“I have been thinking – I want more.” What you should avoid doing during an interview to be accepted for a job.

Svetlana Shvab
6 July 2020

Imagine an ongoing interview. It seems that everything is perfect – you are on the same page as the interviewers, being confident and joking along. However, a recruiter refuses your candidacy or remains silent after a week. This is a sad story, but it happens quite often in the labor market. What went wrong? Svetlana Shvab is a recruiter at Boosta. She shared advice on how to act during an interview and what should be avoided in a column for MC.today.

There is an interesting idea in a book called Crazy Good Interviewing: an interview behavioral tactic should be picked according to the age and generation to which a recruiter belongs:

  • If an interviewer is 20-30 years old, it is better to talk about specific results and multitasking.
  • 30-50 years old – pay attention to creativity and emphasize the importance of work-life balance.
  • If a recruiter is more than 50 years old, it is better to show your diligence and compliment the company’s achievements.

I am not sure that there are such generalized rules for success. After all, people and companies differ. Everyone has personal values, views, and selection criteria. However, there are some patterns.

Everything is under NDA

Signed contracts have to be upheld, especially if they are under NDA (non-disclosure agreement). Recruiters are going to understand why you cannot tell about a niche or a piece of code that you have been working on. You can even avoid naming a company, and you should definitely avoid disclosing its market turnover.

If you have a signed NDA, think of what you can talk about and how to confirm your professionalism before an interview.

For example, information regarding themes, regions, and instruments that a person has been working with will be open for discussion for a SEO specialist. There is always something to talk about without breaking an agreement.

An employer has to know your real skillset, what is your mindset, and what you are an expert at. The objective is to evaluate you as a potential employee rather than acquire confidential information.

The other side of the medal is alarming as well. If a candidate is willingly sharing confidential information, is there a warranty that this person will not share information about your company?

Why are you asking about this?

Prepare yourself for a dialogue. A recruiter has no intention of making you a rockfall. All the questions have the purpose of finding out more about your goals and priorities. It is important to understand whether we suit each other. If you are secretly dreaming of working in the UN, a recruiter should be reassured whether you really need IT.

I will share my favorite questions and tell why you should not be scared of them.

If you are being asked about why you consider yourself to be a good specialist and why you think that you will be able to handle tasks, talk about tangible results and achievements. A recruiter is going to ask you about this anyway. If you get stuck on processes, you will lose time. It is better to avoid saying “I was a copywriter,” instead of telling about what companies you worked for, what media published your texts, or present your posts metrics.

If asked “what companies are you considering,” I advise avoiding answering “your company is the only one.” This does not sound trustworthy, as jobseekers rarely limit themselves to one vacancy.

The question “what did you like about your previous job the most” will show what a candidate considers to be of importance and value: adequate managers, friendly team, growth opportunities, comfortable workplace, interesting project, and effective feedback.

There is no right answer – it is only about your preferences. If they do not fit a vacancy, but an interview went well, your resume will be preserved, and you will be contacted when a suitable vacancy appears.

I often ask “What was the most valuable thing you learned in your previous job?” This question can show whether a person is interested in new information, continuous development, and values new experience. Those unfortunate questions about your hobbies and interests are asked to stir you up and understand if you’ll be comfortable working in a team.

I have nothing to tell

This is topical both for candidates with no experience and people with decades of experience. Students can tell about their victories in competitions, charity work, successful blog, or YouTube channel. Even being a “Tik-Tok personality” is something.

If you’re trying to get a managerial position without any relevant experience, it is possible to recall things like training colleagues or speaking at conferences. Anyway, don’t be afraid to show off your strong sides.

I stand here, and she is here and says…

During one of the interviews, a candidate stood up and recreated a conflict with a previous employer. Gestures and live emotions are good, of course. But there’s no need to go over the top. Telling a story should not transform into a show or a dialogue with acting roles.

Want to have a coffee?

Do not cross the line. You should not rush any sort of personal relationships, even if you really like the recruiter.

This concerns the topics that are brought up during an interview. A friendly atmosphere is guaranteed success, and IT companies are usually predisposed to informal communication. However, there’s no need to tell about a party in a new pub near home (yes, we had such cases).

I prefer to work alone

A job is not only about “raw” tasks. Companies have a corporate culture, values, and team building. It is rare for an employee to be alone at the office.

Quite often, managers mark a candidate with a note “team player.” So, here’s a piece of advice: emphasize both your professional skills and personal traits.

Can I ask a question?

Any question! If you’re asking questions, it means that you have been preparing for an interview and you are interested in a company. This is a huge bonus. Still, your questions should not only concern things like corporate parties and the kitchen’s cookie supply.

Ask about the team’s strategy, growth opportunities, and values. It’s possible to tell quite a lot about a candidate because of questions voiced during an interview.

Just like other recruiters, I would be happy to hear a candidate ask:

  • “Tell me about the future manager. How experienced is that person?” This means that you are looking for an authority to learn something new.
  • “Is the company planning on expanding in the near future?” You want to know about the potential of a future employer, look for stable employment, and do not plan to run.
  • “What are the criteria for picking your team members?” This tells about the importance of atmosphere and environment. Most likely, a candidate is looking for a place with similar values to feel comfortable.
  • “Does a company participate in charity?” This tells about a person’s mindfulness and global thinking. I clearly see that a candidate is not limited by work and sleep.
  • “Are there growth opportunities?” This tells about a person’s desire to grow while rejecting “stagnation,” which is always welcomed by an employer.
  • “For how long are you going to select a candidate?” This shows the candidate’s involvement and a clear understanding of a person’s expectations, results, and terms for them.

Should I answer kindly or as it is?

Here at Boosta, we value honesty and try to clearly state what is expected from a candidate. What kinds of difficulties can be expected, how much time is required for coordination, what kind of work can be expected, and what skills can be “upgraded.” We expect the same from our candidates.

For example, just like in many IT companies, Boosta is practicing a flexible schedule. That’s why you can tell a recruiter if you hate getting up early; most likely, this is not going to be a problem.

The initiative is important, but I turn attention to independent people who are not afraid of voicing their opinion. It’s always pleasant to see a newbie who identifies a stagnating process and proposes solutions due to a fresh eye.

It’s also important to tell complicated things in simple words. IT is filled with terms, and while you get used to them, you often encounter unfamiliar words. We value a person’s ability to send a message despite the specifics of the audience.

I had to be sure that a candidate was not “sick” of working with WordPress. I asked lots of leading questions to find out if he was not bored by this system. He explained his attitude with an example using music genres, “WordPress is quality pop while other technologies are hard rock. So, I fancy Spice Girls more than System of a Down.” This response bribed me.

If a job seeker responds with, “Should I answer kindly or as it is,” I start thinking. On the one side, it’s a good sign that a candidate is willing to speak honestly. On the other side, it’s unclear why I should choose in the first place. Just be honest and speak truly. Recruiter is going to find out if a candidate does not tell something anyway.

We were working together all the time…

Try to avoid overusing “we.” If a project was led by a large team, tell about your responsibilities and personal achievements.

You won’t find a worse manager than mine

Even if you didn’t part on good terms with your previous employer, be careful when expressing negative emotions. Making it personal, judging others, and similar things are not the best approach to an interview.

If a candidate worked in a company for a while, something good held that person. No-one wants to end up on the receiving end of such a negative attitude.

I was not paid for that

This might sound like an impossible phrase for an interview; however, we dealt with such cases. A candidate is sharing a negative experience in the previous job: slow decision-making, bureaucracy, unoptimized processes. After asking “Did you attempt to change something?” he answered, “I wasn’t paid for that.”

This sounds like a logical answer, but it caused the rejection. I wouldn’t be surprised if a fresh graduate said that, but you expect more from experienced people.

Of course, no-one should work for two or take others’ responsibilities. But sometimes, a manager can ask for some small task or favor and a stubborn rejection is going to raise concerns.

Everything depends on a company, of course. For example, mutual support and cooperation are in our list of corporate values. If a candidate is using similar phrases during an interview, likely, we will not get along.

Excessive self-confidence can become alarming as well. One candidate told us about previous employment, “This project lived because I live.” No arguments were brought up. It is important to avoid irrelevant comments. The advice is simple – sometimes, even harmless comments can hurt those present at an interview. One candidate said,  “All of the SEO specialists I know have either issues with alcohol or gambling. Nothing else.” Our SEO manager, who was present at an interview, did not like this comment.

I just thought… I want more

Salary expectation is an important question. If you already voiced your salary range to a recruiter, do not change it while recruiters are seeking for a candidate.

A company is also allocating resources. One thing is when you are changing a number of tasks, functions, or positions during a discussion. In other situations, you are going to make an impression of an unstable candidate. Employers will think that your preferences will change during work and not only regarding salary.

There are more phrases than that, and some entries from this list appear every day. However, chances of a recruiter giving a positive answer will rise if you use these tips.

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