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Candidate Pool Rules: How to Avoid an Interview Bellyflop

Posted on: July 14, 2017

Category: Interviewing

By: Greg Whitesell – Marketing Director

Remember when you learned how to dive?  Most likely, you watched other kids plunge headfirst into the pool with perfect form and minimal splash.  You got the nerve to ask for guidance and finally the big day arrived.  The result, a pink tummy and a tee shirt for the next try.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a lifeguard when it comes to interviewing.

You found the opportunity you really want.  You crafted a first class resume that got you noticed and earned you the coveted face to face interview.  Now, how do you avoid the dreaded interview flop?

Be Prepared

When asked about some of the major causes of interview wipeouts, almost all our recruiters cited lack of preparation as number one.  Initially, for candidates working with a staffing firm, preparation should focus on presenting their skills and experiences succinctly and honestly (which we’ll come back to later) to the recruiter.  To correctly matching candidates with the right opportunities, recruiters align many factors, including skills, expectations, office culture, work/life balance and location.  If candidates aren’t prepared to convey their qualifications and priorities concurrently, it’s likely the recruiter’s view will be murky, making it challenging to find the right fit.

Once you’ve connected with a recruiter and have been submitted to opportunities with their clients, preparation becomes more crucial, because two reputations – the candidate and the firm representing them – are both on the line.  So where should your prep work begin?  Here’s a few tips from our experienced team to get your feet wet:

  • Research the company, review the role and its requirements and make sure you thoroughly understand it – then write down at least 3-5 questions and be prepared to discuss them during the interview.
  • Be prepared to answer challenging questions. For example, many interviewees have a tough time explaining why they left previous roles or employers – often offering lengthy answers, taking on unsure or uneasy body language and sometimes venturing down a negative path.  Your best bet is to keep your answers short, concise and confident. 
  • While you want to be sure you’re interviewing for a role that meets your compensation requirements, don’t initiate the compensation discussion, especially on a first interview. By focusing on pay or personal gain first, you send the message that you’re likely to take a new plunge when a bigger or better pool comes along. Potential employers are considering investing in you, so your first focus should be on convincing them that they’ll get a solid return on the investment.

Tell the Truth, The Whole Truth, But Not Your Life Story

When engaged in the interview process, crossing your fingers doesn’t count.  Lying (or half-truthing, omitting relevant details or simply misleading) will catch up with you faster than Michael Phelps.  The worst part – lying (even about little things) can quickly make all your truths seem questionable.  Honesty should be paramount throughout the job search process, starting with being honest with yourself about what you need in your next role, progressing to a resume that accurately sells you and your strengths and culminating in conversations you have with recruiters or interviewers.  A sure career sinker is trying to hide or falsify details such as criminal records, education, etc.  We’ve all undoubtedly seen stories about professionals who tried to do just that and it never ends well.

Relevance is the other piece of the equation.  When engaged in your job search, focus on what makes you relevant to the opportunity at hand.  The process of figuring out why you’re pertinent to the role should start when you’re considering why the role is good for you.  If you can convincingly show this reciprocal relationship, you’re on the right path.  Consider these helpful tips from our team:

  • Don’t assume that an interviewer doesn’t have the knowledge to dig deeper into claims you make about your knowledge, skills or achievements. Your best bet is to use honest examples about projects you’ve completed or work you’ve done and explain your role in the results achieved. Learn how to effectively sell your strengths and use this as a way to hurdle over shortcomings.
  • Be honest, but don’t overshare or get too personal. Sometimes candidates speak to an interviewer like they’re a friend – making it easier to venture down the road to oversharing.  There’s always time to get to know them later (once you have the job), in the meantime, focus the conversation about the opportunity.  Oversharing, in many ways, can send up just as many hiring red flags as lying, as noted in this piece by

First Impressions are Lasting Impressions

Just like divers are judged on their entry into the water, an interviewee is heavily assessed on their first impression.  Most of our staff commented on the importance of a candidate’s first impression.  No matter how great professionals look on paper – the first impression can quickly change a recruiter’s (and interviewer’s) attitude from “WOW” to “OW”. Our recruiters offered the following advice:

  • Unless you’re applying for an opportunity with a political organization – it’s probably best to steer clear of politics.
  • When talking to interviewers or anyone related to your job search, keep these three “P’s” in mind: positive, professional and polite. 
  • Less is more when it comes to olfactory sensations. From heavy perfumes to cigarette smoke, be aware of your personal atmosphere and make sure it’s a pleasant one.
  • Don’t underestimate the value of a solid handshake.  A good handshake can convey confidence in the first five seconds.
  • Thank you notes/emails are still appropriate and expected.  Make sure this is part of your post interview process if you want to make a final splash on the interviewer.

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