I will be very honest with you in this post. Most interview articles only show obvious mistakes, as if most people don't know showing up late is bad form. I will tell you the things I didn't really know about until I was the one interviewing, and interviewing for a variety of positions and person-types. No interview prep article ever prepared me in the right way for how interviewers really think. That is what I will be sharing with you today.
When you first walk in to my office, I am expecting you to be one of the 99%+ people who I know I won't hire in the first 5 minutes. I am hoping I will be proven wrong, because I really want to hire you and be done interviewing. Unfortunately, most people looking for jobs don't deserve them. Here are the most common ways I know you don't deserve any job I have to offer.
You send me a stupidly long resume
If I have to spend more than 30 seconds finding out what you have accomplished, forget it. You have annoyed me. Somehow, since resumes went digital, people feel like they can cram in 10 pages of boring essays talking about this achievement or that role, and expect me to read every juicy word. More likely, I will ignore the whole thing, write down in my notes "poor communicator", and move on. If you have a good set of skills or something catches my eye, you might still get an interview, but I'll still never read the resume. And you had better be a better communicator on the phone or in person.
Think about it this way – the resume items communicate to me your past successes in a (supposedly) succinct manner. If you can't nail it in one sentence, do I really want to look forward to your rambling emails every day? If I can't read your resume, it doesn't bode well for your emails, and I get enough of those in my inbox as it is.
To craft a great resume, tailor it to my job posting. If I have a skill set in there like "Windows Administration", make sure you have at least one bullet point talking about success in a project where you used that skill. Make the bullet no longer than three sentences. One is better. I am likely to read one sentence. I might read three. More than that and I won't even know what you wrote there. You wasted my time and your own.
You can't tell me why you like your current job
I always ask people what they like most about their current job before I get into any details about a role. Why? I want to see if you'll be happy working in this new job. If you can't tell me anything you like, or you tell me something you like but it sounds really generic? Then forget it, I have no idea what you want to do in life and you probably don't either. Come see me when you know what you want to do. I would even be happy with something like "Well, this job doesn't enliven me, but my last job, I loved doing XXX every day, and man, I miss that. It looks like this role will let me get back to that." Let me know you're passionate or don't waste my time.
The worst answers? "Well I like the challenge" or some other BS. Don't BS me. I have a super BS detector, and most other interviewers do too. The worst BS is the kind where more than 50% of candidates say the same thing. If you can't be original about what you like about your unique job how can I expect you to be creative working for me?
If you have a generic answer like you enjoy learning, the challenge, helping customers, that can be alright. Just sound excited when you talk about it. Give me an example of a time when you got really fired up about it. I don't mind if it doesn't relate to the job I am interviewing you for, though that helps. Just expect me to ask why you think this job will give you the same passion – and have a good answer ready. Really, why else are you applying if you don't know this?
No career plans or vision
When I ask you what your next role is going to be after the one you're interviewing for, you had better have a good answer. Everyone should have a story about why you want to come work for me, in this specific role. If you can tell me how this role helps you accomplish your long term goals, I'm much more likely to think you'll be happy here and work hard in the job. If you just want a job, why should I care? Someone else will come to me with their vision. Eventually.
A good answer is a well thought out vision. You should have that anyway. Here is a good example: "I am looking to move away from working in my current small company to a bigger company with more career growth and opportunities. I want to rise to an executive level in the next 10 years, but my current company is too small to allow me to stretch effectively in that way. [This role] builds on my strengths in communication and project management, and will help me grow as a leader and improve my influencing skills. In a few years, I would look to becoming a senior manager…" and on with how this role fits into your life vision.
Please, don't bother applying if you don't have the required skills. I will know. If you'll be programming, expect to program in the interview. And program well. If you'll be project managing, you had better be able to tell me about the right way to build a project plan and project vision. I'll probably even describe a project and ask you to build a plan right there, with me. Just because the title has something in it you vaguely think you can do, if you don't meet the requirements, please don't waste my time. I might be ok if you are up front with me and tell me you want a career change and are willing to take a more junior position to learn. I might take a chance on you if everything else is solid. But tell me that in your resume so we don't waste time. Yes, telling me that in your resume improves your chances of getting hired, even if not necessarily for this job or winning an interview. I won't claim this is true for all interviewers, but it is true for me.
It's about setting expectations. If you come in, and my expectation is, for instance, that you know Unix administration, and then you tell me "Well, I read a book and I really want to learn it", no, I won't like that. If instead you put in your resume an objective line "Looking to grow skills in Unix administration from a project background", now we are on the same page. If I don't need an expert right now, maybe I will invest in training you since you have the vision and self-motivation. Oh, and describing what you are doing to prepare is also good, even if you don't have on the job experience. See how the expectation can change my perspective? Give me happy surprises, not unhappy surprises.