Interviewers want to know how you can help them. You can only help them if you understand their needs.
3. The Quiz Show Contestant
Many of the less-experienced interviewees tend to be like quiz show contestants—they only answer questions and don’t ask any. Or they ask a few canned questions at the end as a formality.
I was guilty of this early in my career, too. The problem is that there are too many job interview prep sites that say you should ask more questions. But the goal is not to ask more questions. The goal is to understand what the job entails. You attain that understanding by asking questions.
But remember, the interview isn’t just about you.
The interviewers want to understand what you can do for them. While you’re trying to understand what their job can do for you.
It’s a conversation; not an exam.
That’s why I only started succeeding at getting jobs when I treated interviews more like conversations—a way for two parties to get to know each other.
4. The Test Taker
Test Takers like to memorize answers to whatever interview questions they can. Then, they robotically regurgitate them during the interview when the question comes up.
The answers could be canned—obtained from random websites about job interview preparation. Or they could be prepared by the Test Taker.
Either way, it doesn’t look good for a couple of reasons.
First, reciting responses gives the impression that you’re not willing to put in effort in situations where the interviewers need effort from you.
More importantly, rehearsed answers never showcase the best of who you are. Remember, this is a chance for others to get to know who you really are. There shouldn’t be a need to memorize an answer if you’re being honest.
I’ll give you an example.
There was a candidate I interviewed who paused a bit after most questions before he answered. He was thoughtful, and that was fine. But when my colleague asked him what his strengths were, he didn’t have to pause at all. He blurted out a list of three strengths in less than 2 seconds. He was surprisingly lightning fast.
He mentioned one of his strengths was that he got things done no matter what. Out of genuine curiosity, I asked him, “ok, so what if you don’t have time to get things done by a tight deadline? What do you do, then?”
We gave him a minute or two, but he just sat there in silence. He didn’t just pause this time; he was stumped. I felt bad because that wasn’t my intention. Besides, this isn’t an impossible question to answer, and is a situation that happens in software development all the time. One approach is to just talk to your manager about what you’ve done, what you have left to do, and what needs to happen next.
Job interviews can be tough and stressful. So, yes, prepare for them. And if that means reviewing a list of sample questions from a website, go for it. But the answers you prepare should come from the heart. Your answers should show how your knowledge, skills, and experience can add value for a prospective employer.
I hope you enjoyed this dive Below the Surface of how not to approach job interviews as a candidate. Reply to email@example.com if you have questions or comments. Let me know if you have job interviewing tips of your own. I’d love to hear from you.
Thank you for reading. Have a wonderful day. And I’ll see you in the next one.