Making mistakes in the job search and interview process
In my youth, *adjusts readers* and recently I have made some pretty incredible interview mistakes. Some of them I was able to recover from and with others… I was just happy for it to be over so I could get home and lick my wounds. It’s awful but I am willing to rehash these painful lessons for your entertainment so let’s get into it!
Winging it. I have come to know that anytime I am doing anything and a voice in my head says “you can wing it”, it’s the devil with his devil wings. The first mistake I made very early on when interviewing was not properly researching the company. Y’all I am a marketer, the first thing I should have done was go to the website … I didn’t. I assumed because I had heard of the company that I knew what they did. Don’t rely on your layman’s logic about a company as so many of the giants are turning the corner into surprising new industries.
Example, What do you think of when I mention the company, Xerox? If you hear this name you think paper, copy machines, ink maybe… but they doing Parking now. (I didn’t interview with them but a great example). Google is free and you do not want to be blind sighted by free information when you just wrote a whole resume about being a knowledgeable, self-starter, who takes pride in their work cause guess what? You just showed them that it’s all a lie.
Not bringing/taking notes. I used to not take notes into an interview or take notes in the interview. I assumed that it would make it look like I had a script if I came in with a notebook full of notes and that if I took too many notes during the interview I was missing the conversational piece. This ended when I was laid off and had 20 interviews in a month. I couldn’t keep it all straight otherwise. I am a writer so I would come in the door with pages of notes and questions. It actually helped my interviewing skills because I had a few talking points with me but more importantly I had literally pages of questions that I got to really examine the night before. Hiring Managers were impressed by the thoughtfulness of my inquiries and how much research I had done. The whole time I was worried about nothing. Side note: I recently heard a story of a person not getting the job because they didn’t have a notebook or anything at an interview. That was actual feedback. The manager thought she “didn’t really want to job” because of a lack of note-taking. A very odd thing to assume but it’s an easy fix.
Not considering the people I was interviewing with. When you get to a certain point in your career you’re no longer interviewing once with your direct manager, more people are required to “buy in” to you as you move up the chain. My most recent experience was with 5 people with completely different viewpoints based on their job and how I was going to interact with them. The best thing to do is ask who you will be meeting with when the in-person interview is scheduled, find them on Linkedin and just take a peek at their backgrounds. I like to look at things like their current role, how long they have been in that role or at that company and if there is some kind of pattern. Patterns for me are has the person been able to do a lot at the company (do people moved up a lot), how long have most people stayed, do you have anything in common with them (same schools, experience, sorority etc). Consider all of this when you’re asking questions. And if you forgot to ask who you are interviewing with before the interview, adjust your general questions to fit the person you are talking to at the moment. The goal is to ask them questions that are in their scope to answer.
Not following up. I JUST started doing this in the last 5 years or so. I never sent a follow -up before that. Honestly, I knew it was a thing but I thought it didn’t matter. It totally does and because there are so many people like the old me out there – it gives you a competitive edge. How I do it? At the end of an interview with each person I ask for a business card and I also write down something specific that they said that I can connect to later. After the interview, I write a quick and personal “Thank you” email, including that specific thing I wrote down. Also, use their lingo in the email. If everyone mentioned the term “hit the ground running” … add something about your ability to “hit the ground running”. All of this just keeps you top of mind. Plus people are looking for a “good fit” for their team. Show them you are the “best fit”.
Pssst… The next step up from the email is the handwritten thank you note, just depends on what you’re going after and how quickly you’re moving.
Assuming the interview was for them, not me. This is a point that became clear to me in my moving from place to place. Companies have some crazy cultures and it doesn’t matter how much they pay… if someone is yelling at you daily or calling you all day and night, the cost to your peace it too high. Be sure to be completely clued into how the interviewer is speaking about the team, listen to the body language of the people around her. Consider the kind of person you are talking to. Also, ask about challenges and turn over in the role. Why is there an opening? It’s ok for the questions to go back and forth and if it’s NOT, you definitely don’t need to be there. Also, search the title on LinkedIn at the company… you can see who else had your role and if they all left after 6 months. Ask detailed questions about expectations, challenges, and exactly what does a successful person in this role look like? I also like to know what does 5 years ahead look like… what’s the company goal? Listen and closely examine the answers. If they don’t know – it’s a red flag to consider.
I could tell you stories of all the red flags I have missed in interviews. whew! I think that is going to a post on here soon…
And the biggest mistake... Not fully reading the job description in detail. I, like a lot of people, looked primarily at the title, company, and requirements. This is a BIG mistake. A lot of the gems are right there in bullets. I look for things like what the day to day functions are of the role, what kind of person are they asking for, do they list benefits or perks, and does the person they are looking to hire sound realistic? If the day to day functions sound like 5 people’s job or the type of person they are looking for sounds like a unicorn, you should ask about it in the interview. Employers often list benefits, perks, and clues about the culture. If you have trouble finding questions… ask about this stuff. A lot of the time what you need to decide if the company is a right fit for you is written.
Today, I print off the entire description (or paste it into a word doc) and highlight the what I like vs dislike so that I can be crystal clear in the interview. Onboarding and getting “up to speed” is always a sucky process, I want to make sure when I accept the offer it’s a job that I actually want (unless my motives are different like coming off a lay off).
This was a lot and I had so many more that I couldn’t get into to today. Interviewing is a skill that can only be mastered by doing it. If you are desperate to find of job or find yourself in the wrong job, its a costly mistake not to do it well. Think of the interview as a two-way street, don’t be so wrapped up in being likable and getting hired that you forget that you are also hiring them.
If you have any interview fails, I really want to hear about them in the comments below!