7 Interview Mistakes that might cost your next job
In the last few months, I have gotten the chance to do a lot of interviews.
Thankfully, the nature of my job at both The Takeaway Club and All Things SaaS allows me to be on the green pastures of the interview table – where I get to ask tough questions and sit back and observe and learn from the responses.
Of late, I’ve also gotten to talk to a lot of candidates (particularly freshers) to hire for multiple marketing roles in the startup I work for and realize that many of them could use some help in preparing for an interview.
While I am severely under qualified to answer how to kick ass in interviews, I believe I am slightly more equipped to share my two cents on what will hurt your chances.
And sometimes that is all you need to do – avoid the mistakes.
Or as Charlie Munger likes to say, “Avoiding Stupidity is Easier than Seeking Brilliance”
Disclaimer: I am no interview expert and this post is a very personal opinion and some of this might actually be terrible advice – so use your better judgement.
Mistake #1 – Not Researching about the company and the Interviewer
One of the first things I’d like to understand is how much effort has a candidate put into prepping for the role and frankly, I have been taken aback at how little they knew about the company or the role.
“I’m sorry, but I didn’t get the time to look at the website” is such an instant put-off.
The beauty of software business is the same access to information as every Tom, Dick, and Harry.
It’s baffling to not use that to advantage lest not do the bare minimum research.
If you are interviewing for a SaaS role, visit the site. Read the blogs. Sign up for the free trial.
Applying for a design role?
- Which colors the website uses.
- What kind of illustrations go up on the landing pages.
- Specific UX elements that you like in the app’s onboarding flow.
Applying for a marketing role?
- What type of blogs the company writes on.
- Whether you can improve on the existing copy anywhere on the site.
- How you’d approach the introduction for a particular topic.
If you really want the job, do anything but answer with a “I didn’t get a chance to..”.
Mistake #2 – Typos in the Resume
There are a few unpleasant sights than for a marketer to see a candidate applying for a writing role with one of these on the resume:
- “Did marketing campaings as part of a school project”
- “Word Press”, “Micro soft Excel”
Personally, if your role has nothing to do with language or communications, I wouldn’t mind this – nonetheless you couldn’t hurt your chances with an error-free CV regardless of what role you are applying for.
Ask that English geek in your friend circle to take a quick look at your resume before an important interview.
Mistake #3 – Bullshitting your way in
I can tell this from first-hand experience having been on both sides of the table.
Bulshitting is deceptively beautiful.
When you are the one dishing it out, you always think you are going to get away with it until you realize you don’t – by which point it’s too late.
But why do we think we can get away with the BS?
My guess is this:
When you are on an interview, you are nervous; your heart’s pounding. Everything is blurry. You get carried away in the heat of the moment.
And you completely forget that it is the exact opposite for the interviewer.
They are calm. They see things at 0.5X. There is only one thing on their mind:
Is this person going to make my job easier as my team-mate?
At that point, it is way too easy for them to sense it when you try to pull one over.
Mistake #4 – Not being honest
Short stints at companies for a multitude of reasons.
We’ve all been victims of misfortune at some point.
There are two ways to go about it – cook up stories to try and cover the track or be upfront about things and wear it like a badge of valour.
Sometimes what is seemingly a small *tweak in details* to help swing the conversation in your favor can easily backfire on you.
Having interacted with folks across companies in the ecosystem, I can tell with confidence that it is a small-world after all.
Batchmates. Drinking buddies. Podcast guests. Everybody knows each other at some level.
If your story doesn’t add up, they’ll know. Maybe not right away, but eventually. It is not worth the risk.
Stick to straight answers. Be a straight shooter. It goes a long way in both work and personal life.
Mistake #5 – Not applying for the right role
This is arguably the most costly mistake you can make that puts you at a disadvantage right from get-go.
In the last month alone I spoke to half a dozen people who applied for a content writing role but in their own words didn’t really ‘“love writing” – yet there was surprising optimism and a fantastical idea of thriving in a role that would require 45 hours of staring at Google Docs and getting a 1200 word-article over the line. Week in and Week out.
The ‘will do what it takes to succeed’ mentality is absolutely admirable – but only when you are genuinely curious and passionate about the role in question.
Let the tide work for you. Don’t swim against it.
Mistake #6 – Bringing up the CTC too soon
Everybody loves money.
But not many really love discussing it.
Especially, two minutes into the conversation when we haven’t even discussed the more important matters at hand – like whether you actually have the job.
Ask literally anything but ‘How much can you pay me?’ in the first exchanges.
Unless there is a complete mismatch in expectations, money is something that can always be worked out.
Let haste not get in the way of a great opportunity.
CTC is like the Dhoni of interview negotiations – don’t bring it up until you are into the death overs.
Mistake #7 – The ‘company is doing me a favor’ mindset
A toxic by-product of 4 years of college that ingrains a ‘land a job at all costs’ mentality.
A company makes a hire because it has a burning need for someone to come in and take the workload off from the existing members.
Likewise, a candidate has their own reasons for taking up a role at a particular company.
The interview is where you identify if it works out for both parties.
It is a two-way street.
Interview conversations is probably one of the few substantial opportunities to get a a first-hand account of what it is like at the company – instead most people spend way too much time trying to persuade the interviewer into giving a job.
Ask about the work culture.
Understand the scope for growth within the company.
Be alert for red flags.
Figure out what the leave policy is like.
Learn about who you’ll be working with.
There are about 20 more important questions to ask than spending your time playing 12 Angry Men with the interviewer.
If there’s literally only one thing you can take away from this post, let it be this:
The interviewer is not doing you a favor by talking to you.
I repeat: THE INTERVIEWER IS NOT DOING A FAVOR BY TALKING TO YOU.
Good luck in your job search!