I’ll pile onto every popular post around, with the do’s and don’ts on interviewing. Except, my list is extremely cathartic right now — unemployment is on the rebound, and it’s getting harder and harder to get the talent you want. Really, it’s harder to find the talent that you need. Many candidates in the market are starting to get more self-assured, lazy, and cocky. While, many of us interviewers have long memories so don’t be too punitive on us in good times – you will need us in the hard times.
1) Research your interviewer(s) – you will most likely know who you are interviewing with. If not, then definitely ask the recruiter, HR, or the hiring manager. Once you have the list of who you’re interviewing with, do your research. In this day and age, information can be quickly accessible from anywhere at anytime. There is really no excuse to not do research. In particular, I always find it shocking that candidates don’t spend 10 minutes looking up the interviewers on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a great tool to use on getting to know your interviewer. Also, most users of LinkedIn check who is looking at their profile, too. So odds are that your interviewer will actually know that you were doing your research before your interview. You’ll get to know a lot about them in terms of background, connections, etc. Heck, maybe you have similar connections, interests, work experience, etc. Finding a common ground is a sure fire way to get on the good side of your interviewer. Plus, you show the interviewer that you actually care about getting the job. Big interview points for you.
2) Research the Company and/or the Product – I am always interested in talking to people that are interested in my company and its product/service. If you don’t care about what my company does then you should really look for another company to interview with. Most hiring managers feel the same way. A majority of the candidates that I interview don’t do the very basic steps of engaging with my product or services. At the basic level of engagement that I ask a candidate is something like this…have you setup an account, downloaded the product, called into the customer service center, tried the service, etc., etc.? So many candidates either don’t do the most basic steps or they try to bullshit you. B.S. is very easy to detect so please don’t lie. Interviewers know when you are lying.
3) Dress correctly – Wingtips or Flip-flops? You need to know how to dress for the interview. Ask the recruiter, hiring manager, or someone in HR how you should dress. They want to help you (because their jobs are stressful and they are trying to land good candidates) and will tell you. So, don’t be a jackass and miss this. I have seen this mistake time-and-time again where you get a suit in a startup or the inverse. Interviewers are looking for many attributes and cultural fit is a huge competent. Example, if you are in gaming, you where a suit at Nintendo and jeans in a gaming startup. Duh.
4) Don’t be an a$$hole – hopefully you are not one, but I often find a$$holes are good at sucking up to interviewers but are not savvy liars to everyone else. I always check to see how the candidate behaved with a valued member of my team, whether it be the front desk receptionist, my admin, etc. I am always shocked to get reports where my employees received attitude and/or bad behavior. If you treat anyone on my team poorly, I will merely write you off as a fit. Now, I am not saying that I want a$$holes to hide their true nature because I wouldn’t hire an a$$hole either way.
5) Putting the interview in buy mode – with some markets like tech running at historically low numbers, you get severe cases of arrogant behavior. Honestly, I have seen this before in the Web 1.0 (or Dotcom) bubble. You get some young punk riffing on how they are sought after from Google, Amazon, Facebook, or whatever. My attitude is that you should just work at those places and stop wasting my time. Furthermore, you should not be so disrespectful that you feel like you are asking more questions than you are answering. As a hiring manager, I am trying to assess intellectual capability, creativity, problem solving, leadership, and cultural fit. I know that most interview candidates are smart but I’ll flush a candidate down the toilet if they feel like they are the new incarnation of whatever diva they wish to emulate. To be honest, most of us mortals that are not able to compete on salary or stock are looking for team members that line up around the company’s vision. We want to hire people that believe in our vision and our cultural values. This is dating at its finest form. When a candidate spends the time to line up his/her belief system around what the interviewer (and management team) is marching towards, it really comes down the litmus test of the firm. Some companies value reasoning skills over emotional, IQ or GMAT scores over experience so on and so forth. To get in the door in most companies though, you should be prepared to sprint to the start line. My top 5 are ‘table steaks’ requirements.
You will most likely have to solve logical problems on a white board, write some code, etc. in addition to these tips. But, that’s really about whether you have the aptitude around the job. Most of the interviewers that you’ll meet are ready to ‘buy’ you as a candidate if you do the most basic steps you should have a successful interview.
Matt Hulett is both a serial entrepreneur and seasoned public company executive who has successfully built profitable (and re-built) companies from scratch. Hulett blogs about startups and technology on his blog StartupWhisperer.