Recently, I received a call from a mother whose college grad daughter was struggling with interviews. She told me her daughter had had 20 phone interviews over the last three months, but never made it to the next round.
It was particularly frustrating, her mother told me, because after each interview, her daughter told her that she thought the interview went well, yet she never got a call back for a second interview. And because she wasn’t able to get feedback from the hiring manager as to why she wasn’t advancing, she was disappointed and clueless as to what she was doing wrong. The mother was calling to get help for her daughter in improving her interview skills and understanding what might be missing in how she answered questions or in the information she volunteered.
As someone who has studied the factors that make up a successful interview, I acknowledge that there are factors beyond the interviewee’s control that may lead to rejection, such as not being the right fit for the company or not having enough experience for the position. However, when there is a consistent pattern of not moving on to the next round, like there was in this case, the interviewee may be saying or doing something that sends a red flag to the hiring manager and ultimately sabotages the interview.
I met with the college grad for a one-hour session to work on her interview skills. We started by going through her answers to the 15 most common interview questions, which is always a clear sign as to why she was not getting called back. Sure enough, her answers showed me:
- She rambled on and on, giving too much irrelevant information thus most-likely losing the interviewer's attention.
- She focused only on what she wanted out of the job vs. focusing on what she could do for the company in helping them solve their problems and achieve their goals. In essence, she was not speaking to the reason why the position even existed.
I addressed the first issue by coaching her on how to give succinct answers, ones with a definite beginning, middle and end.
For the second issue, I adapted a famous John F. Kennedy quotation, suggesting she “focus less on what the company can do for you; and more on what you can do for the company.” I emphasized that it is important for an interviewee to articulate how they can contribute. She could say something like, “I want to use my skills to help grow your business” and then describe how her specific talents will be useful to the company and align with their goals and objectives.
Equipped with a new perspective and practical techniques, I am happy to report my client nailed her next set of interviews and received the job offer!