Weigh the Bad, then the Good: Avoiding a Nightmare Interview

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How many articles advertise exclusive tips for rocking a job interview? Tons. In fact, there’s almost too much advice about the right ways to act in front of potential employers. Though we’ve certainly featured posts on improving resumes, perfecting applications, and details that stand out to those hiring, there’s still more of the story to be told. Here’s the reality check: in an effort to present themselves as the “perfect candidate,” job-hunters often leave less favorable impressions. With bad apple applicants in mind, our own Hiring Managers spoke from experience on conduct to avoid –if you want the job, of course.

The long application process is complete, and we hope you didn’t tell any white lies. Your clean cut resume and LinkedIn profile shouldn’t tell two strikingly different stories, because even a little exaggeration can cost you a lot of respect. If we like what we see, hopefully a phone interview will be offered. Our recruiters work flexibly with a candidate’s schedule, and ultimately it’s the interviewee who chooses the date. In this context, there’s no excuse to be unprepared. Before the opportunity to speak with a Hiring Manager, doing your fact-finding is key. Any top-notch recruiter can sense laziness, so check the organization’s website and take notes. Google is the best weapon for finding more company information, from employee reviews to (hopefully good) press.

Speaking of phone interviews, plan for a quiet, comfortable spot with a place to set up your notes in advance. As much as we all love coffee shops, please don’t try a phone interview at Starbucks. The environment always turns out much louder than you think, and you want the recruiter to hear all of the awesome qualities you could bring to the position.

If you’ve successfully made it this far, chances are good that you’ll be invited for an on-site interview. Show up with a confident attitude (read: not arrogant), but be self-aware and don’t dominate conversations. Keep a positive demeanor and, perhaps most importantly, be delicate when speaking of current and past employers. It’s not the time to bash the manager you hated, or say that one work experience was a total waste of your time. Now is an opportunity to instead prove your knowledge and impress the audience. And while we love enthusiasm, it may be a bit soon to exhibit your thoughts on a question by using the conference room’s whiteboard.

All of the research we recommended will pay off when you aren’t left empty-handed as the team asks if you have questions. We know you can think of at least one, so avoid the response that everything is all clear. At this stage in the interview game, don’t focus on what the company can do for you personally. Inquiring about the number of sick and vacation days, dental insurance providers, and how often you can work from home doesn’t read well. Rather, show how interested you are in the business itself, from their core values to competitors, office culture, and how this potential role will play a part in the company’s big picture.

Finishing an interview feels like a relief, but it’s also when anxiety can start to creep in. Try to block second thoughts from your mind and move on, all in hopes that you’ll get that coveted offer soon. Personalized thank-you notes are definitely appreciated, but this special gesture won’t make or break your chances of being hired. Should you choose to reach out, use nice stationary and make sure your handwriting is legible. And while an extra trip to the post office can be a pain, make the effort to send your note on the same day you interviewed. Email thank-you notes also aren’t frowned upon either, but don’t send a bulk email to everyone you encountered. Make each email message special, and never send from your work account.

Not such smart ideas? Sending Facebook friend requests and LinkedIn invites to your entire interview panel. They’ll likely decline the requests, and it’s too soon to make such quick connections anyway. If you don’t land the job, the awkwardness of having them in your network might be too much to take. In addition, don’t call the office asking to follow-up because, trust me, you’ll eventually hear news. Depending on the position, our Hiring Mangers aim to contact candidates within a week of the interview regarding their status.

Whether you’re applying to The Motley Fool or another organization, it can be eye-opening to consider nightmare interview situations. It’s also a nice feeling to know that it wasn’t you smacking gum or saying something is “totes your specialty” in front of seasoned professionals. And, maybe more so after this article, you won’t be that candidate. Weigh the bad – and the good – advice, and you’ll likely find yourself improving your interviewing game.

 

There’s No Perfect Job Candidate, But There Are Foolish Ones!

Ideal Candidate

Ideal CandidatePeople applying to jobs often go through the string of questions: Did I go to the right school? Did I pick the right major? Did I do the right internships? Does my resume have enough details of what I do? Is my resume too long/too short? Does my cover letter summarize how I can do the job?

In my opinion, there isn’t a right answer to these questions because there is no such thing as the perfect applicant.

Many companies or organizations go down a checklist for candidates:

Bachelors degree – check

Proficiency in office applications – check

3-5 years of experience – check

1-2 years of experience in relevant field – double check

I am happy to say that at The Fool, our checklist is bit different.  Here at The Fool, people come to us from all walks of life.  We have former bartenders and biology teachers turned investors and MMA fighter (Mixed Martial Arts) turned techie. We’ve hired Fools ranging from baristas to Tigger and Goofy from Disneyworld to NASA rocket scientists.  We do things different in all of our business aspects, so why not recruiting?

When you apply to our positions you see that we want cover letters that don’t bore us and we ask questions that aren’t the norm.  Other recruiters might ask how this helps us find the right candidates.  To us, the ideal, not perfect, candidate embodies what we call Foolishness (with a capital F) and these questions let Foolishness shine through!

So how do you prepare to be an ideal candidate?

Some might say that filling out an application or preparing for an interview was a lot easier ten years ago.  The hardest, and most asked, question to prepare for used to be, “Where do you see yourself in five years?”  Today, this question doesn’t carry the relevance it once did.  We’ve become a culture of change; change in what we want to learn and when we want to learn it all the time. Our passions and dreams change and therefore so do our career paths.

The other day I received an email about the 25 strangest interview questions.  The subject said it all…strangest.  There were questions on the more bizarre side of how many cows there are in Canada or estimate how many windows there are in New York to tell us your favorite song and perform it for us.  I often think that the people asking these types of questions are abusing the system. I can tell you I’m an extrovert and I would not get up and perform a song in an interview!

In our applications and interviews, we aren’t trying to embarrass you or make you feel uncomfortable but rather we want to know what makes you…well YOU!  Letting us in, even just a little bit, to see different sides of you is all we want.  How will we know if we want to sit next to you everyday? Or if you might participate in our office banter?

I recently had a friend tell me that she would hate to sit through one of my interviews because she wouldn’t like being put on the spot with some of my questions.  I thought a lot about her comment when I went into my next interview and realized that it really isn’t about what the answer is but more the insight it gives me into the person.  Answering with one word doesn’t provide much to me but answering with something that starts a conversation and shows your interest in something…that is what we want to see!

So next time you’re applying to a job, writing a cover letter, or preparing for interview, think about what makes you you and let that come out!