Only 4.7% of online applications actually converts into an interview. Given how minuscule that is, if you actually get called in for an interview based on an online application, you’ve earned a hearty pat on the back. But don’t bask in the glow for too long, because it’s time to nail the interview.
The Good News
Remember: The interviewer isn’t out to get you.
They don’t want you to screw up. They want you to perform and prove that you can hit the ground running so they can give you the job. That’s because by the time they get around to interviewing you, the role has either been open for months or their most mission-critical person has quit. In either case, they’re usually dying to get someone into the role as quickly as possible.
The interviewer wants you to win
And yet, so many candidates stack the odds against themselves by failing to consider the needs of the employer, leading to a sub-par performance on game day. Before the interview, speak closely with the recruiter, do your research on the company, and even get in touch with connections who know the company or the hiring manager. The more information you have going in, the easier it will be to prepare responses to the likely questions. Skip this at your peril.
Don’t rely solely on the job description
It’s fascinating how many candidates come back from an interview with a prospective boss and say, “That job is so much more interesting than the job description made it sound.” That’s because when it comes to job descriptions, the written word isn’t Gospel. If you look at them closely, you’ll realize they almost always give only a few bullet points about what they want in the person they hire, and rarely ever tell you how this role will impact the organization. You know what they’re looking for, but not what your role will be. So stop obsessing about what it says in the job description and focus on what the interviewer is telling you.
The hiring manager probably hasn’t looked at your resume
Everyone’s busy these days. That means that it’s very unlikely that the hiring manager has read your resume. He or she probably gave it a quick glance two or three weeks earlier to help the recruiter put together a short list. Since then, there have been dozens of fires to put out and they’ll have forgotten all about you. Your job is to take it all in stride. The absolute worst thing you can say on an interview when asked to talk about your experience is: “It’s all right there on my resume. Didn’t you read it?” (Because the answer is probably “no.”) So don’t go there. Instead, get into a conversation about your experience and take them on a journey. If you play it right, they’ll be trying to get you back in quickly to meet the rest of the team.
Learn how to probe
Teach yourself to ask questions early in a one-on-one interview. Very few candidates use this technique, but it can really pay off when done well. Ask questions like, “What’s keeping you up at night?” “In the first 90 days, what can I tackle that would make an impact?” When introduced early in the interview, open-ended questions like these can help you get a handle on what’s really important right now at the company. The hiring manager is probably ready to burst with answers to these questions, so you’ll get plenty of critical info in a short amount of time.
The next step is to zero in on what’s most important to them and align your story with their needs. Then you can then share ways in which you’ve fixed similar challenges in the pasts. This will make you not only more likeable, but more memorable. By focusing on their immediate needs first, you’ll be sure to get invited to next rounds where you can talk more strategically about the role and the company — at a time when you’ve effectively eliminated your competition.
The bottom line
Your first interview with a hiring manager is all about building trust. If you don’t do that, you will not get to a second round. Period.
The Bad News
“User error” is the #1 reason people don’t land jobs. How do we know this? At The Hired Guns, we interview more than 1,000 people every year. And we see the same exact mistakes happening day after day, month after month, and year after year. With that in mind, here’s a quick Top 10 list of things that will quickly eliminate you from contention (we have hundreds more!):
- Being late.
- Being rude to the receptionist.
- Not having extra copies of your resume (bring 10).
- Not turning off your mobile phone (this includes texting during an interview — yes, it happens).
- Getting miffed and showing your displeasure if an interviewer is late.
- Only talking to the most senior person during a panel interview.
- Not making eye contact.
- Looking like you just rolled out of bed.
- Not being prepared to speak to your work samples.
- Not sending thank you notes.
The above list may seem extremely obvious, but as first-hand experts on the interview process, we can tell you that almost everyone who interviews — no matter how smart or how senior — fails at one of the items above. Turn this bad news for everyone else into good news for yourself by not letting the easy stuff slide.
Time Can Be on Your Side
Interviews go faster than you think, so plan accordingly. Assume you’ll have 30 minutes max (even if your appointment is for 45 minutes to an hour). Give yourself five minutes for “So tell me about yourself” chat, five to 10 minutes for an interviewer to tell you about the job, about 15 to 20 minutes for back and forth, and five minutes to ask any final questions and close the interview. This means you need to take control of the interview. There are lots of time management errors, but the big ones include:
- Using up all your time on “So tell me about yourself.”
- Constantly asking questions but never telling them anything about yourself.
- Not having any questions in reserve for the end of the interview.
- Letting the interviewer do all of the talking without interjecting.
- Not closing the interview and summarizing why you’d be great for the job.
When thinking about your competition, you can be reasonably confident that they’ll make one of the mistakes we just listed. Your job is just to avoid all those common mistakes. Simply doing so will put you on the fast track.
What are the three worst questions you can encounter on an interview? We’ll tell you what they are — and how to nail them.
28 Days to a New Job is a month-long Hired Guns course designed to help you maximize your competitiveness in the current job market. Learn the secrets to getting a job from hiring managers, recruiters, negotiation experts and more. Read our our introductory post here. Or Subscribe Now to receive 28 Days to a New Job as a daily email.