Five Interview Lessons Learned from Horrible Interviews
When I started blogging last year I wrote about the lessons I learned as an interviewer in the Silicon Valley. Since then I have changed jobs and have not interviewed so many people. However, my husband is currently in the midst of interviewing quite a few people for his company and he told me stories of some of the worst candidates ever. I think in the process of interviewing people I have learned quite a few lessons on how to be a good interviewee, and here they are.
1. Personal Hygiene Is Important - My husband told me that a candidate he interviewed literally "smelled like yak" and he and his officemate had to get a fan and blow the putrid air from the office for a couple hours after the interview. I have not met anyone in an interview that was intolerable because of their hygiene, but obviously it is a very bad idea to disgust your interviewers with body odor. The least anyone can do is to take a shower and put on some deodorant before an interview. Here in the Valley people do not mind casual clothing, but being clean is still essential.
2. Do Not Schedule Conflicting Interviews - This seems like very obvious advice but some people still do not quite get it. My husband said that another candidate started to take a phone interview with a different company in the breaks in betwen his interview and then took up the entire office for his other interview! Then the owner of the office had to kick the candidate out. I suppose the candidate was not interested in my husband's company, but there is no need for him to be extremely rude and steal an office that does not belong to him.
3. Read Your Own Resume and Know What is on It - When I interviewed a woman for my last company I asked her how much she knew about MySQL and Oracle since both of them were on her resume. She told me that she knew MySQL is made by Microsoft and Oracle is open source, and I asked her if she were sure and she nodded confidently. Then I told her she was wrong and she confessed that she wrote those things because her friend told her to just write as many technical keywords as possible so that job board search engines will pick her resume up by the keywords. The lesson here is that it is fine to put popular keywords on your resume as long as you actually know what they are. It is also helpful to read your resume from time to time and refresh your memory about past projects.
4. Do Not Give Your Entire Life Story - One of the most common questions I and many other interviewers ask is "tell me a little about yourself". In one incident I did regret asking this question because a woman told me about her life going back fifteen years. She included details such as sicknesses in the family and marital problems and other personal details. It was a bit overwhelming to say the least and since she kept on talking I did not get to ask her very many questions.It is best to just summarize a few of the jobs you have had and leave out all the personal details since they should not be part of the workplace anyway. It is perfectly fine to be friends with your coworkers, but making your interviewer your therapist is a big no-no.
5. Make Getting the Job Your Priority and Do Not Show Your Ulterior Motives - A lot of the times it is hard to guess how an interviewer will interpret what you say. In my experience you should only show that you want the job for the job and nothing else. For example, I have met a few candidates who asked me repeatedly if they could get greencard sponsorship. The fact is I do not know because I am an engineer, but those questions show me that the candidate is needy and probably would take any company that sponsors them. Another candidate kept on questioning me if my company would go public and how much money would the employees get. The problem with that line of questioning is that even if I knew I cannot tell a random stranger that type of confidential information anyway. It is fine to join a company because you need sponsorship or if you want to be rich, but all those things will not happen until the company accepts you.
To sum it up, the basics to being a successful interviewee is to be professional, know your stuff, and keep your focus on getting the job. After you get the job, you will have the power to get what you want from the company.