I've recently been tasked with hiring medical recruiters for my Atlanta area office. I used to interview candidates every day, but it has been a while since I've been directly involved with hiring, so I've been off of the interviewing front lines for a bit. I must say, the interviewing experience was very eye-opening for this career columnist.
I've written about healthcare job search for more than five years. As I consider which topics to cover and advice to give, I think, what more advice can we (job search experts) possibly give to candidates? Surely everyone must know the basics, due to the sheer volume and quality of the free, easily-accessible job search and interview advice available online. However, apparently many job seekers today either do no research online prior to interviewing, or they choose not to heed the advice provided.
Even if you have never interviewed before, you can implement a few simple rules of interviewing that, no matter what your background or level of experience, will give you a competitive edge for the position.
Candidates need to realize that the pool of talent is vast, and your attention to detail, every little aspect of each interaction, can put you ahead, or set you back, in the contest for the job. Hiring managers are looking for reasons to eliminate you from the process because it simplifies their hiring decision. Here are a few transgressions I've witnessed while interviewing candidates recently:
No-show, no call: There's a sure way to get you eliminated from consideration for the job, and any future openings as well. If you change your mind about an interview, the least you can do is call. It's the right thing to do. I can't believe how much of my time was wasted waiting on interviews, not to mention worrying that the interviewee was in a car accident or something. It's just inconsiderate to leave someone wondering and waiting on you. Why not bow out of the interview gracefully, and potentially leave the door open for future consideration? You may not be interested in this company, but you never know where our paths may cross again in the future, and you've now burned a bridge with the hiring manager and everyone that hiring manager knows.
Résumés Riddled with Errors: There were misspelled employers' names, wrong dates, improper grammar, and typos galore. One of the worst offenders proudly touted his/her professional strength as "attention to detail." To that person, I must say: if "attention to detail" is your "strength", and you can't get your own résumé right, I'd hate to see your "weakness".
Slow or No Follow Up: I was astounded that some candidates never followed up. No thank-you note, no email, nothing. Follow up should consist of a simple note or email to thank the interviewer for his or her time, and, more importantly, confirm your interest in the job. Many candidates who did follow up did so too late, in my opinion. Follow up should be completed by the day after the interview.
Eye Contact and Energy: If you do not seem excited and energized about the job or the interview, the interviewer will find it very difficult to be excited about you. If you can't engage the interviewer, or if you seem low-energy, the interviewer will be less likely to see you as a real go-getter. Some candidates we interviewed seemed as though they needed a caffeine injection. Granted, you don't need to be bouncing off the walls, but leaning forward, varying your voice inflection, and maintaining eye contact can go a long way in helping the interviewer see you as motivated, interested, and proactive.
Getting Too Comfortable: A few candidates seemed to let down their guard a little too much during the interview. This is good for hiring managers because it makes their decision easier, most likely eliminating you from consideration. Slang words, even curse words, slipped out at times. Additionally, some candidates revealed too much about themselves or said negative things about their current/previous employer. Never, ever bring up any issues with your current employers or coworkers! That is a costly mistake because it plants a seed of doubt that you are the one with the problem, not your employer. You must remain positive and give logical, career-related reasons for wanting to leave your employer - don't let it get too personal.
Research and Questions: I was also surprised by the number of candidates who didn't have any questions to ask, or the questions they asked were only about salary and benefits. Your questions should show your interest in the position, and reveal that you've researched the company. Ask about the future of the position, or the company. Ask about a new product or service you read about on the company website. Ask ANYTHING except about vacation, salary, or benefits.
Granted, not all candidates got these wrong. There were some great, conscientious candidates out there. But there were very few candidates who got all of the above right. And the above tips are all things that are easily within the interviewee's control, and things that a job seeker can do regardless of their education, experience, or qualifications for the job.