How to get better at interviews - what am I doing wrong?

  1. #1 May 30, 2011
    Last edited: May 30, 2011
    Without giving too much detail, I work in a large multinational, with a large hr department and a seemingly demanding recruitment process. Lately we have had to keep firing and rehiring new people in my department because the candidates allegedly lied or made exaggerations in the interview that they could not fulfill once in the job.

    With that being said, I did ask my manager out of curiosity and he said they were really good at the interview. I have been trying to move on for a while and whilst I am more than capable of doing the jobs I go for, apparently interviews are my weakest point.

    So how do they do it? How do they trick the process? Do they just blatantly lie and kiss a lot of --- during the interview? I could see them "tricking" my boss, but they also managed to convince hr. I feel like Tracy flick right now, it doesn't matter how good you are at your job if somebody is going to come and make up a bunch of stuff that the company won't even check afterwards because they know they can sack the person if they turn out to be something else they claimed to be.

    As for myself, I honestly do not know what I am doing wrong at interviews. Usually I am told that I seem better in person than in my cv, and that they really like me. I have only been given bad feebavk once and that was that I looked "too polished" (I went to an interview in the creative sector wearing my suit as it happened after work).

    So, I will try to describe my attitue in job interviews as well as I can though to be fair they are very normal interviews. I usually wear a formal suit and glasses. I am overly gracious when the interviewer is late (sadly all the interviews that I've been to, the interviewer was always late, once I even had to wait for an hour). I will answer the questions and talk a out my career. At this point the interviewer will usually praise me and say I am much better in person than on cv. This usually leads to a light hearted chat and the interviewer will say he or she is very impressed. However, I never end up getting the job. So, what am I doing wrong?
  2. A few quick thoughts:

    1. You company needs to check references better. Don't know where you are, but I find it's usually difficult to get rid of people once they are hired; you would not believe the documentation required. Anyway, one of the best questions to ask references is "would you hire this person again?" If there is even a little bit of hesitation, make sure to probe further.

    My old company made applicants sign a release that allowed them to not just contact the listed references but anyone who had dealings with you because they wanted to know your reputation in the industry.

    2. If you think your interviewing skills need work but everyone says you're better in person than your CV, then you need to improve your CV.

    3a. When interviewing, make sure you have a short "pitch" that will address the typical "tell me about yourself" opening question. I emphasize short because this shouldn't run on. Just enough to interest the interviewer that they can use as a jumping off point for more questions.

    3b. There have been a couple of threads on "interview clothes". You should get a feel of the company vibe then decide what to wear. A friend of mine works for a large tech/computer company and most employees are "suspicious" of folks that overdress (read a suit) to interviews. They feel those folks are compensating for lack of coding skills, so obviously, interview clothes in this company should lean towards a more casual, yet still polished, look. Like I said, I always try to see the company culture and dress a little bit better and more polished than the typical employee in the position I was interviewing for. For an interview in a start-up, I came in a t-shirt under a cashmere v-neck sweater, heavy black wool trousers, heavy brogue boots. While for a similar position in a very established company, I was in a white button-down shirt, jacket and trousers, heels. (I was offered the position in both.)

    3c. Be at your best behavior but don't be obsequious. There shouldn't be any kissing up, but you should show interest in the interviewers, the company, the position. That means asking smart questions - yes, there are stupid questions. When I ask questions, I usually preface it with something that shows I have some knowledge of the industry and the company. For example: "I saw in your last press release that the company will be shifting away from blah blah - how does that affect your department/group?"

    3d. I cannot emphasize this enough: Do Not Lie in the interview and application. I know a lot of people don't get caught, but it's just not good policy.

    4. As for "getting better" interviewing. People say practice with a friend or in front of a mirror. I feel stupid doing that. Nothing beats knowing why you want this job, why this particular company, why we should hire you. You don't need to have a spiel for each one, but just have this settled in your mind (and heart, if you're that type of person). This also gives you confidence which will show through.