No matter how polished you are, that next interview can be daunting and create self-doubt. What do interviewers tend to look for? What are the exact words to say? What’s the biggest mistake most interviewees make? Even those conducting the interview might be daunted by not knowing what signals to look for in candidates.
I was heavily involved in recruiting at Procter & Gamble, including leading many on-campus recruiting teams for over a decade. After an eight-hour day of back-to-back interviews, I’d often pull the recruiting team together right afterward to discuss what we saw in the candidates and who stood out for what reason (for the right and wrong reasons).
I noticed that the same set of eight things always seemed to come up in discussion, the signals most often sent by the interviewees–whether they realized it or not. I share these eight signals now to help you know what to look for if you’re an interviewer, and if you’re the interviewee, to increase your self-awareness of the signals you’re sending that are getting noticed.
1. How authentic you are
It’s trite advice but couldn’t be truer: Be yourself in an interview–the person across from you can absolutely tell when you’re not. This includes speaking from the heart and not being afraid to show some vulnerability (especially around the “What’s your weakness?” question).
As an authenticity check, I’d always ask myself, “Did I get a clear snapshot of who this person really is?” Candidates who were too slick or overrehearsed or used lots of buzzwords left me feeling like I just had met a robot, not a real person.
2. How concise and articulate you are
This comes from knowing your résumé and core stories to tell and from anticipating questions. Sure, it can include pauses before you answer as you’re gathering your thoughts.
Here’s the problem with the opposite (rambling). It creates blurriness for the interviewer. Meaning the interviewer stops listening, his or her attention wanders, there’s less to remember about the candidate, and after seeing many other candidates, the inarticulate candidate begins to blur and become unremarkable.
3. How considerate you are
It seems like a small thing, but it can send a big signal. Are you polite, on time, and sure to thank the interviewer at the end, and do you avoid bashing any company or person in your interview? Exuding respect curries favor.
4. How confident you are
Without being arrogant, of course. The interviewer is picturing you on his or her team and what it would be like to work with you. Would you want to bring someone onto your team who’s either racked with self-doubt or so arrogant they wouldn’t take direction?
Here’s a tip to get the balance right. Walk in thinking “I know this job is mine, but I know I don’t know everything.”
5. How interested you are in the job
Surprised to see this one? It always came up in debriefs. There’s something to be said for simply expressing just how interested you are in the job–and why. It’s a fact that some people interview for practice, with no intention of ever taking the job. Interviewers know this and don’t want you using them as fodder for improvement. They want people who really want the job, so don’t be afraid to show it (without going overboard).
6. How passionate you are
This is related to the above but goes beyond showing passion for the job you’re interviewing for. This is about showing passion as a person, having it come across in the stories you tell about your experiences, triumphs, setbacks, and lessons learned. You should be lifting the energy in the room by showing genuine enthusiasm for things you’re enthusiastic about. If you can’t get energized by what you have to say, how can you expect the interviewer to?
7. How warm you are
Sometimes I’d encounter a candidate who was super focused and articulate, and had good stories. And they were cold. Too emotionless. I had a hard time connecting with them as a human being and was left feeling that their mechanical nature wouldn’t blend well with any work culture and wouldn’t bode well for collaboration.
So be focused but warm it up a bit. Smile, laugh, put some heart and emotion into your answers.
8. How prepared you are
This is the easiest signal to spot, and the worst signal to send. The second I sense the candidate doesn’t know their résumé or their stories or has done zero homework on the opportunity they’re “pursuing,” game over.
Asking smart questions, having organized answers, and clearly anticipating common interview questions are all ways to indicate you’re more than prepared for the interview.
So, all in all, signal what you intend to get the outcome that you want.