4 Things to Stop Doing in Job Interviews


The other day, while cleaning through random boxes of papers, I came upon some relics of job interviews past. It reminded me of one of my favorite strategies to make the right impression when meeting new people who don’t know a whole lot about me. The papers were a leave behind folder I created for my lynda.com job interview–I assembled a folder for each interviewer that included my resume, a list of courses I’d start building after my start date, and a sample outline I’d put together for one of those courses. Basically, I put myself on paper, doing the job I was being hired for before I was hired.

One of the big risks hiring managers take is that they’re going on your word and that of your references to determine whether you can deliver the goods. Give them something to hold onto–something that stays on their desk and says INITIATIVE in big bold letters.

In addition to showing that initiative, here are four things you should stop doing in interviews.

1. Assuming Your Interviewer Has Spent Time With Your Resume

Show up with a copy for everyone you’re talking to and be prepared to walk them through it in 60-120 seconds. If the job you’re interviewing for is in tech, have your iPad handy with your resume open for them to scan while you talk. Needless to say, turn off any notifications that might flash on your screen first.

2. Selling Your Features

Selling qualities you have (hey, I’m punctual, I’m agile, I’m organized, I’m proactive) is old school. Instead, sell your benefits–things your features or qualities create for companies. (Hey, I came into my last job and created a new workflow that condensed a six-month process into a three week process–let me tell you about that.) It’s like my favorite old analogy–no one buys the hammer because they want a hammer. They need to nail stuff in the wall. Stop selling your hammer, and start talking about the picture you’re going to hang once that nail’s in.

3. Learning About the Company as You Go

If you’re showing up for your interview on a fact-finding mission, you’re already behind the curve. Do your research before you go. View the LinkedIns of everyone you’re talking to. Look for places you’re connected–maybe you grew up in the same city or both know Bill from another company. Similarly, go through the company’s web site, About Us, and published information. It’s your job to be able to talk about the company as if you already work there. If they sell a product that you can reasonably afford, buy one to familiarize yourself with how it works. It’s an investment in the position. Spend your interview time showing you’ve done your work, not learning things for the first time.

4. Asking the Same Questions of Each Person

Sure, there are a few questions you might want everyone to answer, such as “What makes this company awesome to work for?” or “What’s the best and worst part of your job?” But don’t spend your time being repetitive. One size fits all questions give you a one-dimensional view of the company, which is not what you want.

When you get your interview schedule, be it with 1 person or 7, look up or ask about each person’s job function and prepare 2-3 unique questions for each. Ask the salesperson you interview with what’s driving revenue and the marketer which social campaigns have been most successful and why. Your goal in the interview is to know the living organism that is the company, which means you need everyone’s input to get a real sense of what it’s like to work there.

Happy job hunting, and let me know what makes your interviews particularly challenging or successful!