You’re perfect for the job, and you know it. In fact, you’re such a good fit for this job at this company that, in retrospect, it almost seems as if your whole career path up to this point was engineered specifically to get you here.
And the employer is impressed, too – impressed enough that you’ve been invited for an interview.
Normally, you’re worried about interviews, but not this time. This time, you’re certain you’ve got it in the bag.
At least, that’s how you felt before the interview, but now, here you are, walking out of the building and totally baffled. That interview was kind of terrible. The interviewer didn’t seem very interested in your answers. The conversation was stilted. By the end, it almost felt like you were being shooed out of the office, the way the interviewer hurried you to the door.
In short: You just flopped. Big time.
If You’re Flopping, You Might Not Be Engaged
Interview flops do happen – but they can be avoided. According to Mark Jones, senior vice president of staffing firm Alexander Mann Solutions, the most common reason why a candidate flops is because they weren’t engaged or enthusiastic enough in the interview.
“From personal experience, this is a common reason why I, myself, don’t gel with some candidates I interview,” Jones says. “Often, these individuals have not done their research and are winging it, showing no signs of being interested.”
That being said, flops aren’t always the candidate’s fault entirely. Sometimes, it’s a matter of an employee-candidate mismatch, which often occurs when a recruiter doesn’t totally understand who you are as a candidate and what you really want.
“You should not underestimate the importance of making sure the recruiter understands what you want in a role and what your strengths are,” Jones says. “Just because a recruiter called you does not mean you’re a fit. Sometimes, it’s on you to figure that out for your own sake. The wrong fit can lead to a flop through no real fault of the candidate.”
Avoiding the Flop
One major key to avoiding an interview flop is to take your pre-interview prep seriously. Get researching and get networking.
“Candidates should research the company and interview themselves first,” Jones says. “If you’re applying for a job, truly ask yourself, ‘Why do I want to work here? What work or personal experience do I have that relates to the job description?’”
If, after asking yourself these questions, you find you are sincerely interested in and compatible with the position, your next task is to put your engagement and enthusiasm on display.
“Some … ways to be more engaged include checking out the company’s social media accounts to see what they are saying, what is happening, and what is currently top of mind,” Jones says. “Just like a recruiter is likely to, fairly or unfairly, judge your social media presence, you should do the same. At every point, interviewing is a two-way street.”
You also want to see if you know anyone at the company who could be a reference for you. Getting an employee referral will boost your standing significantly in the eyes of the employer.
And, of course, you can’t forget the thank-you note after the interview.
“This shows that you are truly interested in the company and position,” Jones says. “A recruiter or hiring manager talks to multiple people in a day and probably doesn’t get the same number of thank-you notes. This simple gesture keeps you in mind and demonstrates your engaged attitude. If [a hiring manager is] on the fence between you and another candidate, that thank-you note could tip the scale and land you that second interview.”
Prepare to Nail the Critical Questions
Another crucial aspect of your pre-interview prep is readying yourself to nail the questions the interviewer will throw at you. You probably won’t know in advance exactly what the interviewer will ask you, but you can make some educated guesses based on common trends across interviews.
Jones says that all candidates should be prepared to answer variations of “Why are you interested in working for us?”
“A candidate must have enthusiasm for the company,” Jones says. “As a candidate, you only get one shot to make a good impression, so having knowledge of the company and sounding like you want to work there – because you genuinely do and know exactly why – is just a no-brainer.”
Candidates should avoid “self-serving” answers to this question, like “I want to work for your company because it would be great for me and help me advance my career.”
“A candidate must understand that the organization is looking to know how you will benefit the company, not how the company will benefit you,” Jones explains. “Always answer this question in a way that shows how you will be able to make a measurable impact: ‘In this role, I will be able to accomplish X, Y, and Z, which will support the businesses goal of achieving [insert something from your research on the company's website].”
Jones also notes that “What are your strengths and weaknesses?,” “Tell me about some key accomplishments in your past roles,” and “What motivates you?” are “universal questions” candidates should be ready to answer.
“If a candidate’s responses to these questions … are not clear, concise, and articulate, this can really hurt their chances at moving forward,” Jones says.
Finally, Jones suggests candidates make the effort to “end the conversation by asking good questions.” Every interviewer will give you a chance to ask your own questions at the end, and you should be prepared to pose thoughtful, intelligent queries.
“Not asking any questions is a sign of not doing the essential research on the company and not being engaged,” Jones says.
Asking bad questions can be even worse than asking no questions at all. Don’t ask anything you could easily answer for yourself with a quick Google search.
So You Didn’t Make It Past the First Interview
Sometimes, even if you take all the right steps and prepare as much as possible, you still don’t make it past the first interview. When that happens, Jones says, it’s usually for the best.
“One of the clichés you hear … if you don’t land a role is, ‘It probably worked out for the best.’ This is actually true, especially if the company you are interviewing with is good at recruiting,” Jones says. “They actually have a good idea of whether or not it’s the right fit, and although you may be more than capable of performing the functions of the job, you may still not get the role. You’ll see as you advance through your career that, by-and-large, these things work out, especially if both parties treat it like a two-way decision.”
Jones continues: “Making a positive impression, growing through experience, and learning more about yourself are all valuable, regardless of the outcome. You never know who may pay it forward down the road. Interviewers remember you. Professional paths cross. Opportunities may manifest in the future.”